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As the crowd counted down, Magic Johnson pulled a large silver lever jutting from a box labeled “ASPiRE.” With that, his new cable network went live.

Then stagehands whisked the contraption off the dais at Aspire’s gala premiere party Wednesday night. The switch was just a prop, of course, connected to nothing.

But Magic Johnson’s ties to the African-American community (not to mention sports history and contemporary culture) are direct and strong.

Now, the basketball great and business tycoon is leveraging his clout and good name to launch Aspire.

“We have a big platform for African-American work,” Johnson told the gathered. “Family driven content, positive images of African-Americans — that’s what we want that platform for!”

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