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On This Date in Sports February 9, 1992

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Despite announcing his retirement after finding out he was diagnosed with HIV, Magic Johnson formerly of the Los Angeles Lakers is chosen by the fans to start in the NBA All-Star Game in Orlando. Already planning to play with the Dream Team at the Olympics, Magic participates in the game. Playing for the first time since his stunning November announcement, Magic Johnson shows no rust, scoring a game-high 25 points to earn MVP honors as the Western Conference wins 153-113.

The entire sports world especially the NBA was rocked to its core on November 7, 1991. That day Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson, who missed the first three games of the season announced his retirement at the age of 32. Johnson’s reason for stepping down was that he tested positive for HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), the virus that causes AIDS. At the time such diagnosis was viewed largely as a death sentence since drugs used to slow the disease progress were in the year days of common usage. The diagnosis was discovered during a routine physical during training camp.

Magic Johnson’s HIV diagnosis was more than a red letter date in sports, it was a significant shift in how AIDS and HIV were viewed. After his diagnosis, Magic Johnson became heavily involved in HIV/AIDS education speaking out prevention and the causes of the disease. Though he actively retired from the NBA, Magic Johnson was still a member of the 1992 USA Men’s Basketball Team, dubbed the “Dream Team”. Despite his diagnosis, he planned to still participate in the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona.

With the NBA All-Star ballot already printed, Magic Johnson was still voted on by the fans in overwhelming numbers to start for the Western Conference in Orlando. Taking the opportunity to use the game as his final farewell to the NBA, Magic Johnson announced he would play in the game. The decision was warmly received as Magic was given a thunderous ovation at the Orlando Arena. Not just a participant, Magic Johnson went out and gave one of the best performances in the history of the All-Star Game, scoring a game-high 25 points, with five rounds and nine assists to earn MVP honors as the Western Conference crushed the Eastern Conference 153-113. Late in the game, Magic was given a standing ovation as he hit a three-point shot with 14.5 seconds left, ending the game as both teams paid tribute to the future Hall of Famer.

As the dust settled on the HIV announcement and Magic Johnson began taking the drugs to slow the disease from progressing, the urge to return to the NBA became real. After playing in the Olympics, Johnson had planned to come out of retirement for the 1992/93 season. However, some members of the Dream Team expressed concern over how physical Johnson played in practice, which led him to stay on the sideline out of concern for hurting the game of basketball. Magic Johnson remained active in basketball, playing in a number All-Star charity games.

Magic Johnson briefly served as coach of the Los Angeles Lakers in 1994, but resigned after just 16 games, taking a small stake in the Lakers ownership. Two years later at the after of 36, with more known about his condition and the safety of playing with HIV, Magic Johnson came out of retirement and played in 32 games. However, four years on the sideline took their toll and Magic was no longer in prime basketball condition, which led to him going back into retirement.

In the years since, Magic Johnson has stood as a pillar of hope, as the treatment he received prevented the disease from ever progressing beyond the initial diagnosis. Life outside of basketball has seen Magic Johnson, excel in the business world. He was part of an ownership group that purchased the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012 and the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks in 2014. In 2017 he was appointed President of the Los Angeles Lakers, by Owner Jeanie Buss, returning to the team he helped win five NBA Championships during the 1980’s.