In 1991 Magic Johnson was at the top. He battled different superstars and teams at his peak, and his rivalry with Larry Bird was a classic one that many thought to have saved the NBA by increasing its following and viewership. In an instant, a shocking announcement changed everything, and at the time, people thought we would soon be reading his obituary. 30 years later, Magic is still going strong.
Magic Johnson HIV revelation
On November 7, 1991, Johnson announced that he was HIV positive. He then retired from the Los Angeles Lakers, and the news sent shockwaves around the world. Not only was Magic among the first sports stars to come out with the AIDS-related virus, but he was also among the first Black and heterosexual to do so. At that time, HIV was considered a "gay virus," but with Magic's announcement, he removed that stigma.
It changed the landscape in the NBA and all major sports. Magic used his platform and popularity to help everyone understand how the HIV virus is transmitted, what we need to do to stay safe, and not to isolate those who unfortunately have the virus.
Magic on the toughest thing he's had to do
Playing under the bright lights winning championship games were not the toughest thing Magic had to do. Neither was battling trash-talkers or winning Olympic gold for Team USA. Coming back from the HIV also paled in comparison to what he considered the toughest thing Magic ever had to do - it was revealing to his wife Cookie Johnson that he contracted HIV.
"The hardest thing I had to do was drive home and tell Cookie. it was hard because I loved her so much and I hated to hurt her.”
Magic Johnson, CBS Mornings
Magic knew he contracted the virus through his, let's say, off-the-court activities. Cookie found the strength to look past the infidelity and saw the man she loves was in need of support. As much as Magic deserved the credits for overcoming HIV, Cookie also deserves praise for her strength. Without her love and support for her husband, it's safe to say Magic would have had a much harder time in overcoming the life-threatening disease.
They say every successful man has a woman behind him. This could not be more true in Magic and Cookie's case. Johnson transitioned from basketball star to a successful businessman and team executive despite what happened in his life.
Magic became the HIV poster boy - that the disease can be defeated, and everyone can still become the best version of themselves. It broke the stigma around HIV, and it helped people deal with it. Magic and Cookie overcame a lot of hardships, but they pulled through and are now reaping the benefits.