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.
Jul 6, 2015, 1:51 AM EDT
He fits well with what George Karl wants to do.
Jul 6, 2015, 12:28 AM EDT
Whether regular season or Summer League, we love us some buzzer beaters.
Jul 5, 2015, 11:30 PM EDT
Evans won the 2012 dunk contest.
Jul 5, 2015, 10:32 PM EDT
This seems steep, they could have gotten him for less.
Jul 5, 2015, 8:59 PM EDT
The Lakers will need to move Young to clear the cap space for their other moves.
Jul 5, 2015, 7:30 PM EDT
Dallas doesn’t have much to offer.
Jul 5, 2015, 6:00 PM EDT
Dan Gilbert is not afraid to write checks.
Jul 5, 2015, 4:42 PM EDT
The Lakers added the 2015 Sixth Man of the Year.
Jul 5, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT
The Hawks signed Millsap to a max deal earlier this week.
Jul 5, 2015, 2:29 PM EDT
Stuckey had a standout year for Indiana last season.
Jul 5, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT
Ginobili has yet to announce his future plans.
Jul 5, 2015, 12:30 PM EDT
LeBron is going to win, Tristan Thompson is going to get his money.
Jul 5, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT
Another guy who took less money to avoid playing in Sacramento.
Jul 5, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT
L.A. is all kinds of desperate now that DeAndre Jordan has bolted for the Mavericks.
Jul 5, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT
How will Blazers fans react when Aldridge returns?
Jul 5, 2015, 3:12 AM EDT
Quality pickup by the Kings.
Jul 5, 2015, 12:14 AM EDT
Phil Jackson gets a gold star for this move.
Jul 4, 2015, 11:00 PM EDT
McRae was the 58th overall pick in the 2014 draft, and is a member of Philadelphia’s Summer League squad.
Jul 4, 2015, 9:30 PM EDT
Nice addition by Orlando.
Jul 4, 2015, 8:00 PM EDT
He would have to take a paycut, but Dallas needs help at the point.
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- Report: Lakers near deal to sign Brandon Bass, may trade Nick Young 26
- Spurs reset franchise for post Tim Duncan life in one impressive week 19
- Report: Lakers, Pacers reach deal to trade Roy Hibbert to LA 56
- LaMarcus Aldridge has chosen to sign with Spurs 85
- Who should Clippers get to replace DeAndre Jordan? How about Blake Griffin. 43
- Report: Tobias Harris reaches four-year, $64 million extension to stay with Orlando 25
- Report: Rajon Rondo agrees to one-year, $9.5 million deal with Sacramento Kings 48