Lakers Legend Magic Johnson Wanted to Hit Howard Stern for Comments About Race, AIDS

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVApril 6, 2022

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 25: Magic Johnson attends the 2022 Governors Awards at The Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center on March 25, 2022 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images)
Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Magic Johnson said he had to hold back from hitting Howard Stern while interviewing the radio and TV personality on The Magic Hour in 1998.

The former Los Angeles Lakers star hosted a short-lived talk show that lasted only three months in 1998. The most notable episode was an awkward interview with Stern, who mocked Johnson for not acting Black enough. The radio personality also made offensive comments regarding Johnson's HIV diagnosis, saying, "at least you had fun getting AIDS."

"I wanted to say something and hit him at the same time—on air," Johnson told Selome Hailu and Ramin Setoodeh of Variety published Tuesday. "I was mad when they booked him, but there’s nothing you can do. When people look for ratings, this is what happens."

Stern had been critical of Johnson on his own radio show, causing The Magic Hour producers to bring him on to try to boost ratings of the failing show.

Johnson kept his composure despite being clearly offended but said he learned from the incident. He also had to correct Stern that he had been diagnosed with HIV rather than AIDS.

"I've never put myself—or HIV and AIDS, or my race—in that position again, ever again."

Johnson, 62, is in the spotlight once again with "They Call Me Magic," a four-part docuseries on Apple TV. The new HBO show "Winning Time" also follows the Lakers dynasty starting with the arrival of Johnson and owner Jerry Buss, although he said he had no involvement in the dramatized show.