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.
Apr 16, 2014, 9:22 AM EDT
Bulls give Greg Smith, Ronnie Brewer, Lou Amnundson and Mike James multi-year contracts
Apr 16, 2014, 8:45 AM EDT
Nothing like waiting until the last minute to figure things out.
Apr 16, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
Nine combined spots on the ballot go to eight different players, and none of our winners made the other two’s top three
Apr 16, 2014, 2:42 AM EDT
Chris Paul and J.J. Redick look good as Clippers ready for playoffs.
Apr 16, 2014, 12:40 AM EDT
Poor Evan Fournier is on the wrong end of a highlight that’s going to get shown a lot for a few days. At least.
Apr 15, 2014, 11:46 PM EDT
Video of one player executing a crossover that drops another player to the floor — you know you’re watching.
Apr 15, 2014, 10:31 PM EDT
Sick pass, monster slam.
Joe Johnson says he shouldn’t have been laughing on bench during blowout loss to Knicks earlier in season
Apr 15, 2014, 9:16 PM EDT
Joe Johnson says Jeff Van Gundy’s criticism of his behavior was spot-on.
Apr 15, 2014, 8:01 PM EDT
Mike D’Antoni had no idea how beating the Jazz on Monday would negatively impact his team’s Draft Lottery chances. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Apr 15, 2014, 6:43 PM EDT
Anthony is out for the rest of the season but will not be surgery and will be good to go next season.
Apr 15, 2014, 5:31 PM EDT
Just 7-8 minutes before, Cedric Maxwell had stood next to one of the people killed in the Boston Marathon bombing, but he decided to go inside and get warm.
Apr 15, 2014, 4:41 PM EDT
With nothing on line Pacers going to rest key guys… except Hibbert.
Apr 15, 2014, 3:46 PM EDT
It’s not something you could ever prove (and the Nets may not even do it), but they could rest guys in hopes of falling into a first-round matchup with Toronto.
Apr 15, 2014, 2:59 PM EDT
Damian Lillard doesn’t want to end up like all those players without rings. The ones sitting in his living room.
Apr 15, 2014, 2:17 PM EDT
Two general managers make all three ballots, one tops each
Apr 15, 2014, 1:40 PM EDT
Award honors ‘outstanding service and dedication to the community’
Apr 15, 2014, 1:07 PM EDT
It was just a fender bender, the good news is nobody got hurt. However, Chandler Parsons was delayed getting to the Toyota Center for the Rockets game Monday when he got into an accident. And then the other driver found out who he was and… I will let Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle tell…
Apr 15, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
And Burke is one of the best rookies in this class….
Carmelo Anthony questionable against Nets tonight, but not if Mike Woodson has anything to say about it
Apr 15, 2014, 11:44 AM EDT
Melo, a pending free agent, could be done playing for Knicks
Apr 15, 2014, 11:03 AM EDT
We know for sure the Pacers play the Hawks in the first round, and we know the Rockets and Blazers will meet. After that all the matchups are still up in the air.
- Playoff Chase: Seven meaningful games on final night of NBA season 2
- Tuesday NBA grades: Chris Paul looks playoff ready 0
- Carmelo Anthony has torn labrum, Knicks shut him down for season 13
- Celtics’ legend Cedric Maxwell stood in location of Boston Marathon bombing just minutes before 2
- 2014 PBT Awards: Executive of the Year 25