‘He’s Gonna Die’: Magic Johnson’s Teammates Recall His HIV Diagnosis in New ‘Legacy’ Clip

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NBA At 75 The 1990s Basketball - Credit: Mark J. Terrill/AP Photo
NBA At 75 The 1990s Basketball - Credit: Mark J. Terrill/AP Photo

Magic Johnson’s teammates recall the harrowing day the NBA legend announced he’d tested positive for HIV and would have to retire from basketball in a new clip from an upcoming episode of the docuseries Legacy: The True Story of the L.A. Lakers.

Johnson revealed his diagnosis and decision on Nov. 7, 1991, addressing a room so packed with reporters that Laker Byron Scott noted his teammates could barely squeeze in with them. Another one of Johnson’s teammates, Steve Springer, noted, “It’s the only press conference I’ve been to where reporters are crying.”

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While at that time, an HIV diagnosis was largely considered a death sentence, Johnson maintained an optimistic outlook, saying at one point, “This is not like my life his over, because it’s not, I’mma live on.”

But As Gary Vitti recalled, the diagnosis left many scared for Johnson’s future. “I admired his strength, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ But in my mind, I’m going, he’s in denial. He’s gonna die.” (Johnson not only managed to survive but became a prominent HIV advocate for HIV/AIDS research.)

Johnson’s HIV diagnosis and retirement will be covered in episode four of Legacy, which will be released on Aug. 29 on Hulu.

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