On This Date in Sports January 30, 1996: Magic is Back

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

After nearly five years on the sidelines, Magic Johnson returns to play for the Los Angeles Lakers. After announcing his diagnosis with HIV, Magic won the All-Star Game MVP in 1992 and played on the dream team before abandoning a comeback in 1992. Magic Johnson even briefly coach in 1994. In his first game back, Magic Johnson scores 19 points with eight rebounds and ten assists as the Lakers beat the Golden State Warriors 128-118 at the Great Western Forum. 

Ervin Johnson was born on August 14, 1959, in Lansing, Michigan. The son of a GM assembly worker, he earned the nickname Magic as a sophomore in high school. He went to nearby Michigan State and led the Spartans to an NCAA Championship in 1979. Selected first overall by the Los Angeles Lakers, he won an NBA Championship one year later, capping his rookie season with an NBA Finals MVP.

Over the next decade, Magic Johnson became one of the biggest stars in the NBA, continuing a rivalry with Larry Bird that began with the 1979 Championship Game when Bird was at Indiana State. The rivalry between Bird’s Boston Celtics and Magic Johnson and the Lakers helped revitalize the NBA. Magic Johnson led Los Angeles to five NBA titles, winning two of three series against the Celtics. 

After the Lakers lost the 1991 NBA Finals against the Chicago Bulls, Magic Johnson saw his career come to an end as he tested positive for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Johnson would play in the All-Star Game three months later and was named MVP with 25 points in Orlando. Magic Johnson was preparing for a comeback in 1992 as he played in the Olympics and won a Gold Medal with the Dream Team. However, as preseason started, Magic Johnson decided to retire when it was reported that some players were uneasy with him continuing his career. 

Magic Johnson became an announcer after his career ended. At the end of the 1993/94 season, he tried his hand at coaching. The Lakers posted a record of 5-11 and missed the playoffs for the first time in nearly two decades. Magic did not return the following season and went back to work as a broadcaster while forming a barnstorming team of former NBA players to play in exhibition games.

Magic Johnson, who was entering his fifth year after his HIV diagnosis, spent extra time working out and was in the best shape of his life. Looking to raise awareness of living with HIV, Magic Johnson decided to make a comeback with the Lakers. In 32 games, Magic Johnson played well with the Lakers, averaging 14.6 points per game. He would serve a three-game suspension for bumping a referee. At the end of the season, Magic Johnson decided again to retire.