Dealing with the magnitude of his HIV diagnosis was never going to be an easy task, but Magic Johnson’s wife has recalled how the former basketball star went into survival mode when having to inform his lovers that he had the disease. In her new memoir, Cookie Johnson reveals that the Lakers point guard ‘locked himself in a room and called the long list of women with whom he’d been intimate.’
The designer, and spouse of the NBA Hall of Famer, writes of how her husband’s health status rocked the foundation of her marriage in her book Believing In Magic, which is out later this month.
“In just one moment our world, this perfect union we’d fought so hard and so long to have was obliterated.”
And just like the scores of women who were forced to endure the 12-day wait to find out their fate, Cookie says she felt like she was living in her ‘own personal hell’.
Although human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can cause the immune system to fail, which leads to life-threatening infections and cancers to thrive – ie. acquired immune deficiency syndrome (Aids) – at the time, many believed they were the same thing.
“Every morning I would wake up in a panic, worried that I too might be HIV positive and die. Or worse, that my baby would be sick and not make it,” she explains in excerpts serialised by the Daily Mail. “The stress coursed through my veins like a poison, occupying practically every moment of my day.”
The book delves into the impact on his family by his decision to go public with his HIV diagnosis, and to quit the NBA in 1991. Cookie was pregnant with their first child, EJ, at the time. In the weeks leading up to the conference in 1991, the Lakers had informed press that he was suffering from flu-like symptoms and jet lag.
Despite retiring from the game, he returned to the game 1992 NBA All-Star Game, where he took home the MVP award, then played 32 games in 1995-96.
After enduring speculation that he was gay or bisexual, the 56-year-old former sportsman he has been working tirelessly with the Magic Johnson Foundation to eradicate the stigma that surrounds the disease.