Most people assumed Michael Jordan was his favorite player growing up, but it was actually Johnson who captivated a young Bryant and inspired him to become an NBA player.
Since Johnson was such an important part of Bryant’s childhood, the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, native was devastated on Nov. 8, 1991, when Magic announced in a press conference that he had tested positive for HIV and would be retiring from basketball.
Magic Johnson shocked the world on November 8, 1991
Magic Johnson stunned the basketball world on Nov. 8, 1991, when he announced he had tested positive for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The Lakers legend was forced to retire from the NBA.
Johnson slept with many women during his heyday. The Hall of Famer wasn’t practicing safe sex, which led to the eventual diagnosis.
Kobe Bryant was 13 years old when Johnson announced his retirement. Magic was a five-time champion, three-time MVP, and three-time Finals MVP, while Michael Jordan only had one title and one Finals MVP at the time.
Magic was Bryant’s hero growing up since he was the most dominant player in the NBA and played for the Lakers.
A young Bryant was heartbroken when he found out that Magic couldn’t play basketball anymore, so much so that he missed meals for a week.
Kobe Bryant didn’t eat for a week after Magic Johnson retired
When Kobe Bryant learned Magic Johnson had HIV and couldn’t play basketball anymore, he was so grief-stricken that he didn’t eat for a week.
“I was devastated,” Bryant told Graham Bensinger in 2012. “I didn’t know. I didn’t understand what it was. I just knew it was gonna stop him from doing what he loves to do. So I was devastated, and I had no idea what was going on. So it was a tough day.”
Bryant confirmed to Bensinger that he didn’t eat for a week because he was distraught over the news.
“It was extremely difficult. It’s like you have your hero and a person that you look up to, and all of a sudden, he’s not there anymore,” Bryant said. “You can’t watch him perform anymore. It’s tough.”
Johnson played in the 1992 NBA All-Star Game and was voted the MVP. He also played on the Olympic “Dream Team” that won gold in Barcelona. The Lakers icon briefly returned to the NBA for the 1993-94 season as a head coach and played 32 games during the 1995-96 season before retiring for good.
Magic has since become a prominent spokesman for AIDS awareness. Before Bryant died in 2020, the Black Mamba had a close relationship with him.
The Magic Man and the Black Mamba are the two best players in Lakers franchise history
Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson are the two best players in Lakers franchise history. Between them, they won 10 championships, four MVPs, and five Finals MVPs.
Bryant averaged 25.0 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 4.7 assists with the Lakers, while Johnson put up 19.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 11.2 assists per game. Magic is the best point guard in NBA history, and Kobe is the second-greatest shooting guard ever, trailing only Michael Jordan.
Sadly, we won’t get to see Bryant speak at his Hall of Fame induction. While nothing has been announced yet, odds are Johnson and Jordan will play a role in his induction.