'Winning Time': When Magic Johnson's HIV diagnosis and retirement shocked the world
'I want to educate the public. We don't have to run from it, be ashamed,' Johnson said during a press conference that plunged the world into grief
Magic Johnson is one of the former Los Angeles Lakers stars in focus ahead of the release of HBO's 'Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty'. One of it was his press conferences that shocked the world — even before Chicago Bulls superstar Michael Jordan announced that he'd swap basketball to baseball. Johnson, the bonafide star discovered that he had contracted HIV, and broke the news while also shocking the world with early retirement. He was 32 at the time and had played 12 seasons with the Purple and Gold.
In the conference that saw the country struggle to come to terms with the news, Johnson went on to advocate that he would use the time encouraging the generation to engage in 'safe sex' rather than look at HIV as a disease and a stigma. Per Bob Steiner, the public relations director for California Sports Inc, Johnson had acquired the virus in a heterosexual relationship. At that point, it was also revealed that his wife Cookie was seven months pregnant.
It was his lines during the conference that showed he was taking the first step to creating awareness: "I think we sometimes think only gay people can get it; it's not going to happen to me. And here I am saying that it can happen to anybody, even me, Magic Johnson." According to inside sources in the NBA, it took the Lakers about two weeks to realize that something was wrong with their player and when the diagnosis was out, the concern was primarily about how Johnson would have to endure a barrage of questions from the media. However, the player insisted on calling for a press conference.
"Having HIV virus, I want everybody to practice safe sex, be aware of what's going on. I want to educate the public. We don't have to run from it, be ashamed," he said during the conference. "If I still continued to play, put stress on my mind and body, the virus would have overtaken me three, four, five years from now. Now I have a chance to live longer, if I eat right, take my medicine," Johnson opined.
'Winning Time' will certainly cover Johnson's HIV diagnosis as one of the ket storylines when it premieres this weekend. The official synopsis reads, "Based on Jeff Pearlman’s book Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s, it follows “the professional and personal lives of the 1980s Los Angeles Lakers, one of the sports’ most revered and dominant dynasties — a team that defined an era, both on and off the court."
'Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty' premieres March 6, 2022, at 9 pm ET on HBO.