FSD History Flashback: November 7, 1991

David FunkCorrespondent INovember 7, 2008

Hello, I'm David Funk, and welcome to today's edition of FSD History Flashback for November 7. Today's FSD History Flashback wasn't a moment that is vividly remembered for something done on the court, field, ice rink, or boxing ring. It was a moment that not only reminded us that athletes and sports heroes aren't invincible, but it also forever changed and rebuffed the misconceptions of one deadly disease.

On November 7, 1991, one of the most shocking press conferences had taken place that was broadcasted across the United States. Los Angeles Lakers point guard Earvin "Magic" Johnson had initially tested positive for HIV during a physical before the 1991-92 season had started. He announced his retirement from the game of basketball because of contracting the deadly disease.

At first, Johnson didn't know how he contracted the disease. However, he later admitted that he got it from having multiple sex partners during his playing career in Los Angeles. During that period of time, AIDS was thought to be contracted mainly through homosexuality or from drug addicts.

Despite rumors that Johnson was homosexual or bisexual, he claimed he had always been heterosexual. After his announcement, Johnson has made it his personal mission for the rest of his life to fight the disease.

Even though he retired, Johnson was voted on by the fans to start in the 1992 All-Star Game in Orlando, Florida. Johnson felt he should represent the fans for the game, but some of his teammates had tried to encourage him not to play. Other players in the All-Star Game had been outspoken about possibly being contaminated if Johnson were to get an open wound during the contest. Johnson played the game.

Johnson received the biggest ovation of anyone when the starting lineups were announced. His 25 points, nine assists, and five rebounds had earned him All-Star Game MVP honors. The highlight of the game happened when Johnson made a last-minute three point shot as players from both teams embraced and congratulated him after the feat.

Coming off a year in which the Lakers made it to the NBA Finals before losing to the Chicago Bulls, Johnson was still selected to represent the United States in the 1992 Olympics. Johnson had battled knee problems during the tournament, but received standing ovations from the Barcelona crowd.

It was only fitting that Johnson, one of the greatest basketball players ever, was part of what was called the "Dream Team." The team easily cruised to a gold medal in Barcelona.

Johnson had intentions of coming out of retirement in 1992-93, but decided against it because of the controversy of his return. While retired, Johnson wrote a book about practices of safer sex, ran several businesses, and worked as a commentator for NBC. He later had a brief stint as coach of the Lakers, but stepped down after six games while choosing to purchase a share of the team.

In 1995-96, Johnson came out of retirement to play 32 games for Lakers. The team made the playoffs, but were knocked out by the Houston Rockets. Johnson retired for good after the season saying, "I am going out on my terms, something I couldn't say when I aborted a comeback in 1992."

Since his permanent retirement from the game, Johnson kept himself active by educating the youth around the world about risks of HIV. He set up the Magic Johnson Foundation to help fight HIV, and it has since been diversified to combat other diseases, too. He became the main speaker for the United Nations World AIDS Day conference in 1999, and served on the United Nations Messengers of Peace, too.

Johnson has been a strong advocate of abstinence being the safest way to avoid contracting HIV. He's also been very outspoken about teaching others not to discriminate against people who have HIV or AIDS, and has discussed federal assistance for those who have the disease, too. He has received criticism from those with HIV about not being active enough in educating about the disease in recent years.

These days, Johnson has a business called Magic Johnson Enterprises, which has been reported to have a net value of about $700 million. He's also a part of ESPN's GMC NBA Countdown program.

He has a son named Andre who was born in 1981. He married Earlitha Kelly in 1991 and they have a son named Earvin III. Johnson also adopted a daughter named Elisa, too.

His announcement of contracting HIV had completely changed awareness of the disease because the infection is a risk to anyone and not just a certain sexual orientation, race, or group. This also proved that no matter the stature or popularity of a star such as Magic Johnson, no one is exempt from being contracted with the disease if you're not aware of the risks.

The positive things in all this is that a famous and popular figure has given hope to those with HIV as well as changed the misconceptions of those who can contract the disease. Johnson, a three-time NBA MVP and five-time NBA Champion, is still one of the greatest basketball players to ever live, and he has used his popularity as such to help fight HIV which people weren't as educated about before his announcement.

I think the most important thing we learned from this is Johnson as well as other popular celebrities and athletes are human afterall.

Photo courtesy of Student Britannica which shows Johnson during the 1992 All-Star Game.

Video theme music is courtesy of ESPN SportsCentury which is my favorite documentary of sports. I hope you enjoyed the opening video!

Thanks for viewing, and I hope you enjoyed today's FSD History Flashback!