Magic Johnson & HIV: 20 Years Later, Still Strong

Magic Johnson ( — It was 20 years ago, on Nov. 7, 1991, when Johnson held a news conference announcing that he was HIV-positive and that he would retire after 12 years playing professional basketball. Instead of just withering away, as many thought he would, Magic became a major face in the fight against AIDS.

At the time, most people thought HIV affected only gay men, and his announcement changed that perception. He said he contracted HIV during his NBA career through a string of one-night stands with women from coast to coast.

More than half a million people in the United States with an AIDS diagnosis have died since the beginning of the epidemic in the 1980s.

Bob Costas, the television sports analyst widely considered one of the best in the country, was no different from many athletes, sports fans and basketball experts 20 years ago Monday when Magic Johnson held a news conference to tell the world he was HIV-positive.

“I was stunned,” Costas said, “and my immediate thought was, knowing what we thought we knew about HIV, we would watch Magic Johnson die a public death, that he would waste away. This was what we thought we understood about the virus, that his days were numbered.”