Former Los Angeles Lakers great Magic Johnson‘s life forever changed after his HIV announcement. However, Johnson didn’t allow it to keep him from playing for the 1992 Olympic Dream Team. The Hall of Famer came away from the Dream Team experience with a life-altering realization.
Magic Johnson’s HIV announcement shocks the NBA
Through his 12 NBA seasons, Johnson dominated the league as the engine to the Lakers’ Showtime era in the 1980s.
The Michigan State product became one of the game’s greatest players, leading Los Angeles to five NBA titles in nine Finals appearances. He earned three regular-season MVP awards, three NBA Finals MVP awards, 11 All-Star selections, and 10 All-NBA team nominations.
However, Johnson’s life completely changed before the 1991-92 season as a medical test revealed he contracted HIV. It led to his announcement in November 1991 that he was retiring due to health and safety concerns. His NBA career came to a screeching halt, with many believing the Lakers great’s life could be cut short due to the virus.
Johnson left the NBA while still performing at an elite level, but it didn’t stop him from playing in the 1992 Olympics as part of the Dream Team.
“Don’t count me out for the ’92 Olympics in July,” Johnson wrote in the Nov. 18, 1991, magazine issue. “If I’m healthy, I might very well be on the floor for the opening tap in Barcelona. I agreed to play in the Olympics because I wanted to be there for my country, something I’d never been able to do before. I wanted to play on the same team as Michael [Jordan] and Larry [Bird], something that would give me the kind of high that … man! I get goosebumps just thinking about what it would be like to be on the floor with those guys.”
His experience playing in the 1992 Olympics turned out to be much more meaningful than he ever imagined.
Magic Johnson confesses 1992 Olympic Dream Team taught him he ‘could live for a long time’ with HIV
Several months before the 1992 Olympic Dream Team took the court, Johnson‘s life turned entirely upside down after his HIV announcement.
Despite that, he kept his chance to still compete in the Olympics alongside some of the game’s greatest players. It’s an experience the former Lakers great noted in the Paramount Plus documentary titled Dream Team: Birth of the Modern Athlete that he believed gave him the feeling he could live a long life living with HIV.
“The Dream Team just allowed me to do it one more time,” Johnson said. “It allowed me comfort that ‘You know what Earvin, you are going to be okay. You could live for a long time.'”
Johnson played a high level alongside the 10 other Hall of Famers. He relished the opportunity to take the court for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. His participation was more than bringing a gold medal back to the United States as it also allowed him to gain mental clarity and balance.
His life changed forever after the HIV announcement, but the 1992 Olympics helped him realize that he can push forward. The lack of knowledge at the time regarding the virus created a climate of fear and immediate connection to death.
Beyond that, Johnson needed to be part of the Dream Team much more than an opportunity to play alongside several of the NBA’s greatest talents.
Legacy extends well beyond the NBA
Johnson is an all-time NBA great, but his legacy extends much further than any basketball court.
The former Lakers’ great accomplished it all that set his place in league history. His advocacy for awareness concerning HIV only shined a brighter light on him.
Instead of moving out of the spotlight, Johnson embraced the situation as a beacon to provide more clarity and less public fear concerning the virus. His work off the court only further cemented his status.