- Magic Johnson spoke to Business Insider last week in an interview tied to his new partnership with Uncle Bud’s Hemp, a retailer of hemp- and CBD-based products.
- Johnson also discussed the start of the NBA “bubble” and gave his personal and societal perspectives on navigating the COVID-19 pandemic.
Adding to his business acumen during the COVID-19 pandemic, Earvin “Magic” Johnson has made an entrepreneurial move into a rapidly growing industry — the retail sale of hemp and CBD.
Johnson, the NBA legend and former president of basketball operations for the Los Angeles Lakers, spoke to Business Insider in a phone interview last week about the personal and professional factors that drew him to a newly announced partnership with Uncle Bud’s Hemp, a retailer of hemp- and CBD-based products.
In the interview, Johnson also discussed his experience of quarantining in California during the state’s recent rise in coronavirus cases, and gave his perspective as a longtime public-health advocate on the urgency of societal safety measures in a pandemic.
Johnson concluded by addressing the logistics of the 2019-2020 NBA season’s continuation in a “bubble,” which starts on Thursday; “tired of watching reruns,” he relayed his general appreciation for the return of live sports.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
John Lynch: What drew you to this new business venture?
Magic Johnson: Well, I think Uncle Bud’s is an amazing company with an amazing cofounder in Garrett [Greller]. And I think his story drew me to it. The fact that he had arthritis at an early age, and he had that problem, but he found a solution for that problem. I’m the same type of guy. I like to find solutions to problems. He created this unbelievable company, Uncle Bud’s, but it just wasn’t a solution for him. He found a solution for a lot of people.
And I think that, first, the company right here created jobs. Everything is made right here in America. That’s what drew me to it. The price point, $2.50 to $35; that’s what drew me to it, because it’s affordable for people. Then it’s located in over 15,000 retailers across America — Kohl’s, the Vitamin Shoppe, I mean, Urban Outfitters, and on. And then when you think about — no T-H-C — that’s very, very important to me as well.
So I think those things right there. And I power walk five days a week, so my knees be killing me after I’m done. So I can put that roll on on my knees as well as my lower back, because it gets tight, and it’s helped me out a lot. And the lotion and the hand sanitizer. I can go on and on. The product line is amazing.
Lynch: What made this the time for it? Had you, sort of, in the pandemic, started to use CBD more? What brought this to mind?
Johnson: Well, I think you’re right. During the pandemic you use it more because of the fact that I can work out more. I’m at home more. And we were able to come together, have a great meeting, and their vision was like my vision. The two companies aligned with each other. It was just amazing. It was an easy deal to get done because I believe in the product, use the product, I believe in the cofounders. So it was an easy deal to get done.
Lynch: CBD, for you personally, is the main application of it for pain relief? What appeals to you about CBD?
Johnson: Yeah, because of the pain relief. And then also, too, you know, they got great lotions, hand sanitizer. So they got other products. It’s an amazing product line, and people can go to UncleBudsHemp.com to see the whole line. It’s truly amazing. They blew me away. The packaging is great. I mean, everything. It’s really a first-class organization.
Lynch: While we’re on the topic of health, how strictly are you quarantining? I know California is going through it right now.
Johnson: Yeah. I’m quarantining. At first I get out and power walk early in the morning, about six o’clock in the morning. And then I’m either at home all day, or I wear my masks, wear my gloves, you know, when I’m out grocery shopping with my wife, of course. But I really don’t go too many places. I’m not around a lot of people. So we all gotta do our part to bring the numbers down here in California and in our country, in America.
Lynch: I was going to say, for you, as an important advocate for public health throughout your life, I’d imagine you must take issue with the people who are “anti-mask,” this movement of people who are ignoring science.
Johnson: Yeah, because you can’t ignore the data and science. Because the numbers, when we did ignore it, look what happened in Florida. Look what happened in Alabama. Look what happened in Georgia. I mean, the numbers just — Texas — the numbers have just gone through the roof because they didn’t put rules in place to say, “Hey, the bars can’t open,” restaurants, on and on and on.
Now when we first quarantined and shut the state down in California, the numbers went down, right? But as soon as we opened it up and people didn’t want to wear masks and all that, then the numbers went back up. So I’m for, let’s wear masks, let’s protect ourselves and also our friends, families, and other people, so we can drive the numbers back down, and then hopefully we can get back to our everyday walking life, the way it used to be. But that probably won’t happen until after it, probably until next year.
Lynch: With this NBA bubble that’s just about to start up here, would you, as a player, feel comfortable in that situation? What do you think of it as a concept?
Johnson: Yeah, I would feel comfortable as long as all the safety measures are there, the protocols are in place. And it seemed like commissioner Adam Silver has done an amazing job. Michele Roberts is happy, and the Players Association — as long as they’re happy, everything is good with me. And I’m happy sports is back, man. I miss sports.
Lynch: Yeah [laughs].
Johnson: [Laughs]. I’m glad MLS is back. I’m glad Major League Baseball is back. I’m glad the NBA is back. It helps me through my day. I’m tired of watching reruns. I want live sports, and I want to see who’s gonna win the World Series, the MLS cup. Also the NBA championship. I’m excited. This is an exciting time. Just like I am about this great venture with Uncle Bud’s. I’m excited about that as well.