Each of us surely remembers what we were doing on September 11, 2001, November 13, 2015 or more recently on January 26, 2020. And on November 7, 1991? Harder…
Except for the late Kobe Bryant. A big Lakers and Magic fan, “Black Mamba” sent K7s to matches in Italy, where his father Joe played. In 1991, the family moved to Mulhouse. That’s why Kobe Bryant found out about the HIV status of his idol in France. A few days before, the Lakers and Magic Johnson were in France to challenge CSP Limoges and Badalone.
This November 7, a few months after the loss of the Lakers 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 absent from the courts due to illness.
“Kobe is restless”said his sister Sharia. “He was in tears when he heard the news and for a week he did not eat every meal. It was very difficult for him…”
Because of the knowledge of the time to find a cure, Magic Johnson was, in the eyes of the general public, doomed. It is given for 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 had suffered from AIDS. He succumbed the next day, brought on by pneumonia that had gotten the better of his last strength.
“Because of the virus I got, I had to leave the Lakers organization”
On November 7, in the morning, a phone call was made to the press. « Press conference at 2 pm at the Forum (note: the old Lakers room). Main announcement. About Magic. »
The California leader did not appear again for a week and a game in Utah. We think something is wrong, Magic is not coming back right away but everything is in the dark… The management informed that Johnson has a virus, that he is weak, that he has lost weight . And that he will resume his place as soon as possible.
On November 7, rumors spread through 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 let them know one by one. He doesn’t want them to know the truth from the news. The Lakers No. 32 are HIV-positive. He will retire from the courts.
The five-time NBA champion arrived at the Forum around noon. Mike Dunleavy, the coach, gathered all his teammates in the locker room. They were taken into confidence. And do a massive blow to the head. Meanwhile, the journalists waited quietly. The Magic that manifests itself to them is not what they know. The bright smile disappeared. Grave and dark, Magic advances to the microphone: “Because of the virus I got, I had to withdraw from the Lakers organization. »
Stupor at the meeting. The room, which was full to bursting, was in shock. Stunned. Some have tears in their eyes. Standing next to David Stern, Jerry West and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Johnson exuded poise and determination. He promised to sacrifice his life “defeat this deadly virus”. To be 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? Kicking questions. He was advised to stop sports so as not to affect his immune system. His wife, Cookie, is unaffected. Be the child he expected.
“My life is not ruined. Because he is not. I will continue to live. Nothing changed. I just need to get treatment and quit the franchise. This is a new challenge in my life. I will continue 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 the battles and wars. I will miss you all. But life must go on. I will continue my walk. I will get through this pain and I will continue to have fun”he concluded, unable to contain his emotions.
Dr. Michael Mellman was the first to learn of Magic’s condition. He called Johnson in Salt Lake City and asked him to return to Los Angeles immediately. Johnson couldn’t accept the terrible news, or admit that he had to give up basketball. All his life… He asked for a second trial and then a third. Both are identical at first. On November 5, 1991, the Lakers were scheduled to face the Clippers for Game 3 of the regular season. Magic informed the press that he still has the flu. On the same day he received the result of the third test…
Magic later admitted that he had several partners throughout his life. In a ranking compiled by ESPN in 2004, the announcement of his HIV status was ranked the “7th most memorable event” of the previous 25 years. Johnson is not gay or bisexual. He accused Isiah Thomas of spreading rumors to the contrary. From there would date the end of their friendship, which has since been fixed.
Magic signed a successful return to Orlando for the 1992 All-Star Game (MVP with 25 pts, 5 rebounds and 9 wt in 29 minutes). The following summer, he took part in the Barcelona Olympics with the “Dream Team”. Since then, he has been doing well, very well. He never got sick, and he turned 63 this summer. But Kobe Bryant is no longer there to wish him…