Magic Johnson and his wife, Cookie, were on the show this morning to talk about the I Stand With Magic campaign and their personal fight against HIV/AIDS. WATCH VIDEO
I always marvel at Magic whenever I see him on TV, because I can't help but think back to November 7, 1991.
I was in the seventh grade, headed to a tennis lesson when the news broke on the radio that Magic had HIV and was retiring from the Lakers.
It was a stunning announcement, a presumed death sentence.
Just months before, we had watched Magic and the Lakers in the NBA Finals against Michael Jordan and the Bulls. He was a seemingly immortal star, a global icon celebrated not only for his basketball skills but also his entrepreneurial successes.
The next morning at school, my teacher, Mr. Corzine, had written the poem, To An Athlete Dying Young, by A.E. Housman, up on the board. We talked about Magic's announcement, about HIV/AIDS and what it meant for all of us.
It was obviously a sad discussion, and the conventional wisdom at the time -- as well as the science -- told us that Magic was going to die within 10 years. It was hard to fathom: Magic Johnson, dead of AIDS?
Well, we're 16 years down the line, and not only is Magic still here, he seems to be thriving. And he's not taking his life for granted -- he and his wife are fighting to increase awareness of HIV/AIDS, which is particularly prevalent in the African-American community (according to the Centers for Disease Control, "African-Americans account for nearly one-half of people living with HIV").
And now, with Cookie taking on a more prominent role in the I Stand With Magic campaign, I'm sure her voice will be a powerful addition to the fight against HIV/AIDS, especially for African-American women.
Magic will never get the years on the court he lost because of HIV, and we can only imagine what we, as fans, missed as well. But what Magic is doing now is more important than any no-look pass, any MVP award, any championship.
Sixteen years after Magic's diagnosis, Houseman's poem has not come true. And not only are we still talking about HIV/AIDS, but thankfully, Magic is too.
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