How Magic Johnson's wife Earlitha Kelly got the nickname 'Cookie'

Joshua Rogers March 14, 2022
How Magic Johnson's wife Earlitha Kelly got the nickname 'Cookie'
Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

With Winning Time: The Rise Of The Lakers Dynasty streaming on HBO, we find out more about Magic Johnson’s wife Earlitha Kelly and how she got the nickname ‘Cookie’.

New series Winning Time is airing on HBO, charting the rise of the Showtime Lakers throughout the 1980s. At the heart of the Lakers’ success during that period was Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson, who won five NBA titles with the Purple & Gold.

With the sports drama detailing Magic’s early life and career, let’s find out more about his wife Earlitha Kelly, their relationship, and the origins of her nickname ‘Cookie’.

Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage

Cookie Johnson is famous for being the wife of Magic Johnson, but did you know her real name is actually Earlitha Kelly?

Earlitha Kelly was born on 20 January 1959 in Huntsville, Alabama, to parents Earl and Cora Kelly. She has two siblings, elder sister Pat and younger brother Harold. 

Despite being born Earlitha, the young girl’s mom would often call her ‘Kookie’ – after the character in popular 1950s-1960s TV show 77 Sunset Strip. However, as Kookie began first grade, she started calling herself Cookie instead, presumably because it was cuter – and everyone loves cookies.

AL reports Cookie didn’t actually know her real name was Earlitha until right before she started first grade at the all-black Council Training School.

“What do you mean that’s my name?” the young girl said at the time.

The nickname Cookie stuck and that’s how she’s been known since.

Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage

Cookie and Magic met in 1977 when they were freshmen at Michigan State University. Speaking about the first time she met Magic, Cookie said Magic asked for her number in a club on campus even though they hadn’t spoken all night.

Cookie told Magic he wouldn’t remember her in a month but he called her the next day.

Soon after they had their first date, when Magic took her to a steakhouse. “We had a great time,” Cookie told Mochaman Style about the date.

“We had a wonderful conversation. You know sometimes when you meet people and you have to make conversation until you really get to know them? It was like we were old friends. That was the beginning of when I fell in love with him.”

They celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary in 2021

Over the next few years “there was a lot of breaking up and getting back together, a lot of ups and downs”, Cookie told Essence. In 1981, Magic dated Melissa Mitchell, with whom he had a son, Andre.

However, in 1991 Cookie and Magic married in Los Angeles and a year later welcomed their first child, EJ. The couple adopted Elisa Johnson in 1995 and, despite a two-week separation in 2001, have been together since.

In 2021, Magic and Cookie celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary. At the time, Magic posted a picture of the couple on their wedding day with the caption: “Cookie, our 30-year marriage has been the best time of my life.

“Ever since the day I laid eyes on you in 1978, I knew you were the one for me. I thank God every day for you and for bringing you into my life! You’ve made me a better man, person, husband, father and businessman.”

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Joshua is a Senior Sports Writer at GRV Media with over five years of experience in online writing and editing. After receiving a BA (Hons) in Ancient History and an MA in Sports Journalism, he became a writer for a leading social publisher with over 7 million Facebook followers. Joshua then joined Reach PLC, covering the 2018 World Cup for The Mirror Online and regional publications like the Liverpool Echo. He then moved to a social media marketing agency and content studio, Brave Bison, acting as Website Editor for The Hook. Joshua now oversees all sports content on The Focus, specializing in NBA, NFL, F1, and tennis, while also keeping a close eye on his beloved Manchester United.