Why Earvin Johnson is Still 'Magic'

The news hit like an earthquake, and almost immediately the shockwaves radiated worldwide.  The news was so shocking it was difficult to absorb.  I’m sure you remember where you were when you heard…

It was November 7, 1991, and staring into a sea of reporters and flashing cameras, Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson announced his retirement after testing positive for HIV. The NBA was about to lose one of its biggest stars. But this is not an article about Johnson’s incredible feats on the basketball court; the man’s five championships, three MVP trophies, three finals MVP trophies and twelve All Star appearances speak for themselves. It’s Earvin’s life after basketball that deserves recognition. Entrepreneur. Philanthropist. Advocate. Broadcaster. Motivational Speaker. Johnson’s been it all, and while some of you know about his life after basketball, for me “some” is not enough.

His organization, Magic Johnson Enterprises, has a net worth of an incredible $700 million. With major affiliates such as Magic Johnson Productions, Magic Johnson Cinemas and a movie studio, Magic Johnson Entertainment, the organization has an enormous influence in the entertainment industry. The Beverly Hills based company has invested in the Los Angeles Lakers (Johnson had a minority ownership of five percent before selling in 2010) and several restaurant chains including Sodexo and Burger King.  In 2001, Johnson formed an alliance with an organization, Canyon Capital, to invest into real estate in urban neighbourhoods. The association generated nearly two billion dollars of capital to invest into real estate within urban communities in America, making them the country’s premier private real estate opportunity in their area of expertise. In January 2012, Johnson joined two other individuals to purchase the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team.

Following Johnson’s announcement of contracting HIV, he created the Magic Johnson Foundation, an organization to combat and raise awareness of the deadly disease. While in later years the association branched out into other aspects of charitable benefit, namely scholarships for the ethnically diverse, urban communities and community empowerment centres.  Johnson’s main focus was to address the fact the risk of HIV infection was not limited to drug addicts and homosexuals. With an organization that helped to educate people about the disease and fight against HIV discrimination, Johnson had established himself as one of the most influential and inspiring HIV advocates in the world.

In 1999, Johnson gave a keynote address at the United Nations World AIDS Day Conference, even though his disease had not yet progressed to AIDS yet. To prevent the progression from HIV to AIDS, Johnson takes a daily combination of drugs. Earvin also worked with Abbott Laboratories to publicize the fight against AIDS in Africa. Magic once said, “The only time I think about having HIV is when I take my medicine, twice a day”. Not only did he not let the disease ruin his life, but the Magic Man saved many more with his positive outlook and advocacy for HIV.

There is one girl who changed indeed changed Johnson’s life forever. Her name is Hydeia Broadbent. He was the worlds’ greatest basketball player, and she a seven year-old girl. But they were living with the same struggles; they were both afflicted with HIV. At the Nickelodeon Youth AIDS Conference in 1992, Johnson comforted the young girl whilst she cried and told her that “It’s okay to have HIV because we are just normal people.”  The two met twenty years later at this year’s premiere of the ESPN documentary, ‘The Announcement”, in Los Angeles.

Since their first meeting in 1992, Hydeia has become one of the world’s most recognized HIV advocates and has lived as long as Johnson without the disease progressing to AIDS. She continues to pass on the message that Magic told her, which in turn inspired generations of HIV sufferers.

I can’t imagine going through what he has, and I admire the way he has made it his mission to help others rather than letting the disease beat him.  He is a lesson in perseverance and dedication. Johnson continues to inspire people around the world, be it HIV victims, African-Americans, basketball fans or the average Joe who hears his message.

That is why he is ‘Magic’.