Magic Johnson Reflects on Triumphing Over HIV Since 1991: 'I've Played My Role'

Magic Johnson shares insights on life, humor, and health

by Zain ul Abedin
Magic Johnson Reflects on Triumphing Over HIV Since 1991: 'I've Played My Role'
© Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

In a heartfelt conversation with PEOPLE, basketball legend Magic Johnson shared how his life has thrived since his 1991 HIV diagnosis, defying the odds through resilience, medical advancements, and unwavering support from loved ones.

The 64-year-old former Los Angeles Lakers star spoke candidly while attending the Love & Laughter show featuring Cedric the Entertainer and Toni Braxton at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas on April 27. Back in the early '90s, when Johnson publicly revealed his HIV status, it shocked the world, casting a shadow that many feared was a veritable death sentence.

However, Johnson’s journey since then has been anything but a descent. “Every time I go to the doctor and my T-cell count is off the charts, that's when I know I’m good,” Johnson explained, his voice a testament to decades of battling and overcoming the challenges associated with HIV.

Despite retiring from professional basketball, Johnson has not stepped back from maintaining an exceptional fitness regime. He wakes at 4 a.m. daily to stretch and engage in two hours of rigorous exercise. “I'm in the office all day after that.

As long as I can keep up this pace, I've been blessed,” he said. His routine is a disciplined collaboration of his efforts, medical support, and the vigilant care of his wife, Cookie Johnson, who ensures he remains steadfast in his health management.

Beyond Basketball: Advocacy and Friendship

Johnson's advocacy extends beyond his battles. He has become a prominent figure in HIV/AIDS prevention. His life now also encapsulates success as an entrepreneur and philanthropist, leveraging his platform to inspire and educate others.

The event at the Cosmopolitan also served as a celebration of Cedric the Entertainer’s 60th birthday, where Johnson praised his friend's humour and authenticity. “He just keeps you laughing. You could be sitting there talking about something serious, and he’ll turn it into a joke that has everyone laughing.

He hasn't changed; he's still bigger than life,” Johnson shared, reflecting on their longstanding friendship. This poignant reflection by Johnson not only highlights his remarkable journey of living with HIV but also underscores his transformative impact on the world, both on and off the basketball court.