As World AIDS Day was celebrated around the globe yesterday on Sunday, December 1, it was only fitting that NBA legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson sit down with media mogul Oprah Winfrey to discuss how the virus forever changed his life 22 years ago.
Oprah’s interview series “Next Chapter,” which airs on her OWN network, visited Magic’s newly renovated home where he showed off his palatial “man cave” that pays homage to his illustrious career in basketball. Taking Winfrey down memory lane, Johnson reminisced about his career highlights, which include an Olympic gold medal and winning five NBA championships.
Not letting Magic bask in his glory days for too long, Oprah didn’t waste any time taking control of the interview as she soon directed the conversation towards the wild lifestyle that Johnson led during his time in basketball. It was clear that Johnson wanted to avoid the obvious but Oprah pressed forth with her intentions, asking him if it ever occurred to him to use protection.
“No… Nobody talked about it back then,” replied Johnson.
Magic also pointed out that although he slept around with women, he never mistreated them, and that they all made a conscious decision to partake in any activities that had to do with him. From that point on during the interview, Magic dropped his guard and answered all of Oprah’s questions straight forward, appearing genuine and transparent.
During the candid interview, Oprah asked Magic about his initial diagnoses with HIV and if he had experienced any prior symptoms indicating that he was ill. Johnson revealed that he didn’t have any ailments but his HIV status was diagnosed after completing a common physical. Further describing the life changing news, Johnson recalled sitting on the floor for around two hours after hearing the results and how his sexual infidelity affected the relationship between he and his wife, Cookie.
At that point, the NBA legend became very emotional as he recalled having to tell his wife that he was HIV positive. Describing the initial time after publicly announcing that he had contracted the disease, Magic called it the “toughest time of his life.”
Earvin then explained how important it was for him to meet someone with HIV after his diagnosis because he needed to “know what he was going to go through.” He then spoke of his experience meeting Elizabeth Glazer who contracted HIV/AIDS from a blood transfusion after giving birth and how the lessons he learned from her were invaluable.
Touching on many topics, Oprah also asked Magic about his son, E.J. (Earvin Johnson, III), who was publicly outed by TMZ earlier this year. Johnson and Cookie stated that they were happy that their son came out about being gay and were thrilled that E.J. was finally able to be himself.
Expressing their unwavering support, they also revealed that they thought E.J. may have been gay as a child but thought he would “grow out of it.” Johnson added that all E.J. wanted was for his approval, which he willfully gave once he confided to his parents.
Johnson ended the interview with a heartfelt dedication to the love of his life, Cookie, describing her as his “perfect partner.” With tears in his eyes, he closed the show by saying, “If she had left me, I wouldn’t be here today.”