It wasn’t quite the Kennedy assassination, but people who heard Magic Johnson’s dramatic announcement in 1991 that he was HIV positive probably can remember where they were when they heard it. It just didn’t seem possible. Magic?
Everyone knew about the women, but in 1991, a lot of people still felt that HIV didn't happen through heterosexual sex. For many Americans, Johnson’s announcement was stunning.
And it didn't stun anyone more than Larry Bird.
These guys did not start off as friends. They were ferocious rivals and only when they did an ad for Converse together did the ice melt.
They filmed it in Bird’s home town of French Lick and his mother utterly charmed Johnson, to the point where she reminded him of his own. And then they started talking and kept on.
Who could understand Magic better than Bird? Who could understand Bird better than Magic?
So when that day came in 1991, Johnson was the one who came face-to-face with death, but it shook Bird to the core.
In this video, Magic talks emotionally about Bird calling him to check on him and Bird talks about how it wounded him in a way that his father’s suicide did when he was much younger.
Their rivalry fueled them, and the NBA, but playing days are long over. It’s nice to see that bond was still there when they shot this video and remains so today.