When Magic Johnson invited Lucy Addison Middle School students to ask him a question, any question, dozens of hands shot up from students perched on the edge of their seats.
“If you could ask the Magic man a question, what would it be?” Johnson said.
They asked about what it felt like to be drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers, and Johnson confided that he cried.
They asked what size shoe the five-time NBA champion wears (size 15).
They asked how it feels to dunk on other players: “Style points don’t mean nothing to me.”
With every question, Johnson pivoted to emphasize the importance of education and hard work. Being drafted was the result of years of practice on the courts but also summers spent in school learning to read after he fell behind, he said. To a question about his branded Converse Weapon shoes, Johnson shared how growing up, his family couldn’t afford name-brand clothes.
“Guess what? I was still the best on the basketball court,” Johnson said. “Sometimes we think the shoes and clothes make us. No. You make the shoes and clothes.”
Johnson’s visit to the Roanoke school Wednesday was a perk of the district’s contract with SodexoMAGIC, the Johnson-controlled company to which the district outsourced school meals in early 2016 — amid opposition by the Roanoke Education Association and others.
The company, which describes itself as a partnership between Magic Johnson Enterprises and Sodexo, a French food services company, began serving meals during the summer school program. The city school division pays SodexoMAGIC a fee per meal served, but the company promised the city it would realize surplus revenue in the first year of the contract, which will conclude later this year.