Earvin “Magic” Johnson sat down with Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times during for a Q&A panel event and recalled his favorite NBA memories as well as the difficulty of going public about being HIV-positive. The 51 year-old former basketball player/entrepreneur shared how hard it was to retire from the game during a time when his teammates and fellow players felt afraid about catching his illness:
On the difficulty of retiring from the NBA after getting infected with HIV:
“I tried to come back twice. The first time the players were so scared, they said they thought they were going to get HIV by playing against me. I really was upset at that. [...] What was so crazy was that I just played with these guys at the Olympics. The same guys! We scrimmaged everyday against each other. We’re body to body we’re all of that. We’re checking each other hard. Then I get back home and say I’m coming back to the NBA, then the same guys cambe back and said, ‘Naw I don’t want to get HIV.’ I decided to retire because I didn’t want to hurt the game. [...] The other time I came back, I got a cut. I saw the fear so then I said, ‘No, I don’t want to hurt the game again.’ – then I retired again.” [...] “I wanted to retire on my own as my own decision. I wanted to retire just going out on my own. Not because I was forced out or I had to retire because of the disease. [...] If I knew what I know now, I wouldn’t have retire, but I didn’t know that then. So you just got to go with what happens.”
This reminds me of a saying I heard once: “Nothing is worse than active ignorance.” Glad Magic was able to turn a negative to positive despite his circumstance by educating his fellow players about HIV.