The Los Angeles Lakers of the 1980s and early '90s were pop-culture icons. Known as the "Showtime Lakers," they wowed crowds across the U.S. with their uptempo style of play, combined with their style and flare. They were led by the ever smiling Earvin “Magic” Johnson, and he was just that, "Magic."
The ever smiling Johnson was the face of league before Michael Jordan would even come onto the scene. Drafted 1st overall in the 1979 NBA draft, he helped lead the Lakers to an NBA Championship as he filled in for Hall of Fame center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, earning the NBA Finals MVP award. This would be the first of five titles that Magic would end up leading the Lakers to during his 12 year career. That smiling face was still making a huge impact on the game as he started off the 1991 NBA season.
Everything changed in November of 1991 when Johnson made an announcement that would shock not only the sports world, but the entire world at large.
On November 7, 1991, Earvin “Magic” Johnson took to the podium in Inglewood, California for a press conference. The NBA was abuzz with what could possibly be getting announced, no one expected, or could have predicted what came next. When Magic spoke, he announced that he would be retiring from the NBA at the beginning of what was his 13th season because he had tested positive for HIV. Johnson found out that he was HIV positive after taking a routine blood test for a life insurance policy.
In the early 1990s, HIV/AIDS was still a wildcard. People didn’t fully understand the ramifications of what contracting the virus actually meant. Most people were terrified of just being near someone who had contracted the virus, and everyone, including many physicians considered it to be a death sentence.
The media's response to his announcement only proved how important this moment was.