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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Magic at 48 ...

Earvin “Magic” Johnson turns 48 years old today.

You just can’t help but think back to that November, 1991 day when Magic walked up to the podium at the Forum in LA to announce to the world that he had the HIV virus.

There were only two or three people in the room that day that knew what it meant; Earvin’s newly hired specialist, Dr. Ho and a few of his colleagues. Magic had the financial wherewithal to hire the very best in the medical field. At that time, Dr. Ho had been researching the HIV/AIDS virus for nearly a decade and hadn’t witnessed anyone with the virus battle the “PR” fight against the virus the way Magic could and would.

Magic brought the virus to the front pages and the sports pages.
He successfully preached that the virus could affect the everyday man and woman. Magic changed his diet, his exercise regimen and said he would retire from the NBA.

Later that season, the NBA All-Star ballots were counted and, of course, Earvin was the leading the way. We fondly remember Magic was the MVP of the ’92 game and that he went on to win a gold medal at the ’92 Barcelona Olympics Games, and would eventually return to play in the NBA. But, he had made the announcement that November day, the same day that All-Star ballots were being unveiled for the game in Orlando. I remember it clearly because I was in Orlando, on the “Beeline” Toll-way between Orlando International Airport and the Disney properties where we held the press conference. It was the ‘old’ days, before cell phones and I saw a page that said to call into one of my NBA colleagues who was in Salt Lake City, readying for an announcement of the 1993 All-Star Game. I pulled the car to a stop on the beeline tollbooth and used a pay phone to get the terrible news.

They cancelled that announcement and “bee-lined” it themselves to be at Magic’s side at the ‘major’ announcement and I returned to NYC where the NBA office would be deluged with phone calls seeking NBA comment.

We all started to learn about the virus and to learn what having it really meant. At that point in time, nearly everyone thought the virus meant an immediate death sentence. A sentence to a slow and terrible demise. I don’t think there was a soul in the sports world who thought they could be sending a Happy 48th birthday message to Earvin on August 14, 2007.

I am so glad to be posting these words.

Happy Birthday, Earvin, and here’s to many, many more.

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