Senior editor Roy S. Johnson, who guided this week's 52-page college basketball preview from conception to birth, is a man of many talents. Besides assigning story ideas, editing copy and writing headlines and captions for our annual college issue, he collaborated with the Lakers' Magic Johnson on a new book, Magic's Touch, which was published by Addison-Wesley last month. Working together, the Johnsons faced one potential problem: Readers, they thought, might consider them kin. It was Magic who suggested a solution. "On the cover," he said, flashing his hallmark smile, "I'll be Earvin (Magic) Johnson, and you can be Roy (No Relation) Johnson."
Nepotism, of course, had nothing to do with No Relation's position on Team Johnson. Expertise did. SI's Johnson grew up in Tulsa, a basketball wasteland in the 1950s and '60s. Senior editor Sandy Padwe, who was in charge of our pro basketball coverage when Johnson joined the magazine as a reporter in 1978, says of Roy, "He knew almost nothing about the game. But I've never seen anyone establish his knowledge in such a short period of time."
In 1981, Johnson left SI for The New York Times, where he covered tennis and pro basketball. In 1987 he became a columnist for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "That was fun," he says. "As any of my friends will tell you, I have no shortage of opinions."
During his newspaper days, Johnson joined the National Association of Black Journalists. He now serves on its Print Task Force, which attempts to enlarge the representation of minorities in the print industry. "My position with the NABJ is very important to me," he says. "We reach out to high schools and colleges, trying to rekindle interest in our profession, which, in recent years, has seen a stagnation in the number of African-Americans entering the field. I really hope we can bring about some change."
Last March, Johnson returned to SI to become our tennis and college basketball editor. "Going over to the college game," he says, "was quite a switch because I'd been concentrating almost exclusively on the pros for a decade." To a certain extent, however, working on Magic's Touch has allowed him to keep his hand in the NBA. "It's a basketball book, not really an autobiography," says No Relation, who appears on the book jacket as Roy S. Johnson. "A whole generation of players has grown up wanting to be Magic on the court. We tell what that's like, seeing the game through his eyes."
SI's Johnson with his dog, Norman.