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On November 7, 1991, Magic Johnson reveals his HIV status | NBA

Each of us remembers precisely what we did on September 11, 2001, November 13, 2015, or more recently January 26, 2020. And November 7, 1991? Harder…

Except for the late Kobe Bryant. Big fan of the Lakers and Magic, the “Black Mamba” was sent the K7 matches in Italy, where his daddy Joe played. In 1991, the family moved to Mulhouse. It is therefore in France that Kobe Bryant learns of his idol’s HIV status. A few days earlier, the Lakers and Magic Johnson were also in France to challenge CSP Limoges and Badalone.

This November 7, a few months after the Lakers’ defeat in the NBA Finals against the Bulls (1-4), and therefore a few days after his visit to France, Magic Johnson gives a press conference to announce his immediate withdrawal from the prosecution because of disease.

“Kobe was inconsolable”, says his sister Sharia. “He burst into tears when he heard the news and for a week he missed all meals. It was very, very hard for him… ”

Given the knowledge of the time in finding a cure, Magic Johnson is, in the eyes of the general public, doomed. We give it four or five years at best. On the 23rd of the same month, the charismatic singer of the group Queen, Freddie Mercury, had a press release written to reveal that he himself suffered from AIDS. He died the next day, swept away by pneumonia which overwhelmed his last strength.

“Because of the virus I contracted, I must withdraw from the Lakers’ organization”

This November 7, in the morning, a phone call went to the press. “Press conference at 2 p.m. at the Forum (editor’s note: the former Lakers hall). Major announcement. Regarding Magic. “

The Californian point guard has not reappeared for a week and a game in Utah. We can guess that something is wrong, that Magic will not return immediately but everyone is in the dark … The management had let it be known that Johnson was suffering from a virus, that he felt weak, that he had lost weight . And that he would return to his place as soon as possible.

This November 7, the rumor spread like wildfire in the newsrooms. At 32 and after 12 years in the NBA (9 Finals and 5 titles), Johnson is seriously ill. Magic called Larry Bird, Isiah Thomas, Michael Jordan and Pat Riley to warn them individually. He didn’t want them to find out the truth on the news. Lakers # 32 is HIV positive. He is going to retire from the prosecution.

The five-time NBA champion arrives at the Forum around noon. Mike Dunleavy, the coach, gathered all his teammates in the locker room. They are taken in the confidence. And take a huge blow to the head with a club. Meanwhile, reporters wait in silence. The Magic that presents itself to them is not the one they know. The dazzling smile is gone. Grave and dark, Magic advances to the microphone: “Because of the virus I contracted, I have to withdraw from the Lakers organization. “

Stupor in the assembly. The room, packed, is in shock. Stunned. Some have tears in their eyes. Standing alongside David Stern, Jerry West and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Johnson displays calm and determination. He promises to devote his life to “Defeat this deadly virus”. To become a spokesperson for the fight against AIDS. “You have to protect yourself. I am proof that it can happen to anyone. Even to me, Magic Johnson. “

“I will live a long time”

How did he get the disease? How long does he have left to live? Questions kicked into touch. He was advised to stop exercising so as not to affect his immune system. His wife Cookie is not affected. The child she is not expecting either.

“It’s not like my life is screwed up. Because she is not. I will continue to live. Nothing has changed. I just need to get treatment and leave the franchise. It’s a new challenge in my life. I will continue to lead my little life and live a long time. You will see me again. I intend to stay close to the Lakers. Of course, I will miss battles and wars. I will miss you all. But life goes on. I will continue my journey. I will overcome this disease and I will continue to have fun ”, he concludes without managing to contain his emotion.

It was Dr. Michael Mellman who first learned of Magic’s state of health. He called Johnson in Salt Lake City and asked him to come back to Los Angeles immediately. Johnson could not take the terrible news, nor admit that he would have to give up basketball. All his life… He asked for a second test and then a third. Both identical to the first. On November 5, 1991, the Lakers face the Clippers for Game 3 of the regular season. Magic lets the press know he’s still seized with the flu. It was that same day that he received the result of the third test …

Magic later admitted to having had several partners throughout his life. In a ranking established by ESPN in 2004, the announcement of his HIV-positive status was ranked “7th most memorable event” of the previous 25 years. Johnson was neither gay nor bisexual. He accused Isiah Thomas of having spread the contrary rumor. From there would date the end of their friendship, repaired since.

Magic signed a triumphant return to Orlando for the All-Star Game 1992 (MVP with 25 pts, 5 rebounds and 9 wicks in 29 minutes). The following summer, he participated in the Barcelona Olympics with the “Dream Team”. Since then, he has been doing well, and even very well. He never developed the disease, and he turned 62 this summer. But Kobe Bryant was no longer there to wish him …

 

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