Earvin ‘Magic ‘Johnson’ Johnson won five NBA championships during his legendary Hall-of-Fame journey, but his time on court was cut short when he was diagnosed infected with HIV 30 years ago.

Johnson, now 62 years old, was diagnosed with the virus in a routine physical examination before the 1991-92 season.

Because of the lack of scientific information, he believed that the disease was a death sentence and he decided to retire from basketball shortly after. 

Johnson would play basketball again and feature on the 1992 Olympics team of the U.S.A. Basketball. In 1996, Johnson played a brief stint with the Los Angeles Lakers. But the diagnosis changed Johnson’s career and forever changed his life.

Living with HIV thirty years later is much easier than it was in 1990s. Magic shares his story with CBS News, where he reflects on the moment that changed his life forever. 

Earvin 'Magic' Johnson was diagnosed with HIV 30 years ago, and feared that the virus would kill him. Pictured: Johnson speaks to CBS' Gayle King about his HIV diagnosis

Earvin ‘Magic ‘Johnson was diagnosed with HIV 30 year ago. He was afraid that the virus would kill his body. Pictured: Johnson talks to CBS’ Gayle Kings about his HIV diagnosis

Johnson announced at a sudden press conference on November 7, 1991, to announce that he had HIV and would immediately retire from playing basketball. Pictured: Johnson announces his diagnosis at a press conference in Los Angeles, California

Johnson announced that he had HIV at a sudden press conference, November 7, 1991. He also said that he would be quitting basketball immediately. Pictured: Johnson announces his diagnosis during a Los Angeles press conference.

Johnson’s team, Los Angeles Lakers, called a sudden conference on November 7, 1991, 30 year to the day after Sunday. During this conference, Johnson revealed his diagnosis to the world and announced that his basketball career was over.

Johnson stated that Johnson had contracted the HIV virus and would have to leave the Lakers because of it.

He assured the public that he hadn’t yet contracted AIDS from HIV and that Cookie, his wife, was also healthy.

Johnson grinned and stated that he planned to continue living and trying to show the world he was at peace about his diagnosis.

CBS This Morning revealed to him that he was actually confused and even afraid for his own demise. 

“You just sit there and ask: “What does that mean?” Am I gonna die?”‘ Gayle King interviewed Johnson about his thoughts upon receiving the diagnosis. 

“I’m asking him 100 time, “Are you sure?”  

“They say, “Hey! We ran the tests a few times, and yes, it is HIV.” It was then that I lost it. 

Johnson was a five time NBA champion and three time MVP when he suddenly retired in 1991. Pictured: Johnson celebrates winning the 1987 NBA Finals alongside his Los Angeles Lakers teammates

Johnson was a five-time NBA champion, and three times MVP when he abruptly retired in 1991. Pictured: Johnson and his Los Angeles Lakers teammates celebrate winning the 1987 NBA Finals

Due to his high-profile as an NBA star, Johnson was one of the most well-known people in the U.S. to publicly be living with HIV. Pictured: Johnson plays a game at the Forum in Los Angeles, California

Johnson was an NBA star who was well-known for being one of the most public people to have HIV in the United States. Pictured: Johnson playing a game at Forum in Los Angeles, California.

A diagnosis of HIV/AIDS was considered a death sentence at the time.

The virus first appeared in Los Angeles in 1980. Experts were confused when they discovered a sudden surge of gay men with a rare form pneumonia.

AIDS spread quickly through gay communities in the 1980s. The virus became a household term. 

As the decade progressed, scientists discovered more about the disease. However, many Americans blamed the government for not doing enough because of its association to gay men.

Because the public is familiar with the name of HIV, but not enough information about how it spreads, there was a stigma surrounding HIV-positive people. This meant that a diagnosis could have major social consequences.

In the early 1990s, the stigma surrounding the condition was still strong.

‘I had to really learn a lot about the disease, HIV as well as AIDS,’ Johnson told CBS This Morning.

“I had the responsibility to make sure I was open-minded enough that I could ask lots of questions, get lots of information from different people.

Johnson informed Cookie of his diagnosis. Cookie initially feared Johnson had HIV. The virus spreads through sexual contact.

Cookie was also pregnant at that time and the couple were concerned about their unborn child being infected.

Johnson's wife, Cookie (left), stood by her husband after he was diagnosed. She, nor her then-unborn child, tested positive for HIV

Cookie Johnson, Johnson’s wife (left), stood beside her husband when he was diagnosed. Neither she, nor her unborn child, tested positive to HIV.

Johnson stated that Johnson spoke on CBS This Morning, “I wanted to make certain that she was going to be okay, the child was gonna okay, and then we could move forward with trying for to make sure I was okay.” 

His wife tested negative for HIV. However, their son, Earvin Johnson Jr., was born to Johnson’s relief.

Cookie still feared her husband and didn’t want him to hold the famous press conference, fearing that people would treat them as outcasts.

“People were not educated at that time.” They believed you couldn’t touch people and you couldn’t hug people. Cookie explained this to the news program.

“And I didn’t want people treating us like lepers.” 

Johnson stated, “It proved it to be the right choice.

“It helped people with HIV/AIDS and other diseases to live a productive, healthy life. 

Johnson later tried to return to basketball but was rebuffed by his peers.

He was a member of the U.S.A. basketball team at the 1992 Summer Olympics, Barcelona, Spain.

The team, nicknamed the ‘Dream Team’ because of the number of NBA players and future Hall of Famers on its roster, won a gold-medal.

Johnson is now living healthily with HIV. He later returned to the Lakers as team President in the 2010s, and is also co-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Sparks. Pictured: Johnson attends a Dodgers playoff game at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California

Johnson is now HIV-positive. He was elected Lakers team president in 2010 and is now co-owner with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Pictured: Johnson attends a Dodgers playoff match at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

Johnson stated to CBS This Morning that not all players were comfortable with him. Karl Malone, a teammate, was also worried after Johnson sustained a cut on his floor. 

Johnson would go onto become an important figure for the HIV community. Johnson was the most well-known person to have been infected at the time. 

Johnson started Johnson taking a ‘cocktail” of drugs three times a daily to manage his condition. Johnson has prevented AIDS from developing for the past 30 years.

The antiretroviral drugs in the cocktail are designed to prevent virus cells from reproducing in the body and repair the damage done by the disease to the immune system. 

He said to CBS This Morning that he now only needs to drink the cocktail once per day. 

Former Lakers star, he later served as the President of the team in late 2010s. He is also part owner of the Los Angeles Sparks and MLB’s Los Angeles Dodgers.