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 25, 2013, 12:06 AM EDT
As the final seconds of the third quarter wound down, Paul George dribbled at the top and sized up LeBron James, arguably the NBA’s best wing defender. Without the benefit of LeBron overplaying him or the absence of a rim protector, George drove left past LeBron and ferociously dunked over Chris Andersen as a foul…
May 24, 2013, 11:11 PM EDT
This series is so much fun. Paul George just absolutely crushed the Birdman Chris Andersen with a dunk. Just crushed him. LeBron James comes back down and drains a three. Then a little hand slap at midcourt. Respect. These are two teams standing toe-to-two trading blows, and most teams wither when they do that with…
May 24, 2013, 9:45 PM EDT
There is no way that should have been a technical. It’s the playoffs, we want emotion, we want a little feisty play… and frankly that wasn’t that feisty. There are Tuesday night games in Minnesota in January that were more emotional than that play. But Scott Foster has the fastest trigger in the NBA for…
May 24, 2013, 6:39 PM EDT
First Jim Boeheim has Carmelo Anthony’s back, now it’s time for another coach to get a former star’s back. Kentucky coach John Calipari was on the Adam “the Bull” & Dustin Fox show on 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland, and when asked about Derrick Rose and his injury — and the heat he took in…
May 24, 2013, 4:56 PM EDT
In Hollywood, they call that chewing up the scenery. Memphis guard Tony Allen has been fined $5,000 by the league for his overacting — technically violating the league’s anti-flopping policy — on that play. Make no mistake, Manu Ginobili fouled Allen hard on this crucial late-game play — the Grizzlies were down four with :26…
May 24, 2013, 3:29 PM EDT
Early in the fourth quarter of the Heat’s Game 1 win over the Pacers, Ian Mahinmi grabbed LeBron James by the arm as he went up for the shot, causing James to fall a bit awkwardly as he crashed to the floor. It was ruled as a common foul at the time, but has since…
May 24, 2013, 2:42 PM EDT
The Clippers’ head coaching job is undoubtedly the most intriguing out of all of the ones that are currently open for next season. Assuming Chris Paul re-signs with the team in free agency, L.A. will return the core of a team that was talented enough to win 56 regular season games and two in the…
May 24, 2013, 2:34 PM EDT
To answer your first question, that is Todd MacCulloch getting dunked on. He played for the Nets in 2002. That was one of those years when the real NBA finals was the Lakers vs. Kings in the Western Conference Finals — whichever team got through that war was going to steamroll New Jersey. Which is…
May 24, 2013, 1:45 PM EDT
George Hill had a rough Game 1 for the Pacers — 2-of-9 shooting for five points with three turnovers. Plus, he sprained his big toe. I’m serious, he’s getting treatment and everything. The news comes from the twitter account of Mark Montieth of Pacers.com. George Hill has sprained left big toe, from Game 1. Had…
May 24, 2013, 1:22 PM EDT
When a player averages less than one point and three rebounds per game over the course of a season, while possessing the option to come back for another year with the same team at a salary of $9 million, it doesn’t take a degree in advanced economics to figure out what the chosen course of…
May 24, 2013, 1:19 PM EDT
Hibbert on if Battier does it again, "I have no problem putting my nuts in line of fire. …They pay me all this money, I got to be there."— Stefan Bondy (@NYDNInterNets) May 24, 2013 Sometimes, we forget how much playing in the NBA is like any regular job. You show up. You get kneed…
May 24, 2013, 1:12 PM EDT
In their Thursday press availabilities, the tones between the Heat and Pacers were different. Indiana may have lost Game 1 but there was an optimistic “we can beat these guys” vibe around the team. Miami may be up 1-0 but there was more of a “that was not us, we can play a lot better”…
May 24, 2013, 12:51 PM EDT
The Raptors’ pursuit of Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri is kicking into high gear. Toronto received permission to speak with Ujiri, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke is aggressively pursuing Ujiri to become the Raptors’ general manager and plans to present an offer that will pay…
May 24, 2013, 11:28 AM EDT
If I’d had a vote, Greivis Vasquez would have gotten mine for Most Improved Player award — the third-year guard averaged 13.9 points and 9 assists per game for the then Hornets (now Pelicans) this past season, playing smart basketball along the way for a team that was grooming Anthony Davis and waiting for Eric…
May 24, 2013, 11:00 AM EDT
The Mavericks top off-season goal is to try and sign Dwight Howard. Have fun with that, knowing what we do about Howard it should be a quick and decisive process. But they need more than just a big man. It was evident this season the Mavs need better point guard play, and somebody who can…
May 24, 2013, 10:18 AM EDT
Roy Hibbert made life difficult in the paint for the Knicks in the second round — we’ve all seen Hibbert block Carmelo Anthony’s shot at the rim but that is just the tip of the iceberg. He altered and blocked all kinds of shots inside and owned the paint. The Miami heat scored 60 points…
May 24, 2013, 8:50 AM EDT
It’s a little tough to predict where the Clippers’ coaching search might lead because hiring a coach is a task owner Donald Sterling takes on personally. He has for a long time. He was the guy charmed by Vinny Del Negro and hired him when the basketball operations people wanted to go another direction (and…
May 24, 2013, 8:10 AM EDT
You get this sense with the Warriors — guys like playing there now. You could feel the team chemistry when you watch them play. They liked each other, they were having fun together. And that was fun to watch. Carl Landry wants to stay a part of that. But the NBA is a business. Landry…
May 24, 2013, 7:21 AM EDT
J.R. Smith struggled in the playoffs. Well, he looked great the first couple games but he really struggled after returning from a one-game suspension for an elbow to the head of Boston’s Jason Terry in the first round. Against the Pacers he averaged 14 points a game but on just 29 percent shooting. His play…
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