The 1992 NBA All-Star Game: A Magical and Memorable Day for the NBA
Most people who are over the age of 26 could tell you exactly where they were that November day in 1991, when Earvin "Magic" Johnson stood at a podium in the press room at the Great Western Forum and announced he was HIV Positive.
I was 14 at the time and a freshman in high school. Up until then, there wasn't a day in my life that I could remember Magic Johnson not being a part of.
I was too young to remember Magic's first game against the San Diego Clippers when Kareem hit that game-winner at the buzzer, nor do I remember his first championship in 1980.
But everything that happened after that is still ingrained in my mind.
Perhaps it's because I, like countless others, felt that Magic's days on earth were numbered when he made his announcement. Maybe I went over each of those memories in my head over and head over to guarantee that I would never forget them.
Unless you lived in Boston or Los Angeles during the 1980s you might not understand what I'm talking about. Never has an athlete and a city made for a more perfect marriage than the City of Angels and Magic Johnson.
I remember walking on the front lawn of my high school at lunchtime when my best friend asked me if I'd heard that Michael Jackson had AIDS. Another kid had overheard him and corrected him. "Not Michael Jackson," he said. "Magic Johnson."
I remember my arms going numb and my throat tightening. I immediately turned around and began walking off campus. I walked north on Moreno Drive towards Santa Monica Boulevard. I then made my way east on Santa Monica Boulevard and right into the Beverly Hills YMCA.
Everybody who grew up in Beverly Hills played organized basketball at the YMCA. We all knew Hans and Daphne, the couple who ran the place. I remembered that Hans had a TV in his office so I dipped in.
Perhaps I was in denial and I needed validation, so I walked into Hans' office where a group of people were standing and waiting for Magic's press conference to begin. I remember holding back tears so nobody would see me cry.
When it was over I left the Y and started to walk home. I didn't care about the fact that I had another class after lunch. I wasn't going to be able to sit in class while my idol was dying (so I thought at the time).
The Lakers had started the 1991-92 season with a 2-3 record. Magic had missed those first five games because of what was being reported as an illness. Just weeks prior to the start of the season he had played in the McDonald's Championship in Paris and won the MVP.
Whatever it was that kept him out of those first five games couldn't have been that bad, right?
Then on November 7, 1991, Magic made his announcement .
It was looking as if those two games in Paris against Joventut Badalona and CSP Limoges would be the last two games that I would ever see Magic play in.
Somehow Magic's name hadn't been taken off the All-Star ballot. Fans across the country were stuffing ballot boxes with votes for Magic in hopes that he would make one final appearance on the world's biggest stage.
Magic accepted the invitation and we were treated to a performance that, unlike many others, lived up to and perhaps far exceeded the hype.
In the days leading up to the game I remember running to the local drug store and picking up the most expensive VHS tape with which to record the game. I wanted to make sure that I had the highest quality grade so that I would forever have Magic's final game in my personal archives.
I still have the tape. With my 14-year-old hands I labeled it "1992 MAGIC'S ALL-STAR GAME."
And that was before the game was played.
I never could have imagined that the game would turn out to be the perfect ending to Magic's basketball career (or so we thought at the time).
Magic would win the MVP with a game-high 25 points, nine assists, and five rebounds. What people remember most about the game was the last few minutes in which Magic and various stars on the Eastern Conference team took turns (semi) guarding each other. Magic drained three late three-pointers, the last of which came in the final seconds with Magic's old friend, Isiah Thomas, guarding him.
Magic's role in my life could not be overstated. His play on the court became the example for how I lived my life—realizing that it's cooler to make others look cool than the other way around.
I still have the bar napkin from RJ's Rib Joint with Magic's autograph on it that I got in 1989. Hanging on my office wall is a framed autographed Lakers No. 32 jersey. Every essay I wrote for my college applications was centered around the role he played in my life—mostly because it was the day that I realized that all heroes were mortal.
That summer Magic won a gold medal playing for the 1992 Dream Team in Barcelona. He came out of retirement in 1996 for one last run with a young Lakers team that would turn over it's roster that summer with the additions of Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, and Derek Fisher.
This week the NBA will announce the reserves for next month's All-Star Game in Dallas. All the talk about All-Stars and All-Star games got me thinking about the 1992 game. I can't be the only one. Mike B. seems to have also had it on the brain.
Pardon me for not getting overly excited about it. Maybe it's because I'm turning 33 next month and it's hard to get excited when almost every player participating in the game is now younger than me.
Or maybe it's because I already saw the greatest one that was ever played.
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