Get ready to feel old, folks. It has been just over 20 years since Magic Johnson stood in the Forum in Los Angeles and told the world he had HIV. Eesh, 20 years. Hard to believe, huh?
Since last night, when ESPN aired its documentary The Announcement about that big reveal, I've been racking my brain, and I have to admit I can't really remember a time when the name "Magic" didn't immediately conjure the word "AIDS" in my mind. The two have been intertwined since, well, November 7, 1991.
A big part of it is the fame, of course. Magic was (still is) one of the greatest basketball players ever. He was 6 feet 9 inches of ass kicking on that court. When he said he was walking away from that, the NBA stood still. I mean, there's a reason the documentary was called The Announcement and not "Magic Johnson's Kicking HIV In the Butt." That one moment reshaped the entire conversation about HIV and AIDS in America, and it's because of who he was at the time.
But as the documentary showed last night, Johnson could have ended it right then and there. That's what wife Cookie wanted him to do. She wanted privacy. I think it's more amazing -- he's more amazing -- that he went the other way. He made this his legacy.
Magic has spent 20 years being completely open about his womanizing mistakes because he wants to help change the world for other AIDS/HIV sufferers. That takes some guts -- not only to admit that he did things wrong, but to allow your name to be tied to a disease that still fills Americans with fear. Even agreeing to this documentary is brave -- he knew it would bring people back to the story of how and why he had to give up the game.
He's a rich guy who can afford the thousands of dollars in drugs he has to take every month to keep the disease at bay, but he fights for those who don't have his money or his resources. Whether it's work with his non-profit foundation or showing up at schools to talk to kids, he has purposely kept his name and this disease linked in the media for decades. That's 20 years of serious ... magic? (Oh come on, you know it had to be said.)
Check out a look at what's in the documentary from ESPN:
What were you doing when Magic made his announcement? What do you think of when you hear his name?