AVMA brings Magic to Austin at the 2024 convention


Basketball legend and entrepreneur Earvin “Magic” Johnson’s keynote session at the 2024 AVMA Convention talk scored points with attendees by delivering messages on leadership, teamwork, and career success

Magic Johnson addresses speaks at a veterinary conference

Photo: Kristen Coppock, MA/dvm360

Earvin "Magic" Johnson appears on a video screen during his keynote address at the 2024 American Veterinary Medical Association Convention in Austin, Texas.

Earvin “Magic” Johnson made a big entrance at the 2024 American Veterinary Medical Association Convention (AVMA) in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, June 22. As he stepped out to deliver the event’s keynote address, he first took a selfie with a young fan while autographed basketballs were being thrown into the crowd.

He quickly began his talk by conveying appreciation to the crowd of veterinary professionals on behalf of himself and his family. “What a blessing you are. We’re pet lovers. We have 2 dogs. Thank you, thank you, and thank you because we wouldn’t know what to do without you,” he said. “You are a blessing to not only the animals but to the pet owners as well. Never forget that you’ve been blessed with a special gift.”

The talk was then filled with stories from his time playing basketball in high school, college and as an NBA player for the Los Angeles Lakers, as well as Johnson’s business experiences. The entertaining tales had purpose as he espoused the values of leadership, teamwork and mentorship, while building successful careers.

Working together

During the talk, Johnson discussed how a common goal can bring communities together and results can be achieved with teamwork—a sentiment that spoke to veterinary teams. Johnson shared that although he and Boston Celtics player Larry Bird were fierce competitors—“I hated that guy because he was so good”—the pair ultimately used their rivalry to grow the then-struggling league. “Larry and I changed basketball. We put the madness in March, then we turned the NBA around. We did it together,” he said.

Sharing a more contemporary example, Johnson expressed that the WNBA is currently experiencing a similar burst of growth. “Give Caitlin Clark a lot of credit,” he said, mentioning the college standout turned rookie professional player. Johnson said other members of the talented 2024 WNBA rookie class such as Angel Reese, a Clark competitor, are also contributing to the positive changes. “I think it’s like what Larry and I did for the NBA that Angel and Caitlin are doing for the WNBA,” Johnson said. “Everything that the WNBA and the women in professional basketball were fighting for, they finally have.”

Magic Johnson addresses speaks at a veterinary conference

Photo: Kristen Coppock, MA/dvm360

Earvin "Magic" Johnson makes his way back to the stage during the keynote address.

Achieving success

Throughout the talk, Johnson worked the crowd, occasionally stopping his speech to invite members of the audience to take a selfie with him. He also spent time directly addressing students and young professionals in attendance. Among his advice was to expect rejection but not to allow it to define them.

Johnson further advised young attendees seeking career advancement to ask questions and continuing seeking knowledge, while working hard. “Be the first one to work and the last one to leave,” he said. “Overdeliver to your manager, overdeliver to the company, over deliver to the brand, but [remember that] knowledge is key.”

Relating pivotal experiences he has had while building his businesses, Johnson encouraged young attendees to take advantage of the opportunity that AVMA provided by shaking many hands and obtaining business cards. “Networking is one of the most important things you can do at this conference,” he said.

Near the end of the keynote, a child in the audience followed this advice by approaching Johnson with a request to sign his basketball jersey. He next handed Johnson a book he had hand-written with a business card. The basketball legend was seemingly impressed as he asked, “When will we be ready to do business?” Then, the pair took a selfie.


Johnson E. Making the Magic happen. Presented at: American Veterinary Medical Association Convention; June 21-25, 2024. Austin, Texas.

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