The Hall of Fame was certainly on the minds of many at yesterday’s opening assembly. First veteran rental company owner Gene Rahll moved the crowd with stories of his early days in rental and how he helped young people from his own nephew Lee Lightner to more than a dozen others to start their own rental companies. Rahll, inducted into the American Rental Association, is still active in 13 companies and was instrumental in funding college scholarships for 75 students. Rahll has not missed an ARA show since 1972, except for one year when inclement weather forced him to miss.

Veteran super-rep Lew Hudson also spoke of how he was inspired to go into the manufacturers’ rep business by well-known rep T.J. Grant, whose company Hudson later acquired. Hudson started with one line of equipment and few rental industry contacts, but has grown his business to sell equipment to many thousands of rental businesses from North Carolina to Arizona.

A number of well-known ARA Rental Hall of Fame inductees were in attendance at the opening assembly and this year’s Rental Show, celebrating ARA’s 60th rental show.

But it was keynote speaker National Basketball Association Hall of Fame member Earvin “Magic” Johnson who stole the show. Johnson, best known for his basketball career and five NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers, has since had a career is business with even greater success. Johnson gave his entire speech from within the audience where he moved around and engaged with Rental Show attendees, posing for pictures with dozens of attendees, exchanging hugs, “high-fives”, fist-bumps and handshakes with many in the delighted crowd without skipping a beat as he inspired and exhorted attendees to “over-deliver to their customer base.”

Johnson now owns more than 125 Starbucks restaurants, a chain of inner city movie theaters, a vastly successful foodservice company, and is part of the ownership group of the Los Angeles Dodgers, said what always inspired him over the years was hearing somebody say there was “no way” a certain goal could be achieved. No sooner would Johnson hear that phrase that he knew he could and would achieve the goal, whether it was a basketball championship or a business goal. Johnson also exhorted attendees to give back to their communities, to inspire young people, to make a mark in their communities. The Magic Johnson Foundation today funds more than 140 students on scholarship.

It was truly a magic morning.