IOWA CITY — It’s one thing for an athlete to meet a living legend. It’s quite another for a living legend to acknowledge you in a group of people.
Iowa sophomore guard Anthony Clemmons and his best friend, Michigan State sophomore Denzel Valentine, had the chance to meet NBA great Magic Johnson this summer. The moment for Clemmons was, well, magical.
“It was the most nervous thing I’d ever done in my whole life,” Clemmons said. “Believe that. Just seeing him with all the people around him and he saw me and my guy walked up to him and he like cleared it out and said, ‘ Let these two through.’ It’s an honor, man, for that guy to know me and my best friend. He could forget about Lansing as big as he is. He could forget about it. For him to know me and the basketball area, it’s unbelievable.”
Johnson is a Lansing native and played two years for Michigan State before leading the Los Angeles Lakers to five NBA titles in the 1980s. Clemmons and Valentine grew up in Lansing and won two state titles under Valentine’s father, Carlton, for Lansing Sexton.
Johnson stays true to his Lansing roots, and for that he’s a hero to Clemmons.
“He said he’s looking forward to big things out there in Iowa for me,” Clemmons said. “He’s been following me. He said, ‘It’s always good having a Lansing native out there being successful.’
“He lived right around the corner from my mom growing up. And his birthday is the day before mine. That guy, I look up to him.”