20 Years Ago Today: Magic's HIV Announcement

Twenty years ago Monday, one of sport's most popular stars made a shocking announcement

By Jonathan Lloyd
|  Monday, Nov 7, 2011  |  Updated 10:04 AM PDT
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Los Angeles NBA Stars Off the Court

Magic Johnson announces that he has HIV on Nov. 7, 1991.

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It was 20 years ago today when Magic Johnson stunned the sports world by announcing that he had the virus that causes AIDS.

At the time of Johnson's Nov. 7, 1991 announcement, his long-term prognosis was uncertain. It was thought the vibrant, energetic and ever-smiling basketball star's health would decline, possibly resulting in the death of one of the NBA's most beloved stars.

Johnson wasted no time at the news conference. After greeting reporters packed in the room at the Great Western Forum, he said the words that took some time to process.

"Because of the HIV virus that I have attained, I will have to retire from the Lakers today," Johnson said as he stood behind a podium microphone.

But Johnson's story became one of what it means to live with HIV.

"Thank you to all the fans across the world for 20 years of support," Johnson tweeted Monday morning.

From the moment he made the announcement, Johnson took on a new role -- promote a better understanding of HIV and AIDS. It was just 10 years before Johnson's announcement that the first cases of what would become known as AIDS were reported in Los Angeles.

"I just want to make it clear first of all I do not have the AIDS disease, I know a lot of you want to know that, but the HIV virus," Johnson said. "My wife is fine, she's negative.

"I plan on going on living for a long time. Bugging you guys like I always have."

A year after the announcement, he said he thought about making a return to the game, but said he needed to learn more about the virus. He reflected on how people often "whispered" about the virus and AIDS before his announcement, but said it already seemed like the issue was more "out in the open."

He returned to play in the 1992 NBA All-Star Game and won the MVP Award. He was a member of the 1992 Olympic "Dream Team" that won a Gold Medal.

Johnson returned to the NBA in 1996 and played about 30 games for the Lakers.

Among Johnson's off-court achievements during the two decades since, the Magic Johnson Foundation. The group works to develop programs and support organizations that address the needs of ethnically diverse, urban communities.

Free testing for HIV and sexually transmitted disease will be available Monday at the Earvin "Magic" Johnson Recreation Area. Tests will be conducted from 10 a.m. ot 6 p.m. in mobile vans at 905 E. El Segundo Blvd. Johnson's foundation has dubbed Monday "Point Forward Day."

"Sometimes, you're a little naive about it, and it could never happen to you," Johnson said during the 1991 announcement.

Related: Magic Johnson Foundation


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