LOS ANGELES — If Magic Johnson had known just how well he could live with HIV, he wouldn’t have retired from the Lakers on Nov. 7, 1991.
Johnson would never change what he did for the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic when he publicly revealed his diagnosis to a stunned world. His courage that day, along with two subsequent decades of vibrant living, forever altered attitudes about the virus and its effects.
Magic is simply glad the world knows such happy endings are possible with access to treatment and vigilance.
“At that time, it was the right decision,” Johnson said Monday on the 20th anniversary of his stunning retirement. “If I knew what I knew today, that I could still play basketball and do my thing, I probably wouldn’t have retired. But I’m a guy that doesn’t have regrets. I don’t look back. I’m happy, because I wanted to be here a long time. We made the right call at that time.”
Johnson recognized the occasion at Staples Center on Monday with an upbeat celebration and a message of steadfastness. Dozens of politicians, celebrities and Lakers greats.
Two decades after his shocking admission and quick retirement at 32, Johnson’s doctors say he’s a specimen of health.
Yet Johnson worries his strong health could encourage complacency, and he sees the anniversary of his historic announcement as a call to renew dedication to the cause.
“I often say I’m good for the virus, and bad for it,” Johnson said. “Good because I’m doing well, and that I can go out and try and raise the awareness level, get people to go get tested ... but on the flip side of that, people see that I’m doing well, so they’ve kind of relaxed on HIV and AIDS. People think that now if they get the virus, they’ll do well, but a couple million will die this year.”