When Jason Kidd was growing up in Oakland, Calif., he aspired to be like Magic Johnson.
After all, Johnson was a five-time NBA champion, 12-time All-Star, nine-time first-team all-NBA player, four-time assist leader, and even coached a bit, finishing with a 5-11 record as the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers during the end of the 1993-94 season.
Fast forward several years later, Kidd finished his illustrious career as an NBA champion, a 10-time All-Star, five-time first-team all-NBA selection, five-time assist leader, and manufactured a 183-190 record coaching the Brooklyn Nets (2013-14) and Milwaukee Bucks (2014-18).
Johnson had that flair for the dramatics, that engaging smile, that ability to seemingly have eyes behind his back, and that mystique about him that let everyone know something, uh, magical was about to occur whenever he was on the court. It’s the same philosophy Kidd adhered to when he was plowing his through the basketball ranks.
“Magic Johnson was my idol as a kid playing on the playground throwing the ball off the house trying to throw those passes and smile like Magic,” Kidd said. “Unfortunately, I stopped growing, but he was my idol.
“The things that he has done – just not on the court, but off the court. The impact that he has, he’s still my idol today. The things that he’s gone through, to fight.”
Now the head coach of the Dallas Mavericks, Kidd said the inspiration he got from watching Johnson unveil his bag of tricks on a nightly basis was something he’ll never forget. That’s why at age 48, he’s still talking about it.
Kidd also talks about perhaps having Johnson and other high-profile players making an appearance and giving his team an inspirational talk one day.
“To be able to share those stories with my young players. . .,” Kidd said. “Not just Magic. There’s quite a few players — Gary Payton, John Stockton. You’re talking about the greatest of all point guards.
“To be able to call them and have them come in and talk to Luka (Doncic) and talk to the team about what it means to be great.”
Besides Johnson, Kidd’s other idol was his father, Steve Kidd. When Kidd was playing for the Mavs from 1994 until he was traded midway through the 1996-97 season, Steve Kidd was a permanent fixture at the games – all while wearing a huge leather NBA jacket – because his position as an employee at an airline allowed him to fly for free.
“My dad was a big part of my life,” Kidd said. “Not just being a father, but he was like a teammate. He traveled. He got the opportunity because of his job.”
And that opportunity afforded Kidd the chance to see his father a lot more than the average NBA player.
“I don’t know if you all know Trans World (Airlines) was TWA,” Kidd said. “It doesn’t exist anymore, but he got to fly and come to a lot of games, and he was just someone that was a security blanket, someone that I could always talk to.
“He was critical of my games, but if you got to know my dad he would talk to anybody. It didn’t matter if you were the owner of the team or you were someone who was a janitor.”
Indeed it didn’t matter, and both Jason and Steve Kidd loved the fact that it didn’t matter. They both saw every person as if they were on the same level, as if they were just as meaningful and just as resourceful to this world no matter their (financial) status in life.
At times, Steve Kidd would show up at a Mavs’ game – home or away – to be there as a source of support for his son, and to cheer for Jason and the team he played for. And he and Jason would often play dominos, shoot pool or watch movies in the hotel room.
Kidd, in fact, credits his dad for the successful basketball career he had. Unfortunately, Steve Kidd died of a heart attack at the age of 61 in May of 1999.
“He loved to talk and laugh,” Kidd said of his dad. “So for him looking down to see where I got drafted, and today to see where I am as a head coach, I know he’s smiling.”
After seeing Jason Kidd follow in his footsteps almost to a tee, Magic Johnson probably also is smiling.