It was “Showtime” Thursday in Tampa.
Only this time, Basketball Hall of Famer Ervin “Magic” Johnson — whose passing and scoring prowess during the 1980s personified the Los Angeles Lakers’ entertaining style of play known as “Showtime” — was dishing out assists of a different kind.
Johnson joined former Major League Baseball star Gary Sheffield in distributing food, including Thanksgiving turkeys, to more than 400 needy families as part of a Pop Up Pantry event at Cyrus Green Community Center.
“I had a great time (Thursday) in Tampa,” Johnson wrote in posts on his Twitter and Facebook accounts.
The event was organized by Heaven Destiny Assembly of God Church and Simply Healthcare.
Johnson also pitched a new Medicaid health plan that focuses on treating HIV/AIDS. Clear Health Alliance is partnering with the University of South Florida Health Morsani College of Medicine to offer the plan. Johnson owns a share in the company.
In a 1991 news conference, Johnson shared the shocking news that he was HIV positive. At the time, the diagnosis was tantamount to a death sentence.
Undaunted, Johnson went on to play in the 1992 NBA All-Star Game in Orlando and won a gold medal with the U.S. men’s basketball team in the Summer Olympics that same year.
He later returned to the Lakers for separate stints as a coach, player and executive.
He currently is co-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers and chairman and CEO of an investment company, Magic Johnson Enterprises.
Most importantly, he has become a symbol of hope to those who share his disease.
“I’ve lived to see my kids as adults,” Johnson said on his company’s website, magicjohnson.com. "I’m on top of my (medical) regime. You can live a long time. I’ve met people at 35 and 40 (years with the condition).''
Sheffield, a Tampa native and Hillsborough High School graduate, played for eight Major League teams, including the Milwaukee Brewers, New York Yankees and Florida (now Miami) Marlins during a 22-season career that ended in 2008. He was a nine-time All-Star and won a World Series with the Marlins in 1997.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor also was among the luminaries at the event.