Compete Network Feature Stories

Magic Johnson – #LGBTSportsHistory

Happy LGBTQ+ History Month! Every October is celebrated as LGBTQ+ History Month to recognize and educate about people, places and events that have had an impact on the LGBTQ+ Community. All month we are going to honor some influential athletes, companies, organizations and sports figures who have made a contribution toward LGBTQ+ History.

Magic Johnson (B. 08/14/1959) is a former professional basket player for the NBA having played and coached for the LA Lakers. He is considered one of the greatest NBA players of all times, having been inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame twice. Once as an individual player and again as a member of the 1992 US Olympic “Dream Team”.

Johnson’s achievements include an Olympic Gold Medal, 5 NBA Championships, 3 NBA MVP awards, 9 NBA Final appearances, 10 NBA All Star games and 2 NBA All Star MVPs.

Just prior to the 1991-1992 Season, during a routine physical. Johnson was diagnosed with HIV. Shortly thereafter during a press conference Johnson announced he would immediately retire from professional basketball. Rumors came about immediately that Magic Johnson was gay or bi given that at the time only a small percentage of men diagnosed with HIV were heterosexual. Johnson released a statement that his wife Cookie and their unborn child did not have HIV. He later admitted he likely contracted the disease from one of a string of sexual partners he had during his playing career.

Even after his retirement, Johnson was voted and ultimately played in the 1992 NBA All Star Game despite fears and push backs from fellow teammates and other NBA players who felt that Johnson would be putting others at risk if he were to retain an injury during the game. Johnson helped his team win the All Star game and was declared the All Star MVP.

Johnson was named as a member of the 1992 Team USA Olympic“Dream Team” and helped lead the team to an Olympic gold medal with a record 8-0 wins. Johnson received standing ovations and used the opportunity to help inspire other HIV positive people.

Several comebacks were attempted to varying degrees of success for Magic Johnson. He declared his regret for retiring after his diagnoses saying “If I knew what I know now, I wouldn’t have retired.” but explained the reasons for his initial retirement saying “didn’t want to hurt the game.” He later returned to the Lakers first as a coach and then as a player during the mid-late 90s before permanently retiring from the NBA.

Magic Johnson has 2 sons and 1 daughter. He is happily married to Earlitha “Cookie” Kelly having 1 son with her who is openly gay. (His other son is from a previous relationship and adopted their daughter in 1995)

To increase awareness and education on HIV/AIDS as well to support the research into a cure, Magic Johnson went on to start the Magic Johnson Foundation and was appointed to the National Commission on AIDS. He was a speaker for the United Nations at the 1999 World AIDS Day conference. Johnson works to dispel the myths about HIV/AIDS only affecting gay men and to promote safe sex methods for all.

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