"To lose Laker legend Kobe Bryant early this year and then deal with the many effects of COVID19, this was a tough year for Lakers to rise and win," Magic Johnson tells PEOPLE

By Lindsay Kimble
October 14, 2020 01:31 PM
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Magic Johnson
Courtesy Amazon

Magic Johnson is so happy for his former team.

The 61-year-old — who is the former president of basketball operations for the Los Angeles Lakers, as well as alumni player of the team — tells PEOPLE that the NBA franchise's Championship win was well deserved.

"The Lakers winning the NBA Championship means so much to the city of Los Angeles," he says while opening up about his campaign to support Amazon Small Business. "To lose Laker legend Kobe Bryant early this year and then deal with the many effects of COVID-19, this was a tough year for Lakers to rise and win."

Continues Johnson, "I am so excited for my sister, Lakers owner Jeanie Buss and want to give credit to General Manager Rob Pelinka for putting together a championship roster and Coach Frank Vogel and his entire staff for doing a fantastic job all season long."

The Lakers won the 2020 NBA Finals on Sunday night, defeating the Miami Heat 106-93 in Game 6 of their best of seven series. It marked the 17th title for the Lakers, who lost iconic player Kobe Bryant in a helicopter crash that killed eight others, including his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, in January.

Referencing the bubble environment created at Walt Disney World resort in Orlando, Florida, to ensure the health and safety of NBA players amid the coronavirus pandemic, Johnson says, "The sacrifice of the players, and their families, to leave home and go to the bubble is incredible and they deserve this moment."

Johnson left his position with the team last May, but at the time said he was "going to be a Laker forever."

The former athlete is a longtime advocate for small and minority-owned businesses, which is why the campaign with Amazon was a perfect fit — especially amid the pandemic, which has had a profound impact on thousands of smaller companies.

Johnson curated his own gift guide ahead of the holiday season, filled with products from small businesses ranging from Uncle Bud to BLK & Bold.

"They are the pillar of our communities and anchor our economy, employing a little less than half of all Americans, and our country needs small businesses to keep the economy going," says Johnson. "Many of them are struggling right now dealing with the effects of COVID-19 and I feel it’s important to step up and help them however I can."

Over the summer, Johnson's life insurance company Equitrust funded $325 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans for minority and women-owned businesses.

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Now, as "there are hundreds of thousands of small businesses selling on Amazon," Johnson hopes "this partnership will introduce new customers to their products, especially in time for the holidays."

Johnson specifically picked items from many minority and women-owned businesses, he says: "I looked at products that customers could use right now, especially considering we are all still reeling from the effects of COVID19. Companies like Live Infinitely, the Fit Cook, and Habit Nest all can assist customers on their health and wellness journey."

Magic Johnson with the products from his gift guide
Courtesy Amazon

Throughout the holiday season, Amazon says it will spend over $100 million to help small businesses around the world increase their sales and reach new customers.