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Outside the Lines:
Magic - 10 Years Later
and Limits of Loyalty
Here's the transcript from Show 84 of weekly Outside The Lines - Magic -10 Years Later and Limits of Loyalty
Announcer - November 4, 2001.
Bob Ley, host - Ten years ago this week, Magic Johnson shocked the world.
Earvin "Magic" Johnson, 3-Time NBA MVP - Because of the HIV virus that I have obtained, I will have to retire from the Lakers.
Unidentified Male - There was tears; it was a death sentence. I mean, that was the immediate thought.
David Stern, NBA commissioner - I think we all had the mental image of this great physical specimen withering away and dying.
Ley - Instead...
Johnson - Wow, I feel good.
Ley - But has Magic's profound lesson been learned by today's NBA players?
Byron Scott, Nets head coach; played 14 NBA seasons (1983-'99) - I think it's almost back to where it was, you know, 10, 15, 20 years ago.
Ley - Also this week, the men at the heart of mythical comebacks on consecutive nights may soon be done with the Yankees.
This morning on Outside The Lines - The limits of loyalty; and Magic, 10 years later.
Ley - This morning we look forward to spring training to determine what saving a dynasty is worth, if anything, in the pool economics of sports. And we look forward, hopefully, many years to the continuing public life of Earvin Johnson. If you can recall 10 years ago, chances are you remember with chilling clarity where you were when you first heard that Magic Johnson had contracted the AIDS virus. That was 10 years ago Wednesday.
So little was known about HIV that Magic intended to announce that he actually had AIDS. He was connected minutes before his announcement. But he was hardly alone at the beginning of the learning curve.
Earvin Johnson remains HIV positive, yet like numerous patients, he leads a virtually normal life because of advances in research and drugs. He is both a businessman with a social purpose on his profit and loss sheet and an occasional basketball player. The most incurable aspect of Magic Johnson's life, Jeremy Schaap discovered, may be his optimism.
Jeremy Schaap, ESPN correspondent - With each pass, with each shot, with each enormous stride Magic Johnson calls to mind the words of another American icon, Mark Twain. A decade later, it's clear that the reports of Magic's demise were greatly exaggerated.
Tom Izzo, Michigan State head coach - He doesn't look 42, and he's still got a game. I mean, he can play. I mean, he's still the greatest passer I've ever seen.
Schaap - Lansing, Michigan's most famous and beloved son was back home Friday night. Magic Johnson's All Stars, his barnstorming team, were playing his alma mater, Michigan State. It had been 22 years since Johnson played a meaningful game in his hometown. The arena was sold out, crammed with fans who had watched Johnson grow up, and with fans who grew up never having seen him play.
Bob McCarthy, fan - I came all the way from Virginia, actually, to be here. I've never seen him play live other than his freshman year.
Announcer - From Michigan State, six-foot-nine, Earvin "Magic" Johnson.
Schaap - Early in the game, Johnson's All Stars outplayed Michigan State, and went in at the half nursing a five-point lead. During the intermission, Johnson nursed himself.
Unidentified Male - Nice stretch, nice stretch -- cool.
Johnson - See, you gotta always keep it stretched, when you get old like me.
Schaap - In the game's final seconds, with his team trailing by two points, Johnson, who finished with a triple-double and played all 40 minutes, grabbed a line-drive rebound and made a deft pass to a teammate for an easy lay-up. The game tied. But the Spartans quickly retook the lead. Just before the buzzer, Johnson took a half-court shot that could have made the evening perfect. It missed.
Johnson - I thought it was good. It was straight, and I said, oh it's going to be good! And just a little short. But you know what? I had the time of my life. And this is what life is about.
Schaap - The last 10 years, since you've been out of the NBA, essentially, have those 10 years been as gratifying as the previous 10 years?
Johnson - It's not even close. The last 10 years have been probably the best 10 years of my life. To know that, first of all, by working out and taking my medicine and the grace of God, be here 10 years later. That's No. 1. The true blessing is, I always wanted to be a businessman after basketball, and here I am. You know -- wow, I feel good. It's just great, what can I tell you. It's just great.
Schaap - Do you get as much satisfaction out of cutting a successful business deal as you do making a great play on the court?
Johnson - It's a little different, I can't lie. Nothing is going to amount to this basketball court; nothing. When I step out here, it's a whole other world for you, and it's a high that you never could get. Why did Michael Jordan come back? Because of that high; he missed it. He missed the court, you know.
So I know I can't replace that with business, but business gives me something that, also, basketball doesn't give me, too, where I can employ people and put them to work.
Schaap - Johnson is remarkably healthy. He now weighs 260 pounds, 40 more than he weighed 10 years ago. Johnson's doctors say his immune system is much stronger today than when he was first diagnosed with HIV.
Johnson - I thought from the beginning that I would beat this thing. No question about it. I had questions in my mind when it first happened. I'm not going to lie to you. Was I scared? Yes I was.
But once I understood what I had to do to beat it, then the fear went away and I wasn't scared any more. I was saying, hey, OK, I've played against the best in Larry and Michael; I went up against them. So, why can't I go up against HIV and win?
And then people always say, well, you know, you got money and you can do this. I say, no, that's not it, because I take the same drugs as everybody else. But the virus just acts different in every person. So if you have HIV and I have HIV, it's not going to be the same because we're different people.
Schaap - None of Magic's remarkable tricks, not the no-look passes, not the clutch shooting, not the game-altering rebounds; none of this is as remarkable as this trick - transforming a death sentence into an affirmation of life. That's magic.
Johnson - Even if I died today, tomorrow, whatever, I lived the life that man, that I wanted to live. It's so amazing how time is just flying by. But when you're as busy and doing all the things I've been doing, I guess you just don't keep up with time. It's just -- it's been a good 10 years.
Ley - Ten years few thought he would enjoy. For six years, Johnson, like many HIV patients, has been taking protease inhibitor drugs. Among his physicians, Dr. David Ho, one of the leading AIDS researchers in the world. Ho says that, while there are questions in Magic's future, he is optimistic.
Dr. David Ho, 1996 "Time Man of the Year" - It's just the scientific knowledge is not sufficiently advanced for us to know whether this is likely to last for 10 years, 15 years or more. I am reasonably confident that he could do well for some -- for a long period. But whether he will have a, quote, "normal life expectancy," that is very difficult for me or for anyone without a crystal ball to say.
Ley - Has Magic's situation registered with today's NBA players? Next, a man who won championships with Magic, has played 16 years in the league, someone outspoken in his religious beliefs, says it's business as usual.
A.C. Green, Lakers forward (1985-'93, 1999-2000) - It's sort of gravitated to now, because it's like a badge of honor. Now it's something to have a couple groupies with you, because all of a sudden, you know what, it makes you look better. You know, it makes you look, quote-unquote, "cool." And that you are the man.
Dr. Jack Llewellyn, Atlanta Braves team psychologist - There was real anxiety for a while. And then it just faded away, you know; it faded away. I think it's, athlete's feel invincible. And once that feeling came back, that I'm invincible -- it won't happen to me -- then it was life as usual.
Ley - Last summer the infamous Gold Club Trial in Atlanta featured the names and testimony of numerous high-profile athletes and stories of sexual favors. In a world of celebrity and money, with a topic, sex, that folks rarely tell the truth about anyway, what is Magic Johnson's legacy?
The NBA gives instruction on the dangers of HIV in its rookie transition program. The reality of today's NBA life against the echoes of the past, examined now by Kelly Neal.
Kelly Neal, ESPN correspondent - A.C. Green is back in Los Angeles. He works out, hoping to continue a career that spans three decades. It began 16 years ago, in the heart of the showtime era. Magic Johnson and the Lakers rivaled movie stars as the hottest celebrities in town. Green says teammates were presented with a lifestyle that afforded any opportunity.
Green - From ladies standpoints, to buying whatever you want to buy, it was just -- there wasn't any sense of control.
Neal - On November 7, 1991, Green and the rest of the world witnessed what that lifestyle did to the Lakers' biggest star.
Johnson - Sometimes we think, well, only gay people can get it, only -- it's not going to happen to me. Yet here I am saying that it can happen to anybody.
Green - Oh, it was a death sentence. I mean, that was the immediate thought. Oh my gosh, you have AIDS? And it was one of those things that, wow -- well how much longer are you going to be here with us?
Stern - I think we all had the mental image of this great physical specimen withering away and dying.
Orlando Woolridge, played 13 NBA seasons (1981-'94) - We didn't really look at the lifestyle that we were living as being dangerous -- quote, quote -- sounds silly today, but we were all young, OK. And I think when Magic went down with that, it made everybody stop and look at the way they were living their life. And sit back and say, you know, we need to be a little more responsible.
Neal - But being responsible means different things for different players. The lasting impact of Johnson's announcement is also subject to interpretation.
Green - Now here we are over the years, two years after the announcement, four years; now here we are 10 years. Let me tell you that promiscuity in the sense -- no, that hasn't decreased by any chance of the imagination.
Scott - Everybody at that time focused in on being a little bit more careful. But now watching a lot of the guys that come up in this league now, I think it's almost back to where it was 10, 15, 20 years ago. I don't think it has made that big of a difference.
Desmond Mason, Sonics guard/forward - I think, including myself, it changed a lot of people's sexual lifestyle.
Neal - Desmond Mason was just 14 when Johnson made his announcement. Still, he says his generation has learned from Magic's mistake.
Mason - When you're out in clubs or out at parties or, you know, other things, I don't think they go OK, Magic Johnson when a lady walks up to them, you know, make sure I can check myself. Or, you know, a couple of ladies walk up to him. But I think it's still in the back of their mind of what happened. And they know that they need to be well protected or, you know, be cautious of who they mess around with.
David Robinson, Spurs center - It's still a pretty scary disease. I mean, we just don't hear about it, probably, as much now. You know, with Magic, obviously that was right in our face. You know, it was right on our front door. But now it's kind of gone to the back-burner a little bit.
Neal - Players also know Magic is the only NBA player publicly known to have contracted HIV, which could add to some players' sense of invincibility.
Mason - I don't think guys think they're invincible, I just think that, you know, they look at the percentages and go, hey, I mean, that's a very small percentage; I can go do what I want to, more than likely it won't happen to me.
Green - They know no one's exempt from it. You know, it is out here and it can contaminate any single person. You put yourself in the position -- play with fire, you're bound to get burned sooner or later. And I think they really do believe that; they're just sort of rolling the dice right now.
Neal - Would you say the players are more concerned about getting a woman pregnant or contracting HIV?
Mason - Personally I think probably getting somebody pregnant, especially with some of the things that happened in the past with child support issues, things like that.
Green - Without a question, HIV. I mean, because in their own mind, they'll rationalize a pregnancy. It's a fear factor, it really is. I think guys are more scared of what can ever happen to me as a person.
Neal - But seeing Magic Johnson these days elicits more hope than fear. In fact, his continuing good health may make him less of an example to players about the consequences of a risky lifestyle.
Danny Ainge, former longtime Celtics player - Now we see Magic healthy and prospering and doing well, and we still see that beautiful smile on his face. And I think it has tarnished a little bit the severity of the HIV.
Mason - They see that he's very healthy, he's taken care of himself. You know, he looks good. I think guys may kind of fall asleep on that; but the majority are still, you know, cautious about that disease.
Green - Behavior necessarily just really hasn't changed a lot. And you would think it would be a slap across the face, a wake-up. You know, hey, what are you doing, think about it; look at the man in the mirror, this is what -- you need to, like, be accountable. Think about what's happening here. But in reality, you know, it really hasn't.
Ley - We are joined now by Larry Platt, author of the book, "Keeping it Real." He's also written on Magic Johnson for the "The New York Times" magazine. He joins us this morning from Philadelphia.
Larry, A.C. Green's religious-based beliefs on celibacy and abstinence are well known. He's a major voice there in our story. But even factoring that in, from your years spent recently in the league with a lot of players, is this on the radar scope out there, socially, for them?
Larry Platt, wrote "NY Times Magazine" article, "Magic Johnson Builds an Empire" - I think it's had an effect, but how much of an effect, it open to debate. I mean, in my experience I think to the degree the players use protection, they are -- they are very conscious about using protection to guard against paternity suits, which have largely been publicized.
In fact I had to laugh when I saw A.C. Green on the spot, because A.C. Green, an avowed virgin, has even been sued four times for paternity. And of course has come out OK in all those cases. But, the fact is that there is a sensitivity among players in the sort of sophisticated dance that goes on with women on the road. There is promiscuity among professional athletes; that's a given.
And it is not just athletes. I mean I think, if you look at the last occupant of the White House, no one is immune among super-achievers -- you know, guys who are voracious achievers and have hardy appetites.
Ley - Well let's switch gears over to Magic. Magic back 10 years ago after that announcement left basketball and is basically casting about for something to do.
Platt - No question, I mean, in the days after his announcement, he spoke to me very movingly about how the phone just didn't ring. He puttered around the house and that's sort of when endorsers dropped him, like Nestle. And that's when he sort of realized that, he says, the only people who are ultimately with you are the people in your community. And he and Cookie had always gone to this church in South Central, and they were with him.
And that has fueled in the last 10 years this drive for him to enact a social vision in the context of his business dealings. He employs 3,000 black people across the United States, and that number is ever growing.
He is giving people jobs in the inner cities. I spent time with him in South Central at his Starbucks and TJI Fridays there. And the love for him is amazing to watch, and the way that he feeds off that love is amazing to watch. I really believe that it's what kept him healthy.
Ley - There aren't many athletes out there who are actually in the industrial world, though putting their money -- building a half-billion dollar corporation out of nothing, and putting risk capital in play like this.
Platt - Oh, you are absolutely right. I mean, he counsels athletes all the time about the need to do this. Young hip-hop athletes who sort of see him as the embodiment of Malcolm X's dream, of black-run business onto himself. As opposed to sort of the old school way of earning dollars, like the Michael Jordan way, of just to sell your name for money.
Ley - As Magic said, it is hard to believe it's been 10 years. Larry thanks a great deal -- Larry Platt -- for joining us this morning.
Platt - Thanks Bob.
Ley - Next up - What are the limits of loyalty for world champions? Transcending history is one thing, but keeping those stars could be something very different.
Ley - Wednesday night, Tino Martinez, age 33, in the final year of his contract.
Announcer - Swing, and there's a high drive, deep into right center field. Hinman going back -- it is gone! A home run!
Ley - But next evening, Scott Brosius, in the last year of his contract, at the age of 35.
Announcer - Swing and a high drive, deep to left field. Way back is Bautista, they have done it again! Scott Brosius good bye!
Ley - Two instant pieces of World Series and Yankees lore from two players, Scott Brosius and Tino Martinez were widely considered to be expendable this winter, given their age, their salaries and the need, possibly, for the Yankees to recast that roster.
This morning's "New York Post" captures that in a headline on the back page, talking about the possibility that both of those guys, who hit major home runs, could be moving on. Brosius playing in his fourth World Series with the Yankees, truly a more effective player in October. Tino Martinez, six seasons as a Yankee. His fifth World Series, a constant offensive presence. Each with rings, and also from this past week, those historic moments. What is that all worth, though, in the new economy of baseball?
We welcome our Tim Kurkjian, early out of Phoenix. Good morning, Tim.
Tim Kurkjian, "ESPN The Magazine" Sr. Writer - Hello Bob.
Ley - Before the game last night, Joe Torre was asked directly, how much do you think about, they are going to be breaking up this old gang of mine. He says I can't think about it. But is it on the radar scope someplace in the Yankee organization today?
Kurkjian - Oh yeah, it's very much, it's all around this team. Everybody with this club knows that changes are going to be made after this season. But the beauty of the Yankees is they are able to put that aside and play the game. But once the games are over tonight, baseball is going to go back to business for the Yankees.
Ley - Great game tonight. But let's look now at the hot stove league, assuming we'll have one with the labor situation. Tino Martinez, chances of him moving on or staying?
Kurkjian - Well, I think Tino is not going to be with the Yankees next year. I think the chances of returning is about 25 percent. Keep in mind, they have Nick Johnson, a young first baseman who is a very good prospect, and every one in the system really likes him. Then there is always the chance that Jason Giambi is going to become a free agent. If he leaves Oakland, there is every indication that the Yankees are going to make sure he comes to New York. And if he does, then Tino is definitely gone. If Giambi stays -- which again is unlikely -- there's a chance Tino would come back. But it would just be on a one-year plus an option.
The only thing that could change that is if he hits a homerun tonight. George Steinbrenner is a very sentimental guy, and he could be swayed by that. But either way, Tino's going to get a pretty decent deal. If he doesn't come back with the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Mets, the Orioles, they are going to need a first baseman, and he's going to get a pretty good job.
Ley - They've already had a chance, both these guys, Brosius and Martinez to put a pull on the emotional heartstrings of George. Let's talk about Brosius, who had that wide throw last night, but had the big homerun in game five.
Kurkjian - Yeah, and I think it is more likely that Brosius returns to the Yankees, mainly because they have Drew Henson, a great young prospect at third base. But it doesn't appear that he's going to be ready until two years from now. So they need a stopgap for one more year, and if Brosius wants to return, and take the Yankees deal, I think he's going to come back here. And I think they need him back here. But there's no doubt that Drew Henson is one of the futures of the Yankees, and they are not going to sign anybody for more than one year. Because they think Henson will be ready in 2003.
Ley - Well we all know who's going to be signing the checks for the Yankees; it's Mr. Steinbrenner. Joe Torre has apparently agreed to a new deal. Brian Cashman, the GM, is going to stay. Acknowledging that Steinbrenner is the boss, who is going to make the final call on what these moves are?
Kurkjian - Well, Gene Michael and Joe Torre are going to have an awful lot of input here, but ultimately it is George's call. And again, he's a very sentimental guy. When Tino hit that homerun in game four, he really improved his chances of coming back with the Yankees. And if he does something great tonight, there's a chance George says, 'OK, we'll have to give him the extra year.' This happened with Jim Leyritz a few years ago, when he hit a home run. He got an extra year off of one home run in the World Series. So George makes the final call, but Torre, Gene Michael and others, including Brian Cashman, have a lot of say in this.
Ley - So millions of dollars in sentiment and emotion could be riding on this game seven tonight?
Kurkjian - Well, that's how it always is, with the Yankees. And you know, I think win or lose, George will take a hard look at this team. And he's not going to just keep guys to keep them. But if they do something special tonight, they'll improve their chances of coming back.
Ley - All right, Tim, thanks a great deal.
Next up - An update on a high school coach, a woman, who sued for the right to coach a boys' high school basketball team.
Ley - Last month we reported the story of Geri Fuhr, who won a federal sex discrimination suit and a nearly $1/2 million award after she was passed over as head coach of the boys' varsity basketball team at Hazel Park High, outside Detroit. Wednesday, Fuhr accepted that job, thereby forfeiting over $200,000 of her original jury award. Practice begins in two weeks.
You can watch that program or any of our Sunday morning "Outside The Lines" programs online at ESPN.com/OTLWEEKLY. Streaming video and transcriptions are there, and a place for your e-mail comments; our address - OTLWEEKLY@ESPN.com.
I will be back with Robin Roberts in 30 minutes with "SportsCenter." We will have the complete picture of game six in the World Series, Michael Jordan and his home opener, and the new top 25 college football poll.
Now, John Saunders in for Dick Schaap on "The Sports Reporters" at the ESPN Zone in Times Square. We'll see you next week.Send this story to a friend | Most sent stories
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