Ernie Johnson believes the story of how his son was adopted from a Romanian orphanage has a message that can resonate with anyone.
Two days after the host of "Inside the NBA" announced the death of his son, Michael, 33, who had Duchenne muscular dystrophy, the NBA on TNT shared a video of a speech Johnson gave in 2019 recounting how Michael's story shows "there's value in everybody."
Johnson spoke about how he and his wife, Cheryl, made it a family of six when they adopted Michael in 1991.
"When we decided to add to our family through adoption, she went to Romania having no idea what was going to happen, who she was going to bring back, if anybody she was going to bring back," Johnson says. "We wanted to give some kid a chance that he didn’t have or she didn’t have."
His wife was told Michael had only been outside one day in his life, and it was the day he was found abandoned in a park at birth. He was the first child Cheryl saw at the orphanage, but Ernie said a woman who worked there had some harsh words for the 3-year-old little boy.
"You know what she said to Cheryl? 'Don’t take this boy, he’s no good,'" Johnson said.
Michael could not walk or talk.
“I remember what my wife said on the phone was that this guy’s so much more than we can handle, but I can’t imagine going through the rest of my life wondering what happened to that blonde-haired boy in that orphanage,” Johnson remembered.
He was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy at 3 years old after being adopted by the Johnsons.
"He’s three years old and he’s got this fatal disease, and you don’t know what you’re going to do and how you’re going to handle that, you wonder, where’s the value?" Johnson said. "What’s amazing is the value reveals itself."
Michael, who used a wheelchair for mobility and a ventilator to breathe, became a beloved part of the basketball team at his Georgia high school, Mill Creek, where he became well-known for saying "Love you, too," to everyone.
On Senior Night, the student section saluted him with the sign language gesture for "I love you."
"Don’t take 'Boy’s no good,'" Johnson said in his speech. "He had done more through that point in his life and impacted more folks than I could ever hope to, because there is value inside everybody.
"May not be able to do things the way we all do it, may have a different strength, a different weakness and that kind of thing, but there is always value. Find it."
Johnson shared in his speech that his son had recently attended the wedding of one of the former members of the Mill Creek basketball team.
"There’s value in everybody," Johnson said.
Johnson mourned his son's death in an Instagram post on Sunday.
"This guy we adopted from Romania in 1991 and diagnosed with duchenne muscular dystrophy lived a miraculous life of 33 years," he wrote. "We lost Michael Johnson today and we’re crushed. But we also know we’ll see him again… and that sustains us."