When he was on the court, Earvin Johnson captivated fans with his awe-inspiring performances. He was “Magic.” But on November 7, 1991, the eyes of the world turned to The Forum in Inglewood, CA for reasons other than basketball. The perennial NBA All-Star and three-time MVP held a press conference in the building in which he led the Lakers to five NBA championships to announce he was HIV-positive. ESPN Films and NBA Entertainment look back 20 years at a moment that stunned the world with the documentary The Announcement premiering on ESPN/ESPN HD on Sunday, March 11, at 9 p.m. ET.
Directed by Nelson George, whose works include the critically-acclaimed HBO film Life Support, The Announcement is narrated by Magic Johnson, providing a unique perspective by telling the story in his own words. The documentary also contains riveting insights from the people closest to him including his wife Cookie, son Andre, longtime rival and friend Larry Bird, Los Angeles Lakers teammates James Worthy and Kurt Rambis, former Lakers general manager Jerry West, and longtime friend and agent Lon Rosen. NBA Commissioner David Stern, former NBA star Karl Malone, and close friends Chris Rock and Arsenio Hall also share their memories of that time and insights on the character of the man who put a new face on HIV and AIDS.
Now, more than 20 years after the announcement, George gets to the core of Magic’s incredible personal journey and explores how he continues to thrive two decades later, thanks in large part to the fortitude of his wife, the vision of his friend and AIDS activist, the late Elizabeth Glaser, and the commitment of his former head coach Pat Riley.
The Announcement includes:
Magic on telling his wife Cookie he was HIV-positive: “I played against the best in basketball: Michael Jordan, Larry Bird… shoot I thought that was going to be the most difficult thing to do. Those things were nothing. The most difficult thing in my life was driving from the doctor’s office to tell my wife Cookie, I had HIV.”
Magic on how he felt during the press conference: “Was I scared? No question about it I was scared. I wasn’t scared to announce it; I wasn’t scared of the media. What I was scared of is… would I see them again?”
Larry Bird on his reaction to the news: “I always want to play. I always want to get to the arena, get my uniform on and get out there, but I didn’t want to that day. I wanted no part of that game that night.”
Magic on Cookie who forced him to live when he was ready to give up on life: “I wasn’t Magic. I was just this guy who was so devastated that he gave up on life. Cookie had to talk to me, ‘Look, you always had plans to do more than just basketball, now is your time to do those things.’”
Magic on AIDS activist Elizabeth Glaser: “She told me that I was going to be fine. She was the first one who said, ‘You know you’re going to be fine. You know all the drugs that are coming down the pipeline you’re going to take advantage of that and you are going to be able to live for a long time.’ I tell you that is when I felt that I had a chance to be there and live for a long time and then she said to me, ‘The only thing I want from you is to be the face of this disease because they need the disease to have a face.’”
Magic on the reaction of some friends: “I would call people, ‘Let’s work out.’ They always had something to do. ‘Oh no, I can’t right now because I’ve got to get ready for the game or whatever.’ Can you imagine that? I played one-on-one my whole life and now I’m looking for someone to play one-on-one with.”
Magic on Pat Riley, who worked him out at Madison Square Garden, when others had shunned him: “That was the kick in the butt in a sense that I needed. It helped me to understand that there were better days ahead. He actually changed my life that day.”
About ESPN Films
Created in March 2008, ESPN Films produces high-quality films showcasing compelling sports stories. In October 2009, ESPN Films launched the Peabody Award-winning and Emmy-nominated 30 for 30 film series. Inspired by ESPN’s 30th Anniversary, the films that made up the series were a thoughtful and innovative reflection on the past three decades told through the lens of diverse and interesting sports fans and social commentators. Additional projects from ESPN Films include, among others, the critically acclaimed and Television Academy Honor-winning 16th Man, Cannes Film Festival official selection The Two Escobars, and the Peabody Award-winning Black Magic. Catching Hell, from Academy Award-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney, and Renée, from filmmaker Eric Drath, were featured in the latest ESPN Films series that aired in fall 2011. Press Kit
About NBA Entertainment
NBA Entertainment (NBAE) is one of the largest suppliers of sports television and digital programming in the world, managing television, film, photos, promotional campaigns and marketing partnerships, as well producing events domestically and internationally for the NBA, WNBA, and NBA Development League. Founded in 1982 as the definitive visual archive of the NBA’s history, NBAE’s growth can be attributed to a simple philosophy: to tell compelling stories about the game of pro basketball and the people it touches. That storytelling mission has been carried out through a variety of short and long-form programming, including acclaimed documentaries such as Once Brothers, produced as part of the Peabody-award winning ESPN Films “30 for 30” series, and the Emmy Award-winning documentary Whatever Happened to Micheal Ray. NBAE’s other projects have included the Emmy-nominated titles Road to Redemption and Manute Bol: Basketball Warrior.