Magic Man For Dodger Fans?

PHOTO: Earvin "Magic" Johnson arrives at the premiere of ESPN Films "The Announcement" at Regal Cinemas L.A. Live, March 6, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.
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Earvin "Magic" Johnson is set to save Los Angeles sports fans yet again. The man credited with lifting the Los Angeles Lakers into immortality by winning five NBA titles in the 1980's will attempt to sprinkle his pixie dust on a Dodger franchise that hasn't won a World Series in nearly 25 years.

A group led by Johnson agreed to pay $2 billion for the team -- a record for a sports franchise. The deal ends a long period of uncertainty for the troubled Dodger franchise and puts Johnson back in familiar territory.

"Frank McCourt didn't just sell the team to some reclusive billionaire," writes ESPN Los Angeles editor Ramona Shelburne. "He sold the team to one of the most beloved sports stars and businessmen this town has ever known."

The 52-year-old Johnson played 13 seasons for the Lakers, winning five NBA championships and three MVP awards in a Hall of Fame career. He retired from the NBA in 1991 after being diagnosed with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. He came out of retirement briefly in 1995 and had a short stint coaching the Lakers.

Since leaving basketball, Johnson has built a reputation for community involvement and for businesses that stretch from a nationwide chain of movie theaters to a movie studio.

Despite his business and community ties, Magic Johnson is still revered in Los Angeles for a dazzling NBA career that turned the Lakers into an iconic sports brand and a civic treasure.

"I know Magic from the day he came into Los Angeles as a basketball player for the Lakers," said retired Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda. "If they invested that much money, I'm sure they'll invest to get us a winner."

Magic has his work cut out for him in trying to revive the Dodgers and spur fan interest.

Los Angeles finished third in the NL West last season, had just three sellouts and fell short of 3 million in home attendance in a full season for the first time since1992.

Appearing on ESPN's "Baseball Tonight" recently, Johnson said his role would include recruiting free agents and helping to install a winning attitude. Johnson told ESPN he will help "sell the Dodger brand" to fans who might have turned their back on the team during the recent turmoil.

Beleaguered Dodger fans are hoping Johnson's success on the court will translate to winning ways on the diamond.

"It's great for the city of L.A. to get an owner that finally cares about the team or baseball," fan Mike Narhara told KABC-TV Los Angeles. "It should be good for the city."

Johnson hasn't been shy about his quest to help elevate a battered and bruised Dodgers franchise.

"This is not just millions of my money; this is dear to my heart." He told the Los Angeles Times last December. "This is bringing back the brand for the people of Los Angeles."

Johnson is just one member of the acquiring group, called Guggenheim Baseball Management. Other investors include longtime sports executive Stan Kasten , Peter Guber, Mandalay Entertainment chief executive and Bobby Patton, who operates oil and gas properties. Mark Walter, chief executive officer of the financial services firm Guggenheim Partners, would become the controlling owner. The deal is still subject to approval in federal bankruptcy court.

The group bought the franchise from Frank McCourt, who paid $430 million in 2004 to buy the team, Dodger Stadium and 250 acres of land that include the parking lots, from the Fox division of News Corp.

"I wish them all the luck," added Lasorda. "I admire them."

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