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Magic Johnson, or Earvin Johnson, Jr., is a former professional basketball player from the United States with HIV/AIDs. His successful basketball career with the Los Angeles Lakers spanned over a decade and included twelve All-Star matches, nine appearances in the National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals, three Most Valuable Player awards from the NBA, and two inductions into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Johnson became an outspoken advocate for the prevention of HIV/AIDs through safe sex since revealing his HIV-positive status.

Early Years and Education

Earvin Johnson, Junior was born on August 14, 1959, in Lansing, Michigan. He was one of ten children produced by his father, who worked at a General Motor manufacturing plant, and his mother, who earned money as a school custodian. Johnson grew up playing basketball outside with his friends and started at 7:30am most days. Neighbors referred to him as “June Bug” or “Junior.”

Johnson enrolled in Everett High School and immediately dominated on the basketball court. At age 15, he scored 36 points, 16 assists, and 16 rebounds in a single game.[1] This caught the eye of Fred Stabley, Jr., a sports writer from Michigan, and Stabley, Jr., gave Johnson the nickname “Magic,” which stuck with him the rest of his career.[2] During his senior year of high school, Earvin Johnson, Jr.. led his team to 27 victories with only one loss and averaged 16.8 rebounds and 28.8 points in a game.

Magic Johnson entered East Lansing’s Michigan State after graduation. He scored 17.0 points per game, 7.9 rebounds per game, and 7.4 assists per game during his freshman year and the Michigan State Spartans won the Big Ten Conference after a 25-5 season record. In 1979, Johnson became an All-American player and the Spartans won the national title after beating Indian State’s basketball team coached by Larry Bird.[3]

Professional Basketball

In 1979, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Jr., entered the NBA Draft rather than completing his final two years of university. The first draft pick was supposed to go to the Utah Jazz, but they made a deal with the Los Angeles Lakers three years prior that caused the Lakers to choose first. The Lakers drafted Magic Johnson with their first pick.

Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Jr., won Most Valuable Player multiple times throughout his basketball career.

The Lakers got a new owner, Dr. Jerry Buss, and a new coach, Jack McKinney, just prior to Johnson’s drafting. During Magic’s first game, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won the game with a basket scored after the buzzer and Johnson’s enthusiasm impressed both fans and his teammates. The Lakers won the NBA championships that year with a 60-22 game record. Magic Johnson played in the NBA All-Star game that year as the first rookie in 11 years. During the NBA Finals in 1980, Abdul-Jabbar injured his ankle during the game and Magic Johnson took his center position. Johnson led the team to victory over the Philadelphia 76ers. He also became the first rookie to win the MVP Award in the NBA Finals. In 1981, Johnson suffered a severe injury to his left knee after Tom Burleson, player for the Atlanta Hawks, fell on him. He missed 45 games that season, but returned in time for the playoffs. He performed poorly against the Houston Rockets, and the Lakers lost the series that year.

Johnson fought with Paul Westhead, who took over McKinney’s coaching position during Johnson’s first year, after changes to the team’s offense. He asked to be traded and the Lakers fired Westhead the next day, hiring Pat Riley. They won the NBA Finals again that year and Johnson was named MVP. He suffered negative criticism from fans for Westhead’s firing, but they soon forgave him after performing so well during the playoffs.

In 1984, Magic Johnson signed a $25 million contract for 25 years with the LA Lakers. The team won three of the four NBA Championships over the next four years. He filled in for Abdul-Jabbar on several occasions, and in 1986, he scored the most points of his careers with a 23.9 average and 46 points in a single game versus the Sacramento Kings. He won the NBA’s MVP Award for the first time that year.[4]

Over the course of his career, Johnson won five championship rings, went to the NBA championships nine times with the Lakers, joined the original Dream Team, and led the 1992 U.S. Basketball team to gold in Barcelona, Spain at the Olympics.[5]

Magic, The Basketball Player with HIV/AIDs

On November 7, 1991, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Jr., announced his HIV-positive status in a press conference. He and his new wife, Cookie, just married only 45 days earlier. He discovered the diagnosis and told Cookie immediately. She did not leave him, and the two waited for her HIV test results for 10 days before finding out Cookie did not contract the disease. The couple knew she was pregnant with Earvin III Johnson at the time, and if Cookie did not have HIV, neither did their unborn son.[6]

Personal Life and Later Career

Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Jr., did not allow his HIV-positive status to break him and became an advocate to help others with the disease.

Earvin Johnson, Jr., fathered his first child, Andre, with Melissa Mitchell in 1981. The couple did not raise the child together and Andre grew up with his mother away from his father. Johnson, Jr., married Earlitha Kelly, nicknamed Cookie, in 1991. They produced one child, a son named Earvin III Johnson, known as EJ.[7]

On the reality television show, Rich Kids of Beverly Hills, Earvin III came out as homosexual in 2013. Cookie and Magic found it difficult to accept at first, with Johnson, Jr., struggling more than Cookie. A difficult and direct conversation with Earvin III Johnson helped Magic understand and support his son privately and publicly.[8]

Magic Johnson retired as a basketball player shortly after he announced his HIV status. He still plays around the world on the Magic Johnson All Star Team, co-owns the LA Lakers, and serves as their vice president. Earvin Johnson, Jr., founded and is CEO of Magic Johnson Enterprises (MJE). MJE crosses several industries, including community development, support for the arts, and music and entertainment companies. He also founded the Magic Johnson Foundation to improve the lives of inner-city youth through social, educational, and health support systems.[9]


References

Bibliography

DailyMail.com Reporter (2016, September 21). Cookie Johnson says 'I fell to my knees' when Magic Johnson revealed he was HIV positive, as the couple share how they came to accept that their son EJ is gay. Daily Mail.[1]


NBA Media Ventures, LLC., & Turner Sports Interactive, Inc. (2017). Magic Johnson Bio. NBA.com.[2]


WME Entertainment. (2014). Earvin Johnson Jr. Biography. William Morris Endeavor Entertainment.[3]

Footnotes

  1. NBA Media & Turner Sports, 2017
  2. WME Entertainment, 2014
  3. NBA Media & Turner Sports, 2017
  4. NBA Media & Turner Sports, 2017
  5. WME Entertainment, 2014
  6. DailyMail.com Reporter, 2016
  7. Lazenby, R. (2006). The Show: The Inside Story of the Spectacular Los Angeles Lakers in the Words of Those Who Lived It. New York: McGraw-Hill Companies, The.
  8. DailyMail.com Reporter, 2016
  9. WME Entertainment, 2014

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