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Continued: Johnson isn't magical when he puts a reverse English spin on his grammar

  • Article by: C.J. , Star Tribune
  • Last update: August 12, 2008 - 1:08 AM

Magic Johnson's grammar is never going to be in the same stratosphere as his accomplishments on and off the court.

After he finished cutting the ribbon Friday to open the Mall of America's new Best Buy, Johnson was slated to give an "inspirational speech" to an audience of kids in the rotunda. It was lacking on two counts.

While imploring the kids to "Make sure that you make the right decisions" and underscoring that remark with "You know what's right from wrong," the NBA legend never took ownership of his monumental mistake of contracting HIV. With this disease rampant in the black community, it seems only appropriate that Johnson's act include one measly mention of his poor decision-making.

On a much lighter note, there was the matter of Johnson's English.

While I would not expect this colorful, charismatic personality to sanitize his speaking style of unique pronunciations or slang, his grammar could be tighter, as the kids might say. The main reason: Few of those kids in the audience would probably get the business jobs that Johnson encouraged them to pursue speaking the language so loosely in job interviews. Johnson thinks of himself as a leader. How about demonstrating that you can be cool and grammatically correct?

His grammar is mystifying because the businessman -- he said he owns 119 Starbucks, 32 Burger Kings, fitness gyms and an unspecific number of TGIF restaurants -- repeatedly claimed that from junior high to Michigan State University, he always "took care of my grades."

I would love to see the English grades on those transcripts, considering these duds:

"You can't be late to the dinner table [when you have six sisters and three brothers] or what will happen?" Johnson asked his audience. "All the food gone. ... Now here's a kid from the ghetto, grew up in the neighborhood and he don't [sic] drink coffee and he owns Starbucks."

I decided against highlighting every single verbal gaffe at startribune.com/video, but I could kick myself for having turned off my video before Johnson got around to dropping what sounded like "hisself."

After Johnson ended his talk, I moved in closer to get video of the charming picture-taking session he had with the kids. A PR woman, who would identify herself only as Emily, informed me that Johnson was avoiding media. Great news. Listening to Magic's bad grammar is a form of ear abuse.

Stars in audience

My MMA (mixed martial arts) correspondent John Alexander reports that Vikings Chad Greenway, Adrian Peterson and Jared Allen attended Saturday's big UFC event at Target Center.

They witnessed Brock Lesnar winning his first UFC bout, a dominant victory that makes him legit, I'm told.

Lesnar's wife, Rena -- a.k.a. the former WWE diva Sable -- was there, as was "That '70s Show" star Laura Prepon.

Alexander told me that his wife, Genesis, was slightly horrified to learn that he brought homemade posters to Thursday's UFC news conference, which was open to the fans. "My wife says I'm dorky," Alexander said. "But I don't smoke and I don't drink. This is my guilty pleasure."

Thoughts on Hayes

"It was really a shock," said Lauren Green of Isaac Hayes' weekend death in Memphis.

The Fox News Channel's religion correspondent is a former girlfriend of Hayes', who once traveled with her to Minnesota for a July 4th family get-together. She said he got the biggest kick out of singing show tunes, especially "Old Man River," for her family because "he didn't get a chance to sing those things." Most fans wanted to hear "Shaft," his Oscar winner.

"I hadn't talked to Isaac in years," Green said Monday. "He was so into healthy living. He would lecture people around him about eating right, about chewing their food enough," she said, laughing. "He would always get mad at me because I didn't chew my food enough, wolfing it down. I'm just wondering: Was he going to the doctor? He never talked about going to the doctor. There are so many men who don't go to the doctor."

Green found it "just very strange" that Hayes and Bernie Mac, two stars of the upcoming movie "Soul Men," died hours apart.

Green and her best friend, Hattie Webb, a Twin Cities PR woman, told me they shared some tears over the phone. Recalling a trip to N.Y.C., Webb e-mailed that "I almost passed out" when Green said that not only was she a friend of Hayes' but also that they were dating. "I always have been a fan of his. She called him and he came right away and picked us up in (in a limo) and took us to Harlem to Sylvia's Restaurant. He told me how much he [loved Green] and wanted to know what he could do to win her over. Heaven must be laughing with Bernie and singing with Isaac."

C.J. is at 612.332.TIPS or cj@startribune.com. More of her attitude can be seen Thursday mornings on FOX 9.

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