Lakers legend Magic Johnson 30 years after HIV diagnosis: 'I learned to trust in Jesus'

Sunday was the 30th anniversary of the stunning announcement from Los Angeles Lakers legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson that he had contracted HIV and was retiring from the NBA.

The occasion gave Johnson, now 62, an opportunity to reflect on how he has seen the Lord at work in the three decades since his life-changing diagnosis.

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In a series of tweets Sunday afternoon, the Hall of Fame point guard with a beaming smile explained how the sermon he heard that morning resonated with him, how he’s seen God’s blessings in his life and how he’s learned to trust in Jesus with HIV.

“God has really blessed me! Today marks 30 years living with HIV,” one of Johnson’s tweets said. “… I thank the Lord for keeping me, giving me strength, and guiding me for 62 years but especially the last 30.”

The impact of Johnson’s Nov. 7, 1991, announcement on the basketball community and on the public perception of HIV has been difficult to overstate. Johnson was one of the most recognizable faces in the NBA by 1991, as he was a five-time champion, three-time league MVP, 11-time All-Star and one of the greatest players in NBA history. His rivalry with Boston Celtics great Larry Bird was crucial for the NBA’s growth in popularity.

Meanwhile, a diagnosis of HIV came with a variety of incorrect preconceived notions about how the virus was contracted and spread. Its effects were strange, scary and largely unstudied. The disease had only been clinically observed in the United States for 10 years.

Since his abrupt retirement, Johnson has used his platform to reveal to the public the true nature of the disease and the type of life that can be led with proper management and treatment. He has become one of the public leaders in the fight for HIV awareness.

Johnson’s work with his foundation, the Magic Johnson Foundation established in 1991, has done much to help urban communities, including educating people about HIV and AIDS.

According to its website, the foundation “develops programs and supports community-based organizations that address the educational, health and social needs of ethnically diverse, urban communities.”

Along with all of the societal good Johnson has done for urban communities and in the de-stigmatization of HIV, Johnson has also spoken more about his faith in recent years, especially on his Twitter account. He stepped down as president of basketball operations with the Lakers in 2019 in part so that he and his wife, Cookie, could serve more at their church.

“It’s truly a blessing when you know what direction you’re going in,” Johnson said at the time. “It’s such a change for me because now when I go to speak to corporations, I lead off by praising the Lord … You can touch somebody else to praise the Lord.”

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