Monday marks the 20th anniversary of the saddest day of my sports life. On November 7, 1991, Magic Johnson shocked the NBA and the world by announcing he was HIV positive, and retired from the Los Angeles Lakers. It was a somber day at the Great Western Forum:
Last year I looked back at the events of that day:
I can still remember the exact details of how and when I heard the awful news. I was a sophomore in high school, and after school I walked with my friends over to the mall to hang out. My mom was a hairstylist and worked at a shop in the mall, so I went to ask her for money, a daily tradition. Her first words to me were, "You're going to be sick when you hear this," and she then proceeded to tell me that Magic Johnson had to retire because of AIDS.
The fact that she said "AIDS" wasn't entirely correct -- Magic was HIV positive, which in many, many cases lead to AIDS, but he didn't have AIDS yet -- but that was emblematic of the time. Nobody knew anything about HIV and AIDS at the time, except that it was a death sentence. Magic Johnson, the best point guard in basketball history and my favorite athlete ever, was going to die.
I was 15 years old, and had a hard time dealing with the pending demise of my all-time favorite athlete. Johnson at his retirement news conference was still smiling and confident, saying "I'm going to beat this, and I'm going to have fun." But I didn't believe him.
How foolish of me.
Here we are 20 years later, and Magic Johnson not only is still alive, but is thriving. He is healthy, and amazingly successful as a businessman, and remains an inspiration to millions worldwide. Why did I ever doubt him?
I get the feeling if the NBA owners and Players Association, currently fighting and coming perilously close to losing a season, would just sit in a room with Magic, he would find a way to strike a deal and get everyone back on the court. Earvin Johnson can do anything if he puts his mind to it. After all, he is Magic.