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Magic Johnson wishes he hadn't retired so early [Video]

August 2, 2011 |  1:39 pm

The devastating news proved more painful than any injury. Yet, Magic Johnson vowed he'd survive.

Delivering the news could have put strain on his marriage, but, in his eyes, it strengthened it. 

The stigma could've hurt his legacy as a five-time NBA champion and, in the eyes of many, the greatest Laker of all time. But it actually enhanced it.

In a one-on-one conversation with Johnson at Loyola Marymount University, Times columnist Bill Plaschke appropriately remarked that nearly three months from now would mark the 20th anniversary of Johnson's stunning announcement that he had contracted HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The fact that Johnson was sitting there for a full hour reliving his Laker memories in full spirits and, most importantly, in good health, remains an accomplishment in itself. 

Still, it pains Johnson to this day that he cut his NBA career short, frankly because he didn't believe it was necessary.

"If I knew what I know now, I wouldn't have retired," Johnson said. "But I didn't know that then. And you've just got to go with what happened."

At the time, many wrongly perceived that Johnson had contracted AIDs and that he could spread the disease through simple contact. His abrupt retirement in 1991 did little to quell that notion, but his participation in the 1992 NBA All-Star game and as a member of the U.S. Dream Team in the Olympics quickly put those qualms to rest. Still, Johnson retired before coming back in the 1995-96 season amid continued skepticism from even his U.S. Olympic teammates that he'd put everyone else at risk.

"They just didn't want the Lakers to be strong again," Johnson said. "I decided to retire because I didn't want to hurt the game."


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-- Mark Medina

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