Apple TV + premiered yesterday a four-part docuseries titled They Call me Magic about basketball legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson that details his life, NBA career, and his HIV diagnosis, according to CNN.
Johnson brought the fight against HIV and AIDS to the mainstream sports world when he announced in 1991 at his famous press conference that he had contracted the disease and would retire from playing basketball, Insider reports.
When Johnson discovered he contracted HIV during his preseason physical with the Los Angeles Lakers, during that time, he experienced suicide ideation. Johnson had a heart-to-heart conversation on a beach with his agent at the time Lon Rosen.
“I was telling him, if anything happens, you make sure you take care of my family,” said the basketball star.
Rosen recalls their discussion and that Magic decided, “I guess I gotta stop playing basketball.”
“At one point, [Magic] said, ‘I don’t know if I want to live, I might just end it, I might just …’” Rosen said as he trailed off in one episode.
Rosen recalls speaking to AIDS researcher Dr. David Ho about the progression of Johnson’s illness. Ho told him that Johnson’s health was deteriorating; he had a T-cell count of 203.
“At that point, you’re on what’s called ‘the line,’” said Rosen. “At 200, you’re at AIDS … He talked about life expectancy of two, three years at the most.”
Ho was apprehensive that Johnson would avoid further infections in the next five years.
“I thought I was facing death,” said Johnson. “I didn’t sleep. I was just thinking about, Is this the last time [Cookie] is going to be in my arms?”
For a long time, the sexually transmitted infection was stigmatized as a terminal “gay disease,” according to the Insider.
“We all thought it was a death sentence,” said coach Pat Riley. Johnson’s other teammates were stunned when they heard the devastating news, CNN reports.
“We just sat there, numb,” recalls James Worthy, Johnson’s Laker teammate.
However, like his adopted moniker, Johnson magically prolonged a three-year life expectancy prognosis into living 31 more years and counting.
Watch They Call Me Magic, which is now available on Apple TV+.