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Category: Magic Johnson

Magic Johnson looks at Penn State's firing of Joe Paterno

Magic Johnson offers some unique insight on Penn State's decision to fire Joe PaternoFinally, some clarity regarding Joe Paterno's firing.

It's been hard to shift through myth and fact as the football legend and the Penn State Athletic Department remained silent about the arrest and arraignment of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky in connection with alleged sexual abuse of children over 15 years.

Some Penn State students rioted after the school's Board of Trustees fired Paterno on Wednesday night, and greeted the coach at his house as if they were leading a pep rally. And more focus has centered on how grand jury testimony in the case could impact the Penn State program than how it might affect the alleged victims.

That's why it was refreshing to see Magic Johnson's tweet, which noted the good work Paterno had done through a storied 46-year career, but recognized the need for the coach to be held accountable for what authorities say was a failure to report Sandusky's alleged transgressions to the police.

"Coach Paterno is the winningest coach in college football, a hero & a champion. Thank you for all you did for football & the Big 10," Johnson tweeted. "He helped turn young men into champions & men. Penn State's Board of Trustees had to act swiftly & make a tough decision."

Before Penn State fans latch on to Johnson's intentions as being those of a Michigan State alum, consider Johnson's Monday news conference highlighting the 20th anniversary of his retirement after being diagnosed as HIV-positive.

The two situations may not be comparable, but the way Johnson and Penn State have addressed their controversies couldn't be more different. Penn State has hidden behind news-release statements, canceled a Paterno news conference and attempted to put the focus on football. Johnson has been open about his disease, despite any backlash he faced concerning his infidelities, his legacy or any stigma associated with the virus.

As somber as the 20th-anniversary event was at times, it was also celebratory because Johnson managed to make an overwhelmingly negative situation into something good, using his platform to spread awareness and raise funds for HIV treatment.

The allegations in the Sandusky case are deplorable, but Penn State still has an opportunity to deal with situation as best it can, notably taking steps to ensure proper child protection and greater accountability.

As someone who has demonstrated the need to hold himself accountable, it's perfectly appropriate for Johnson to address Penn State's situation. 

"I was speaking to Paterno as a coach not supporting his handling of the situation," Johnson tweeted. "He himself admitted that he wish he had done more. We must always protect our kids."


Magic Johnson defends David Stern

Magic Johnson grateful for support system in HIV fight

Magic Johnson says 20th anniversary of retirement is "bittersweet"

-- Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at

Photo: Former Lakers coach Pat Riley gives Magic Johnson a bear hug Monday as the former Lakers guard discusses surviving with HIV for 20 years. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

NBA lockout: Magic Johnson defends David Stern

Magic JohnsonThe NBA owners and players union aren't just struggling to reach a deal.

They're struggling to avoid inflammatory comments. Players union attorney Jeffrey Kessler argued to the The Washington Post's Amy Shipley that the owners are treating the players like "plantation workers," a charge that drew a strong response from NBA Commissioner David Stern and then former Laker Magic Johnson. 

“This league is more diverse than any other league and has more minorities in powerful positions than any other league,” Johnson told the Associated Press' Brian Mahoney. “That’s all about David Stern and his vision and what he wanted to do. He made sure minorities had high-ranking positions from the league office all the way down to coaches and front office people.”

“It was David Stern who took this league worldwide. And so those guys know it was because of David Stern and what he was able to do."

HBO Real Sports' Bryant Gumbel also used the plantation analogy last month, arguing that Stern "always seemed eager to be viewed as some kind of modern plantation overseer treating NBA men as if they were his boys.”

Johnson cited various examples to prove otherwise. He noted how players such as himself, Isaiah Thomas and Michael Jordan have landed ownership positions after having lucrative NBA careers. He expressed both appreciation for Stern inviting him to play in the 1992 All-Star game despite player protests after retiring the previous November because he was infected with HIV, and helping him land a spot on the 1992 Olympics U.S. "dream team." After Johnson's comments critical of Thomas in his book "When the Game Was Ours," was released two years ago, he said Stern urged him to patch up his relationship.

“He is always is looking out for the players and what’s best for the league, and I disagree with anybody who says he’s trying to be a plantation owner," Johnson said.  It’s ridiculous we’re even talking about it ... He’s a tough businessman and a smart businessman. That’s what he’s supposed to be.”


Magic Johnson grateful for support system in HIV fight

Magic Johnson says 20th anniversary of retirement is 'bittersweet'

-- Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at

Photo: Magic Johnson and his wife Cookie share a laugh with a friend at the news conference to mark Johnson's announcement 20 years ago that he had contracted HIV. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

20th anniversary of Magic Johnson's HIV announcement sparks memories

Magic Johnson and Dr. David Ho on the 20th anniversary of the Lakers legend's announcement that he had contracted HIV

*We will have a live chat at 2:30 p.m. Bring your questions!

--The Times' Broderick Turner says he noticed Magic Johnson's celebratory mood during Monday's news conference commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Lakers star's abrupt retirement after testing positive for HIV.'s J.A. Adande credits Johnson for shattering the myths surrounding HIV.

--The Orange County Register's Janis Carr explains how Johnson decided to go public with the news.

--CBS Sports' Ken Berger argues that the NBA players union can provide an ultimatum too.

--ESPN the Magazine's Chris Broussard reports that some NBA owners don't want a 50-50 split in basketball-related income.

--The Orange County Register's Kevin Ding notes that Derek Fisher has a thankless job as president of NBA Players Assn.

--Sheridan Hoops' Mark Heisler compares the NBA owners and the players union to Beavis and Butthead.'s Scott Howard-Cooper outlines Johnson's future ownership plans.

--ESPN Los Angeles' Andy Kamenetzky recalls the day he heard Johnson's announcement.

--ESPN Los Angeles' Brian Kamenetzky says he loved seeing Johnson involve his Lakers teammates during the ceremony.

--Fox Sports' Joe McDonnell explains how Johnson humanized the fight against HIV/AIDS.

--Sports Illustrated's Zach Lowe weighs the options the players union has during the labor negotiations.

--ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin notes Johnson's upbeat mood.

--Sheridan Hoops' Chris Sheridan predicts that an NBA labor deal will be reached within the next 36 hours.

--ESPN Los Angeles' Steve Springer talks to various Lakers about their memories regarding Johnson's HIV announcement.

Tweet of the Day: "Thank you to all the fans across the world for 20 years of support." -- MagicJohnson (Magic Johnson)

Rick Friedman Reader Comment of the Day: "I remember when Magic made his announcement, and as a kid I was sure he was going to die within months afterwards. It's amazing how much our perceptions of HIV have changed after all these years." -- Jason Johnson

-- Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at

Photo: Magic Johnson is introduced by his physician, Dr. David Ho, at a news conference on the 20th anniversary of the Lakers legend's announcement that he had contracted HIV. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

Magic Johnson says 20th anniversary of retirement is 'bittersweet'

Several times, Magic Johnson celebrated.

His news conference at Staples Center on Monday marked the 20th anniversary of his abrupt retirement from the NBA because he had tested positive for human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS. He presented a $1-million check for his self-named foundation. He took pride in speaking to more than 300 churches, high schools and colleges the last several years. Dr. David Ho and Lakers teammates universally lauded him as the model advocate for HIV/AIDS awareness because of his beaming personality and his consistent adherence to his exercise habits and medication.

The event felt like a gala, with an emcee introducing everyone on stage and music playing in the background. A who's who of Lakers lore attended, including former teammates (James Worthy, A.C. Green, Michael Cooper, Mychal Thompson and Kurt Rambis), former coaches (Pat Riley, Mike Dunleavy and Phil Jackson), legends (Jerry West and Bill Sharman), team officials (Jerry Buss, Mitch Kupchak,  Jeanie Buss and Linda Rambis), local officials and businessmen (Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and AEG's Tim Leiweke) and family (his wife, Cookie, and three children). The event validated Johnson's saying 20 years ago he planned on "going on living for a long time."

"It's been an amazing 20 years," Johnson said. "Hopefully we have another amazing [20 years] coming."

Pat Riley

Yet, it clearly showed why Johnson considered this moment to be "bittersweet."

Several times, Johnson sounded emotional.

He cried when he thanked Lakers owner Jerry Buss for being a "father figure" and supporting him. Johnson sobbed again when Riley and his wife, Chris, approached the stage. Johnson became sentimental when he thanked several other Lakers by name as well as his wife, Cookie. 

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Magic Johnson grateful for support system in HIV fight

Magic Johnson approached the podium, looked out into the large crowd support and soaked in the moment.

His news conference at Staples Center on Monday marked the 20th anniversary since his announcement that he would retire from the Lakers because he tested positive for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS. The fact that he stood there remained sobering enough.

"God is so good," Johnson said. "Here I am 20 years later. Wow, what a blessing."

The general public hardly felt that way on Nov. 7, 1991. Many thought Johnson's death was imminent. Teammates began wondering how vulnerable they were in contracting the disease. Scrutiny involving Johnson's infidelities intensified.

Dr. David Ho didn't see Johnson waver one bit, admiring that he "wanted to use it as an opportunity to spread awareness about this pandemic, all of this while confronting his possible mortality." But Johnson took on this challenge, he said, thanks to a strong support system. That was evident as plenty of Lakers attended his news conference. There were former and current management (owner Jerry Buss, former general manager Jerry West, current General Manager Mitch Kupchak, Lakers executive vice president Jeanie Buss). There were former Lakers coaches (Pat Riley, Mike Dunleavy, Phil Jackson, Bill Sharman). There were former teammates (James Worthy, Michael Cooper, A.C. Green, Mychal Thompson). 

"Without a support system, I knew I wouldn't be here 20 years from now," said Johnson before presenting a $1 million check toward his foundation. "The one person who stood by my side, everything thick and thin, is my beautiful and incredible wife [Cookie]. When I think about the time I had to tell her 20 years ago, it was devastating for both of us. I told her she can leave if she wanted to because I understand it is tough for her. When I said that, she hit me so hard and said, 'We're going to be in this together.' Honey, if this wasn't for you, I wouldn't be standing here in 20 years."


Magic Johnson maintains optimism in HIV fight

Magic Johnson, Dan Gilbert film Quicken Loans commercial

-- Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at

Photo: Former Laker Magic Johnson is celebrating the 20th anniversary today since announcing he was tested positive for the HIV virus. Credit: Rick Stewart, Getty Images

NBA lockout: Players union given ultimatum (Web links)

Derek Fisher/NBA players union

--The Times' Mike Bresnahan explains why it appears the players union and NBA owners aren't close to a deal.

--The Times' Bill Plaschke talks to Magic Johnson about the 20th anniversary of his announcement that he tested positive for HIV. 

--The Times' Ben Bolch explains how Johnson's HIV announcement sparked Pau Gasol's interest in the medical field. 

--The Times' Diane Pucin talks to various people close to the NBA about the 20th anniversary of Johnson's announcement. 

--Sports Illustrated's Sam Amick reports that the players union will discuss Tuesday whether to cave into the owners' demands or decertify. 

--The Orange County Register's Janis Carr talks to Johnson's former teammates about his HIV announcement. 

--The Postgame's Les Carpenter marvels at Johnson's longevity. 

--The Orange County Register's Kevin Ding lists three key points about the NBA lockout. 

--Ball Don't Lie's Kelly Dwyer highlights the impact Johnson has had since announcing he has HIV.'s Scott Howard-Cooper explains what Johnson has done to raise HIV awareness. 

--ESPN Los Angeles' Andy Kamenetzky and's Mike Trudell talk with Lakers trainer Gary Vitti about Johnson's HIV announcement. 

--Sports Illustrated's Jack McCallum marvels at Johnson surviving with HIV.'s Marc Stein and Chris Broussard report that the players union has summoned player representatives from all 30 teams for a mandatory meeting Tuesday. Stein also recalls covering Johnson's HIV announcement

--Sheridan Hoops' Chris Sheridan highlights the players union's anger with the owners' ultimatum. 

--Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan, despite his vocal opposition to being more accommodating to the players union, didn't speak at all during Saturday's meeting. 

--Fox Sports' Jason Whitlock criticizes Jordan for "selling out on the players."

--Forum Blue and Gold's Darius Soriano is frustrated that the issues surrounding the NBA lockout remain the same. 

Tweet of the Day: "Magic, in 1991: "God gave (this) disease (to) the right guy. I’m going to beat this, and do something really good with it."" -- LakersReporter ('s Mike Trudell)

-- Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at

Photo: Derek Fisher, president of the NBA players union, speaks to reporters after a negotiating session Sunday. Credit: Allison Joyce / Reuters

Magic Johnson maintains optimism in HIV fight

Magic Johnson picked up the phone and heard an urgent and worried tone in the voice on the other end.

"You have to come home," the Lakers' team physician, Dr. Michael Melman, told him.

He was just about to play in an exhibition game in Salt Lake City against the Utah Jazz a week before the 1991-92 season would start. "Can I play the game, first?" Johnson asked.

"Nope," Melman said. "You have to come home right now."

"What is it?" Johnson said.

"I can't tell you over the phone," Melman said. "So you have to come home."

Johnson soon found out. He had tested positive for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS. Immediate thoughts flashed in Johnson's head.

Disbelief -- he wondered how he had contracted the disease and demanded up to three tests before reality settled in.

Anxiety -- how would he tell his wife, Cookie, of his infidelities and how would this affect both her health and their yet-to-be born son, E.J.?

Determination -- even if he couldn't truly digest the news, he vowed it wouldn't temper his infectious optimism.

"That's the one thing I did wrong," Johnson said at an appearance at Loyola Marymount University this summer. "I was devastated. You begin to say, how can this happen? I had to pick myself up off the ground because I didn't know what that meant for me."

Monday's date -- Nov. 7, 2011 -- means enough because it signifies the 20th anniversary of Johnson's  announcing his abrupt retirement from the Lakers because of the HIV virus. The milestone remains impressive for Johnson's success in battling the virus and for his foundation's role in educating the public about HIV. But as he holds a news conference at noon Monday inside Staples Center, it'll be clear how his determined optimism proved instrumental through this 20-year fight. 

Oh, there have been challenges along the way. Handling the stigma of how he contracted the disease, the scrutiny on his infidelities and having to end an accomplished NBA career with five league championships prematurely. But two things haven't wavered.

When Johnson delivered the devastating news 20 years ago, he vowed to become an AIDS spokesman. That happened. Nearly 1 million people in the United States have HIV/AIDS, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and 33 million worldwide. Johnson's self-named foundation has been fighting to keep that number from growing. His foundation raises AIDS and HIV awareness through education, treatment and research, aiding 135 million people through community grants, education, scholarships, clinics, adding mobile testing units and partnering with Abbott Laboratories in efforts aimed at decreasing new HIV/AIDS infections in African American communities.

Johnson was probably the only person in the room in 1991 who believed his prediction that he would survive HIV. Yet, he will stand inside Staples Center on Monday sharing his story because he consistently took his medication, worked out and -- more importantly -- maintained his positive attitude.

"I never thought I was going to die," Johnson said. "I'm not that guy. I've been a competitor my whole life."


Magic Johnson wishes he hadn't retired so early

-- Mark Medina

Email the Lakers blog at

Magic Johnson, Dan Gilbert film Quicken Loans commercial

The legacy for Magic Johnson will go beyond his five NBA championships, how he helped revitalize league interest and spurred society awareness about HIV.

It should also include Magic's flair with cheesy commercials. The latest involves an appearance with Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, who like Magic is a member of Detroit Venture Partners, a firm that invests seed money in early-stage technology companies. In the commercial spot, Gilbert wonders about the feasibility of offering customers who request a home-loan quote a free Android smartphone. Enter Johnson, who shoots jumpers and skyhooks with the phone off rooftop buildings. Instead of the phones hitting the pavement, customers easily catch them. Hey, Magic was known for his passing abilities for a reason.

Even though he's most remembered for his Converse commercial with Larry Bird, many of Johnson's other spots are simply corny. In a San Manuel Casino commercial, Johnson dances with the L.A. Kings' mascot. Johnson relives his hook-shot game-winner in Game 4 of the 1987 NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics with a talking basketball. He breathes out fire after eating spicy-style Kentucky Fried Chicken. He shoots a quarter into a Slice soda machine. And in his Quicken Loans appearance, Magic proves it's quicker and more efficient to pass and shoot a phone instead of shipping it overnight. 


Magic Johnson appears in Quicken Loans commercial

Magic Johnson joins Detroit venture-capital firm

Magic Johnson argues Jerry Buss needs to "blow this team up" and make drastic changes to roster during offseason

— Mark Medina

Email the Lakers blog at

Lakers' Time Warner Cable deal shouldn't be held against them

LakersWith one pen stroke, the Lakers apparently drew a cloud over the NBA and the players union and their negotiations over a new collective bargaining agreement.

The team's 20-year agreement with Time Warner Cable, starting next year, didn't just anger Lakers fans who only have access to network channels. The deal angered other NBA owners, who believe it gives the Purple & Gold another unfair advantage. The contract, which Times columnist Bill Plaschke reported could be worth as much as $3 billion, won't just enrich the Lakers. It may enrich the small-market owners, who believe that they're entitled to revenue sharing. 

"That Lakers TV deal scared the hell out of everybody," one league official told ESPN's Brian Windhorst. "Everyone thought there is no way to compete with that. Then everyone started thinking that it wasn't fair that they didn’t have to share it with the teams they're playing against."

The tension illustrates the fallacy behind the notion that revenue sharing would ensure competitive balance. TrueHoop's Tom Haberstroh provides an in-depth analysis indicating that smart spending and draft picks ensure a team's success more than competitive balance.

But the jealousy over the Lakers' television deal also points to what should be a misconception among some owners -- that they're entitled to such revenue without making the smart business moves and taking the risks that ultimately ensure such a lucrative deal.

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Magic Johnson takes shots at LeBron James

The LeBron James insults usually remain confined to NBA writers and message boards, particularly in this corner of the blogosphere.

The zero championships, the fourth-quarter collapses, the way he handled "The Decision" in going to Miami ... yeah, it's all been discussed ad nauseum, but make way for one prominent member to join in the fray. None other than the Lakers legend himself, Magic Johnson

"There's always going to be guys who win championships in the NBA, except LeBron," Johnson said at a recent appearance in Albany, N.Y., drawing lots of laughter. "Don't be mad. Everybody asks me who is better between Kobe or LeBron. I'm like, are you kidding me? Kobe has five championships and LeBron has zero."

Even though many Laker fans see Johnson as the greatest Laker of all time for his five NBA championships and Hollywood charisma, those same fans remain split on his commentary on ESPN. Some took offense to Johnson suggesting that Lakers owner Jerry Buss needed to "blow this team up." But as tired and lazy as the argument is that James' failure to win titles automatically means he isn't Bryant's equal, Laker fans obviously won't mind one bit that Johnson appears to be piling on. 

"I love you though, man," said Johnson, whose comments didn't have a mean-spirited tone. "I know you'll be better in the fourth quarter next year. I'm not hating on LeBron. He's a triple-double threat every single game, and he's going to get better."


Magic Johnson wishes he hadn't retired so early

-- Mark Medina

Email the Lakers blog at



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