Looking Back At Magic Johnson And Karl Malone - The Downbeat - #614

"You're HIV-positive. You have the AIDS virus."

Those were the words that Magic Johnson heard 20 years ago from his doctor while he was sitting in his hotel room before a pre-season game against the Jazz in Salt Lake City.

Johnson's doctor suggested that Magic retire so as to not risk worsening his condition.  Magic stated in that article he he felt like he was in the best condition of his career.  What followed was one of the biggest stories in sports history.

He made the results public two weeks later at a press conference in Los Angeles and announced that he would be retiring from the NBA immediately.  Many of you may not have been around in 1991 or are too young to remember.  But even in the non-Internet world, I heard the news almost immediately in a small town of 3,000.

People were largely uneducated about HIV and AIDS at that time.  There were so many misconceptions and falsehoods about the disease.  To me, all I knew was that it meant certain death.  Once the HIV virus turned into AIDS, your immune system would become so weak that any small infection or other virus would kill you.  Frankly, I'm surprised that I knew that much about it at the time given that it was a relatively recent discovery.

Magic would end up playing in the All-star game that season however and would play for the Dream Team in Barcelona.  When it was decided that he could play basketball still with no additional harm done, he made a comeback and returned for the 1992-93 season.  This of course is where Karl Malone is demonized for his statements and becomes the face for the anti-Magic sentiment of NBA players,

"Look at this, scabs and cuts all over me," Malone, the Utah Jazz All-Star forward, said last Tuesday night in the visitors' locker room at Madison Square Garden before a preseason game against the Knicks.

He pressed a finger to a small, pinkish hole on his thigh that was developing into a scab. "I get these every night, every game," he said. "They can't tell you that you're not at risk, and you can't tell me there's one guy in the N.B.A. who hasn't thought about it."

These were ignorant comments but he wasn't alone.   Even in the SI article, Magic admits that before he learned of his condition, he had no idea about the disease.  So when you have a personality like Malone that doesn't mince words combined with the lack of education, his comments are going to come off as sound harsh.  He could have handled it differently.  Magic later admitted that Malone's comments hurt him,

"It's just like a good friend saying we cannot hang out any more," he said of players coming out against him. "I know 80 percent of them real well, and it did hurt. Karl hurt me, of course. I'm human. I'm hurt today not being out there. The lawsuit hurts. I think maybe Karl should've called. He was at the Forum a couple days during preseason. He could've called out of respect."

Malone had remorse later over saying it but said he meant it,

Years later, Malone said: "Maybe I shouldn't have said that, but I meant what I said. You're young, you don't know a lot of information on it."

Malone later met with Magic in 1993 in Salt Lake in an effort to set things straight,

"I never felt I had the kind of relationship with Magic that I could just pick up the phone and call him at home," Malone said. "It's a matter of making sure the air is clear. In the beginning, everybody wanted tomake this a bigger story. But now, more and more people understand the timing and know I had nothing to do with it (Johnson's retirement).

Magic brought much-needed press to the disease and to the stigma surrounding it.  I'm glad to see that he's still living and still fighting against it.  I hope that it has helped others and will one day lead to an effective cure and treatment.

  96 hours?  Wasn't that the terrible sequel to 48-hours?  Either way, the league has now given the players a take it or leave it ultimatum for Wednesday according to Ken Berger,

League negotiators essentially offered the players a 50-50 split of basketball-related income, their obvious target for weeks. The offer was tweaked into the form of a 49-51 percent band for the players' share - the same band discussed informally Oct. 4 at a key meeting that fell apart over the split of revenues between owners and players.

In the league's proposal, the players would receive 50 percent of revenues (net about $600 in expense deductions, as in the previous system) if revenues grew as projected - 4 percent a year. Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver portrayed the band as capable of delivering a 51 percent share to the players if there was, as Stern described, "significant growth."

But Kessler -- speaking with Fisher in the union's press conference in the absence of executive director Billy Hunter, who was "under the weather," according to an NBPA official - said it would take the "wildest, most unimaginable, favorable projections" for the players to ever receive 51 percent of revenues.

"The proposal that this is a robust deal at 51 is a fraud," Kessler said. "... You can't get to the top of the band."

Then word came out that the players will be pushing for a de-certification vote today and tomorrow.  According to ESPN, the players will get the 130 needed votes to push for a vote on whether to de-certify.  It's unknown if they would get the actual simple majority to vote for de-certification.  And according to ESPN, the actual vote wouldn't take place for 45 days.

So yeah.  There's that still going on.

This is an interesting concept that will never happen.  But what if players shared in the risk of the league and became part-owners?  The NY Times expounds on that.

  I love Skeets and Tas,

TBJ Tour video: Spirit guide from The Basketball Jones on Vimeo.


 

  There are still tickets for tonight's Pro Player Classic at SLCC.  From what I gleaned from Smithtix, most of the cheapest and most expensive seats are nearly gone.  There seemed to be plenty of middle section seating left.  You can also buy tickets at the venue tonight but with no guarantees of a seat of course.

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