Monday, November 7, 2016
Magic...25 years later
November 7, 1991
I remember that day like it was yesterday. I was a freshman at SOUTH CAROLINA STATE UNIVERSITY. It was almost 6pm. I had just finished football practice when I made my way to the dorm. I heard somebody say "____ has AIDS".
My reply was "Man, don't say shit like that. You'll end up starting a nasty rumor."
It took a few mins to make my way to the 3rd floor to my room. When I got upstairs, a few of my teammates looked real sad. I didn't know why. I didn't ask. I proceeded to head to my room. I turned the tv on to watch the news. And it happened.
I saw Magic Johnson on tv and he was announcing that he had HIV and would be retiring from the NBA.
Are you kiddin me?
Magic wasn't gay. How could this be? I'll admit that I wasn't a HUGE fan of his because I was a Michael Jordan fan. But I gave Magic his props because he was a winner...just like me. Keep in mind that in 1991, we thought that this would be the last time that we saw him on tv. HIV would kill him within 2 yrs. That's what we thought. Well, it's been 25 years and Magic is healthy and living with HIV. I remember seeing some dudes CRYING when they heard the news. As the word spread throughout our campus, we all were concerned about our own vulnerability. At that time, I knew very little about HIV/AIDS. I just knew...you didn't want to be around people who had it so you wouldn't "catch it", it was a gay disease, and you would die from it. That's all that I knew. Honestly, Magic was the only person that I "knew" who had it. I really thought the next time that I saw Magic he'd be frail and look like death. But a funny thing happened after Magic's announcement...
I think his announcement made me become more knowledgeable about HIV/AIDS. I learned as much as I could. I also tried to educate those around me. In my research, I learned how homophobic I had become. It wasn't something that I was totally aware of...but I was doing it. I wasn't raised to be prejudiced towards anybody. But I realized that I had to look at myself and my thought process. I had to become tolerable of ALL people. It was at that point where I began to let go and not be homophobic. I saw people for who they were. It didn't matter who they loved or slept with. I became even more sympathetic to those who suffered from this disease. I learned that it wasn't something you could "catch". Magic's announcement helped me do all of this.
In 2007, I got a chance to meet Magic. It was on the set of TNT's "Inside the NBA" where Magic worked along side host Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, and Charles Barkley. I got a chance to speak to him and talk a little basketball with him. We sat in the green room...just my wife, 2 other people, Ernie, Charles, Kenny, Magic, and me...and we watched NBA games until they went on the air. I found Magic to be just as cool and as engaging as I thought he'd be. While we didn't talk long, I enjoyed it. I really wanted to thank him for all that he had done for the HIV/AIDS movement. I wanted to tell him how much I respected him as a player but hated the Lakers. I wanted to also tell him about how we thought his announcement would be his death sentence but he made it. I didn't want to be to deep but I wanted to tell him how I became a fan of his that day...and I've been a fan ever since...but I wasn't a fan before (if that makes sense). I just wanted to say thanks for all that he had done. Unlike that day 25 years ago, he was the only person that I knew who had HIV. Over the years, I would lose family members and people who I knew to the deadly disease. While there is no cure and Magic will live with HIV for the rest of his life, I wanted to thank him for opening my eyes as well as the eyes of millions of people around the world.
In parting...all I could say was...
"Take care of yourself, Magic."
"I DEFINITELY will do that!"