(NEW YORK) — NBA legend Magic Johnson has come in with a big assist to help out small businesses that have been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
Johnson joined ABC News’ Good Morning America on Tuesday to share his latest efforts that will provide capital to minority and women-run firms to ensure their stability and growth in the wake of the pandemic.
After a call with Rev. Al Sharpton and the owner of M.B. Capital, Johnson said the collective goal was “to come together and do something fantastic for minority firms across the country and women-owned businesses.”
“My company (Equitrust Life Insurance Co.) put up $100 million for these fantastic companies that were not part of the loan system (Paycheck Protection Program), the stimulus package that went out, and they couldn’t get loans. So we have to make sure that they stay in business and also keep their employees,” Johnson said. “M.B. is going to make sure they vet these minority firms and women-owned businesses along with the SBA (Small Business Administration) to make sure these companies get money because they’ve been a pillar and also been outstanding for our community.”
Johnson also wanted to recognize these types of businesses because he said they recognized that black communities have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Health-wise it’s been really affecting our community in a big way. We’re dying at really record numbers from the virus, in terms of African Americans. So we want to make sure that first we get the word out to stay safe, take care of your family and then on the financial side, we’ve got to make sure these businesses can stay open. We don’t want any minority firm in America to close because of this virus and because they couldn’t get a loan,” he said.
He added that “after we have come out of this situation,” and business starts to get somewhat back to normal, “we want these businesses to grow too … these firms can grow and scale at the same time.”
His advice for small businesses is to “try to make sure you can keep your employees” and “stay in touch with your clients and customers” so that when people get back to work they can sit down and do more business.
Despite all the chaos that has come at the hands of the pandemic, Johnson said the highly watched ESPN docuseries, The Last Dance, that chronicled his former NBA competitor and 1992 Olympic teammate Michael Jordan, was perfectly timed “because the country needed something to look forward to.”
Johnson appeared in the series when Jordan and the Bulls matched up against his Los Angeles Lakers and showed intimate, up-close moments between the two players.
“Michael made the point that he had won a lot of scoring titles, but he was never in the category of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird of winning championships,” Johnson said. “Once he won the first one against my showtime Lakers — we were both in the locker room and there’s a door in between the visitors locker room and the Lakers locker room and so I told their PR person, ‘grab Michael because I want to congratulate him.'”
“When he came through the door we just hugged and — he was just crying. He was so happy to win his first championship, his father was there with him as well and we just had a special moment,” Johnson recalled.
“Michael and I always have been great friends. We respect each other. I think on the court we were great rivals, but at the same time we really loved each other,” the Hall of Famer said. “Especially when we had that special moment with the Dream Team and we both were able to play with each other and represent our country and win the gold medal.”
The pair have had a similar past with their careers off the court as well, Johnson explained.
“We followed each other in terms of as businessmen now too. So we’ve got a lot in common. We’re both close to our mothers and our family and I just love him. And I love the fact that we needed this Last Dance documentary,” he said. “It gave us all these thrills and took us back, as well as took us forward too. And I’m glad a lot of kids got a chance to see what made Michael Jordan the G.O.A.T. and what made him special.”
Johnson will be a guest on After the Dance With Stephen A. Smith: A SportsCenter Special Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC to share insights about competing against Jordan during the Bulls dynasty and more.