Thirty years ago this week, Magic Johnson learned of his HIV-positive diagnosis.
In light of that, the NBA champion and respected businessman recently sat down with journalist Gayle King to unpack what he referred to as the “toughest thing” he’s ever had to do — tell his wife Cookie about the diagnosis.
“At that time, the only thing that I knew [was that] if you got AIDS you died. And so I had to really learn a lot about the disease — HIV as well as AIDS. [I] had to make sure that I was open-minded enough to ask a lot of questions, [and] go get a lot of information from different people,” Magic told Gayle at the beginning of the interview.
“But the toughest thing Gayle that I had to do was really drive home and tell Cookie,” the 62-year old former part-time owner of the Lakers shared. “It was hard because I loved her so much and I hated to hurt her.”
“I’ve played against some of the best basketball players in the world, right? I’ve been in championships. I’ve been in nine [NBA] Finals, so I know pressure. But there was no greater pressure than driving home to tell her,” Magic emphasized. “Even today, it’s still the toughest thing I had to do in my life.”
The couple had only been married for just over a month before Magic went public with his diagnosis, and they’d just learned Cookie was expecting their first child together.
“The key moment was when Cookie took the test and the results came back that her and the baby was fine,” Magic told Gayle, before adding he was “scared to death” about receiving those results.
“I wanted to make sure that she was going to be okay, the baby was going to be okay, and then I can move forward with making sure I was going to be okay,” he added.
When Cookie joined Magic in a later segment of the interview, she told Gayle that she’d been hesitant to attend the press conference Magic held all those decades ago to share his diagnosis with the world.
“At that time, people weren’t educated, so they thought you couldn’t touch people. You couldn’t hug people,” Cookie explained. “And I didn’t want people to treat us like we were lepers.”
Explaining her choice of attire that life-changing day, Cookie said, “I wore that white suit for a reason. I didn’t want to wear anything dark or black because to me, it’s what it symbolized. And the white suit, to me, symbolized brightness, like a future basically [and] positivity.”
In late September, MADAMENOIRE reported on Cookie and Magic happily celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary together. As a surprise to his longtime love, Magic rented out the Beverly Wilshire Hotel ballroom in L.A. so the couple could enjoy an eight-course dinner and a private performance by their favorite band, Frankie Beverly & Maze.
Thankfully, when asked about the status of his health today in his interview with Gayle, Magic replied, “Oh it’s great, [my HIV is] still undetectable,” and that he still takes a “cocktail once a day” of medications to keep him on the right track.
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