Earvin "Magic" Johnson Jr. shocked the world when he retired from the NBA 25 years ago after being diagnosed as HIV positive. On Monday, the sports icon remembered how that day not only affected the rest of his life, but how it also sparked an important dialogue.
"November 7, 1991 was a life-changing day that I never saw coming," Johnson wrote in a post on his website, The Playbook. "Up until then, I thought the hardest thing I'd ever done was play against Michael Jordan or Larry Bird, but on this day I began the fight of my life. This day, I began to realize how God was working in my life. My faith gave me strength to stand up and tell the world that I had contracted Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)."
Johnson walked away from basketball after 12 seasons and five championships with the Los Angeles Lakers. At the time, there were many misconceptions about HIV/AIDS. An HIV diagnosis was still considered to be a death sentence and there were false rumors about how the virus could be contracted. The Hall of Fame point guard started to shatter those misconceptions with his historic announcement.
"I felt it was my duty to educate as many people as I could about the disease," Johnson continued. "It was then that I began my new journey to walk every day in God's purpose. Today, I continue to do everything I can to bring awareness and education about this disease to the community."
After his retirement, Johnson started the Magic Johnson Foundation to help combat the spread of HIV/AIDS.
"Out of necessity, I was forced to rethink my life and adjust," he shared. "It was vital for me to adapt from the life of an NBA player to that of a spokesman for HIV/AIDS and a businessman. Whether out of necessity or desire, change is inevitable. Trusting in God and accepting His plan for my life is a big part of why I am here today. My growth and development as a person and as a businessman have transformed over the last 25 years."
During the 1995-96 NBA season, Johnson attempted a comeback, returning to the Lakers as a player at the age of 36. After losing in the playoffs to the Houston Rockets, Johnson decided to retire permanently.
"I have been truly blessed with amazing support from my wife, Cookie, children, Andre, EJ and Elisa, grandkids, Gigi and Avery, parents, Earvin Sr. and Christine, as well as my siblings, Michael, Quincy, Mary, Larry, Lois, Pearl, Kim, Yvonne and Evelyn," Johnson concluded his post. "Thank you to all who have encouraged me every step of the way, I'm so grateful for my life and will celebrate it every day. Life is a gift and I thank God for blessing me the last 25 years."
Watch the video below to hear Cookie talk about the moment she learned about Magic's diagnosis.