Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson has become a living testament to advances in medicine that have turned human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) from a death sentence into something that can be managed and lived with. While Johnson can now attest to 30 years of life after being diagnosed with HIV, his journey living with the disease has been far from easy.
During an appearance on CBS Mornings, Magic Johnson discussed living with HIV three decades after he was initially diagnosed with the virus prior to the 1991-92 NBA season. Johnson remembered the devastation of his diagnosis, and said that the most difficult part was having to tell his wife Cookie — who he had just married, and whom had just become pregnant with their child.
“It was hard because I loved her so much and I hated to hurt her,” Magic Johnson said.
Cookie Johnson was worried about Magic, but supportive.
“It wasn’t how he got it that was important to me. It was, ‘You’re possibly going to die.’ And that trumped everything,” Cookie Johnson said.
At the time of Magic Johnson’s diagnosis, there was a strong stigma around HIV and AIDS. Johnson was pivotal in helping to lessen that stigma, as he not only managed to find a way forward and live with the disease, but also returned to playing basketball. He played on the 1992 NBA All-Star Team as well as the “Dream Team” at the Olympics.
“It proved to be the right decision,” Magic Johnson said. “It helped people who were living with not just HIV and AIDS, but with any disease, that you can live on, you can be — live a productive life.”
Magic Johnson has remained a central part of the Lakers franchise in his life since, serving as a coach and executive, as well as a player when he came out of retirement for the 1996 season.