Magic Johnson, a first-round pick in 1979, was a key element in their championship runs. Magic’s playing career, however, was cut short in 1991 when he discovered he had tested positive for HIV.
So, if you’re curious about what transpired at the time, we’ve got you covered.
How and When Did Magic Johnson Gets Positive For HIV?
Shortly before the 1991-1992 NBA season, Magic had a normal physical exam. On October 24, 1991, he received a call from the Lakers’ doctors, requesting that he return home immediately.
Magic was in Salt Lake City, Utah, at the time, and the doctor refused to discuss it over the phone.
Magic was informed that he had tested positive for HIV upon his return. He was in disbelief at the time, so he requested two additional tests, both of which came back positive.
“You simply sit there and think, ‘What does this mean?'” Magic remembered his reaction. ‘Am I going to die?’ He was also concerned about Cookie, his pregnant wife.
Fortunately, neither of them tested positive for the virus. Then there was the matter of informing the rest of the world about Magic’s diagnosis.
On November 7, 1991, he conducted a press conference. Prior to that, Magic made certain that some of his other players were aware of the situation by calling them and informing them.
Magic Johnson announced his retirement with immediate effect after testing HIV positive in one of the most momentous events in basketball history.
“I plan on going on, living for a long time, bugging you guys as I always have,” he said, optimistically. I’ll be seen about. I intend to stay with the Lakers. Of course, I’ll miss the fights and wars, as well as you, my friends. However, life goes on.”
The world was still learning about HIV and AIDS in 1991, and many people were unaware of the epidemic. Magic’s sexuality was the subject of rumours.
As a result, he was upfront about having numerous women during his playing career, and he was afterwards chastised for his promiscuity.
Magic accused Isiah Thomas, a Detroit Pistons player, of spreading rumours about him being gay or bisexual a few years later.
Magic continued to play in the 1992 Olympics and returned to the Lakers as a coach in 1994. He resigned after the season, but returned as a player for one season in 1996.
Magic talked about alerting Cookie about his diagnosis in a 2021 interview. “It was difficult since I loved her so much and didn’t want to hurt her,” he explained.
I’ve had the opportunity to play against some of the finest basketball players on the planet, right? I’ve competed in championships before. I’ve played in nine [NBA] Finals, so I know what it’s like to be under pressure. But there was no greater strain than telling her as I was driving home.”
Magic has become a wealthy businessman in the years since his playing career ended. He also managed his HIV by taking care of his health and receiving the necessary treatment.
Magic’s HIV is now undetectable, but he still needs to take a daily mixture of drugs to keep it that way.