Today In History: Magic Johnson Comes Out As HIV+

Today In History |

November 7, 1991

Los Angeles Times

Today in 1991, basketball legend Earvin "Magic" Johnson announced to the world that he was HIV-positive. He also announced, much to the shock of the basketball world, that he would be retiring from the Los Angeles Lakers. It was a major event in the timeline of the HIV/AIDS crisis that changed the way many people viewed the disease.

HIV/AIDS had previously been popularly considered a disease of gay white men. Magic Johnson, a famous, wealthy, heterosexual black man, defied this stereotype. He was one of the first athletes to publicly come out as HIV-positive.

Johnson spent most of his thirteen-season career with the Lakers, with whom he made history. He helped the team take five championships in the eighties.

Johnson is originally from Lansing, Michigan. He stands six foot nine and plays point guard. His passing skills made him famous, as did his personality and enormous smile. He signed a 25-year deal with the Lakers in 1981 for $25 million, one of the biggest sports contracts to date.

Magic Johnson is a three-time NBA "Most Valuable Player." He's also a twelve-time All-Star team member. He retired from the sport in 1991 but continued to play a bit afterwards.

Magic Johnson

He was voted MVP of the 1992 NBA All-Star Game. He also played on the "Dream Team" at the Olympics, along with Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing and Larry Bird. The Dream Team won the gold medal in Barcelona. Johnson then went back to the Lakers for the 1993-94 season to work as head coach. He also played on the team in the 1995-1996 season.

Johnson is still a prominent figure in the AIDS awareness movement. He is also a businessman, invested in movie theaters and restaurants. He was not only one of the first celebrities to come forth as HIV-positive, he was also an illustration of the effectiveness of AIDS medicine. Where the disease used to be a death sentence in the first years of the epidemic, AIDS medication effectively reduced it to a manageable condition.

It is still a very serious disease that claims many lives around the world. An estimated 25 million people's lives have been claimed by the virus since the first human outbreak. An additional 40 million people are HIV-positive around the world.

Magic Johnson was brave to come out as positive and served as a positive role model to many people. Thankfully, HIV and AIDS are less stigmatized than they were in the eighties and nineties.

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Matt lives in Southern California. He is interested in politics, history, literature and the natural world.