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.
May 3, 2015, 12:58 AM EDT
Tell me again how he can’t win the big one.
May 2, 2015, 11:53 PM EDT
There’s not going to be a better series these playoffs.
May 2, 2015, 10:56 PM EDT
It was going to take a shot like that to win this, the best first-round series in recent memory.
May 2, 2015, 9:03 PM EDT
He was out for eight minutes the Clippers were only -2.
May 2, 2015, 8:30 PM EDT
Dudley has player option for $4.25 million for next season, but hopes to back in Milwaukee regardless.
May 2, 2015, 7:00 PM EDT
The Warriors (and the Bulls, and the Hawks) may have something to say about that.
May 2, 2015, 5:30 PM EDT
Portland was very good with Matthews healthy this season, but he’s now an unrestricted free agent, and it’s unclear how high the Blazers will go to retain his services.
May 2, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT
Changes are ahead in Brooklyn, and Johnson sees them coming.
May 2, 2015, 2:39 PM EDT
Well-deserved, but somehow Dunleavy comes away unscathed.
Nets coach Lionel Hollins on whether it took too long for his team to figure things out: ‘Did we make the playoffs?’
May 2, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT
Hollins was defiant after the Nets were eliminated from the postseason, and believes the fact that they made the playoffs at all was an achievement worth noticing.
May 2, 2015, 12:30 PM EDT
Korver’s hot start was indicative of how things would go.
May 2, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT
Dunleavy hit Michael Carter-Williams in the neck early in Chicago’s Game 6 win over the Bucks.
May 2, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT
Does Blake Griffin have another big fourth quarter in him.
May 2, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT
The guy Rose was guarding shot only 39 percent for the Bucks.
May 2, 2015, 12:01 AM EDT
Impossible to believe.
May 1, 2015, 10:34 PM EDT
Atlanta’s elite offense returned, and Brooklyn had no answers.
May 1, 2015, 9:45 PM EDT
An earlier report emerged that said the Celtics planned on trying to trade for Cousins this summer.
May 1, 2015, 8:45 PM EDT
Clippers bench is very thin as it is.
May 1, 2015, 7:45 PM EDT
Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler repeatedly found their way into the paint and were able to convert at the rim.
May 1, 2015, 6:44 PM EDT
This is just a bad matchup for Memphis.
- Hobbled Chris Paul, Clippers’ role players do just enough to dethrone Spurs in Game 7 1
- Chris Paul banks in game winner to lift Clippers past Spurs (VIDEO) 20
- PBT Extra: Can Clippers build on Game 6 win? 2
- PBT Extra with NBASavant.com: Derrick Rose got it done on both ends in first round 2
- Hawks eliminate Nets from playoffs with blowout victory in Game 6 9
- PBT Extra: Clash of styles favors Warriors over Grizzlies 4
- PBT Second-Round Playoff Previews: Golden State Warriors vs. Memphis Grizzlies 3
- PBT Extra: Bulls have shot to upset Cavaliers 16