Nov 7, 2011, 8:01 AM EDT
I know exactly where I was 20 years ago today, Nov. 7, 1991, a little after 3 in the afternoon.
I was at a part-time job at a medical company I had to earn beer money while in school, listening to the radio and doing menial work a trained chimp could have done better. Then the DJ broke in with the news:
Magic Johnson had HIV. He was retiring from the Lakers.
If you grew up a Lakers fan as I did — or even just a fan of basketball — was a punch to the gut. Maybe more than that. The rest of the day seemed foggy. I don’t remember if I cried, but I know Jerry West, Pat Riley, A.C. Green and virtually everyone close to Magic cried a lot that day.
Ervin Magic Johnson was bigger than basketball in Los Angeles, he was (and is) my favorite player and he had been given what we all thought at the time was a death sentence.
Fortunately for all of us — especially Magic — it didn’t turn out that way. For much of America he would change the face of the disease and what it meant to live with it. Magic would go on to play again, be on the Dream Team and win gold, then go on to help reshape Los Angeles as a businessman bringing amenities and shopping to neighborhoods where before that chains feared to tread.
“It made people notice, for the first time, that you can get infected with HIV without being gay, without being a drug user, without being a sex worker,” says Kevin Frost, CEO of amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research. “A lot of people took notice, and that changed the perception of how people got infected, and who was at risk.”
And since that day, Johnson has changed the perception of what it means to live with HIV. By not only surviving the past 20 years, but also by all appearances remaining healthy while becoming a prosperous businessman who has replicated his on-court success in the boardroom, Johnson has shown that HIV doesn’t have to be a death sentence. Johnson is still the most visible, high-profile symbol of a fact unimaginable in 1991. HIV can be beat.
When Magic someday passes — long, long into the future, we hope — there will be highlight videos of no-look passes to James Worthy and remembrances of his battles with Larry Bird. His basketball accomplishments will rightfully be celebrated.
But what Magic has done off the court will forever dwarf what he did on it.
The lives he changed by changing the perception of HIV. What he has done as a businessman. That changed more lives than all the no-look passes put together.
That is Magic’s true legacy. And it all started 20 years ago today in a way that shocked us all.
Aug 27, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT
Former No. 2 remains unsigned after disappointing season with Heat
Aug 27, 2014, 4:22 PM EDT
New contract with Clippers makes Rivers the NBA’s highest-paid coach
Aug 27, 2014, 3:41 PM EDT
Kulagin, 22, went undrafted and is now an unrestricted free agent
Aug 27, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT
Williams went 0-9, and stopped shooting.
Aug 27, 2014, 2:22 PM EDT
Go back to July 1 and consider the possibility of LeBron James and Kevin Love playing for Cleveland this season
Aug 27, 2014, 1:44 PM EDT
Embiid may have jumped the gun.
Aug 27, 2014, 1:02 PM EDT
Minnesota’s owner tried to point out some of Love’s flaws once the deal was done.
Aug 27, 2014, 12:21 PM EDT
Clippers owner Steve Ballmer calls keeping Rivers ‘one of my top priorities’
Aug 27, 2014, 11:46 AM EDT
Donald Sterling will try to embarrass the league going forward, but he will not ever own the Clippers again.
Aug 27, 2014, 11:09 AM EDT
Goes against public perception.
Aug 27, 2014, 10:31 AM EDT
Shumpert and other Knicks will love an offense with player and ball movement… if ‘Melo shares the rock.
Aug 27, 2014, 9:51 AM EDT
Sixers value a pick in next year’s draft more than they do Bennett at this time.
Aug 27, 2014, 9:22 AM EDT
Clippers could sign Chris Douglas-Roberts, Ekpe Udoh with freed cap space
Charlotte offers to spend $33.5 million to upgrade Hornets’ arena. Is that enough to get an All-Star Game?
Aug 27, 2014, 8:44 AM EDT
Reportedly 10 teams made bids so this helps
Aug 27, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
Davis had 18 points, nine rebounds, five blocks and three steals in 20 minutes of work.
Aug 27, 2014, 12:25 AM EDT
The point guards made this blowout more fun to watch.
Aug 26, 2014, 11:30 PM EDT
I don’t see what could possibly go wrong here.
Aug 26, 2014, 10:30 PM EDT
Milwaukee’s trade with Clippers cleared a roster spot
Aug 26, 2014, 9:30 PM EDT
Aug 26, 2014, 8:35 PM EDT
Former Cavaliers center, 39, has been retired three years
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- Kevin Love says Timberwolves owner should focus on his own team following trade to Cavaliers 23
- Iman Shumpert excited to play in triangle offense because he won’t just have to stand in the corner 5
- Timberwolves owner: Kevin Love might regret trade because he’ll be third banana with Cavaliers 47
- Anthony Davis and Kenneth Faried lead Team USA in final World Cup tune-up 20
- Thunder trade Hasheem Thabeet to 76ers 37
- From late-arriving to a LeBron James favorite, Kevin Love comes full circle 15
- Clippers trade Jared Dudley and first rounder to Bucks for Carlos Delfino and Miroslav Raduljica 23