Posted by Royce Young
Twenty years ago. Twenty years ago Magic Johnson stood in front of a microphone and said, "Because of the HIV virus that I have attained, I will have to retire from the Lakers today."
Shock doesn't even begin to describe the feeling. Everyone thought Magic, one of the five greatest players ever, was dead. But as Magic prophetically said then, "I plan on going on and living for a long time." And he has. Twenty years to the day, in fact. And still going.
Magic attempted a comeback in 1992, but couldn't get past a few hurdles. Opposing players were afraid to guard him. There was a whole big discussion about whether or not you can get HIV through sweat. Magic returned again in 1996 though, bulked up and basically made up a new position -- point forward. He walked on to the floor and played as if he never missed a beat. Final line: 27 minutes, 19 points, eight rebounds, 10 assists.
"I can't even begin to tell you how I feel," Johnson said post game. "This is one of the most exciting days of my life ever. I never, ever thought I'd be back here doing this again."
He retired at the end of the season averaging 14.6 points, 6.9 assists and 5.7 rebounds in 32 games. After he finished, he retired permanently saying, "I am going out on my terms, something I couldn't say when I aborted a comeback in 1992."
Magic was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002 with good friend and long-time rival Larry Bird welcoming him in. Johnson's speech was full of the moving stuff you'd expect from a guy that had to go through what he did, but he opened very simply.
I have to thank God, because 11 years ago I didn't know if I'd be here to accept this award," he said. Well he's still here and he's still going strong.