Playing Positive: HIV-Positive Athletes Then and Now

By Hana Kajimura, The Paly Voice, Palo Alto High School

The crowd rises to its feet as a purple 32 flashes past the scorer’s table. On January 30, 1996, Earvin “Magic” Johnson makes his reappearing act with nine minutes and 39 seconds remaining in the first quarter. After missing his first shot, Magic makes an assist for a three, sinks a right-handed runner, and then posts up for a left-handed hook. Los Angeles Lakers lead by 11. With four minutes left in the first quarter, Magic pump-fakes a pass past Golden State Warrior Latrell Spreewell for an easy lay-up. In 27 minutes, Magic scores 19 points, with 10 assists and eight rebounds, leading the Lakers to a 128-118 victory over the Warriors. As the game ends with the ball in his hands, he pumps his fist and flashes a 100-watt smile. The Magic is back.

He may have been five years older and 30 pounds heavier, but the Magic who entered the game in January of 1996 played with the same heart as the Magic who left it on Nov. 7th, 1991. Only five years earlier, Earvin “Magic” Johnson announced his immediate retirement from the Los Angeles Lakers after contracting HIV, through unprotected sex with women. With little information and little understanding about HIV, many feared for Magic’s life, let alone his career. So, Magic did what no one expected when he took the court against the Warriors; he was living with HIV, not dying of AIDS.

“You can give athletes as many statistics as you want,” Phil Taylor of Sports Illustrated said in a recent interview with The Viking, “but it wouldn’t have the same effect as seeing Magic Johnson healthy and strong, as they see him now. That’s the proof. Magic’s not only surviving, but he’s thriving.”

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One response to “Playing Positive: HIV-Positive Athletes Then and Now

  1. Let’s all Stand Up against HIV/AIDS in 2010.I am supporting this campaign & would like you to do the same. You can join the campaign on &

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