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I am certain that I was infected by having unprotected, sex with a woman who has the virus. The problem is that I can't pinpoint the time, the place or the woman. It's a matter of numbers. Before I was married, I truly lived the bachelor's life. I'm no Wilt Chamberlain, but as I traveled around NBA cities, I was never at a loss for female companionship.
Even in Los Angeles I was never far from admiring women. There were just some bachelors almost every woman in L.A. wanted to be with: Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall and Magic Johnson. I confess that after I arrived in L.A., in 1979, I did my best to accommodate as many women as I could—most of them through unprotected sex.
I was the one most NBA players looked up to when it came to women. I lived the kind of social life that most guys in the league wanted to lead. Now I'm pleading for every athlete and entertainer who has also been "out there" to get tested and, from now on, to practice safe sex. Guys, get out your hat, your raincoat—whatever you want to call a condom—and wear it. It doesn't matter how beautiful the woman might be or how tempting she might sound on the telephone. I know that we are pursued by women so much that it is easy to be weak. Maybe by getting the virus I'll make it easier for you guys to be strong.
I'm being a man about my past. I'm not running from anyone. As soon as the test results were confirmed, I started calling some of the women I used to date and telling them that I am HIV-positive. Of course, some of them are scared, but I'm hoping that all of them will get tested and that they will all be O.K.
By now I'm sure that most of America has heard rumors that I am gay. Well, you can forget that. Some people started the talk during the NBA Finals in 1988 and '89 when I kissed Isiah on the check as a pregame salute to our friendship and our respect for the game. But actually I've been hearing that kind of talk for a long time.
The most widely known fact about AIDS in the U.S. is that it affects homosexuals and intravenous drug users more than anybody else. But that's changing faster than the rest of us would like to believe. My doctors told me that the number of Americans who have been infected with HIV through heterosexual contact is drastically higher than just a few years ago.
I sympathize with anyone who has to battle AIDS, regardless of his or her sexual preference, but I have never had a homosexual encounter. Never.
I know that won't satisfy some people, but it really doesn't matter what they might say about me. From the jokes down on Wall Street to the Magic-must-be-gay stories that will still circulate, none of it matters. My skin is real thick, and as long as those same people who are telling the jokes and trading stories are getting tested and changing their life-styles and practicing safe sex, I'll win anyway.
That's also how I feel about the young people who have been so hurt by hearing that I tested HIV-positive that they have decided they won't be Magic Johnson fans anymore. On CNN the other day a young boy said that because of my condition he wasn't going to wear my T-shirt. I really don't worry about that kind of reaction, because we're way beyond talking about wearing someone's shirt or being his fan. We're now talking about life and death. If that same kid who takes off my T-shirt then puts on a "shirt" during sex, I've won again.
Thinking back over my career is like watching a 12-year highlight film. Five championships. Ten All-Star Games. Three MVP awards. Great plays. Great games. Great teammates. Great coaches. But there is one memory that has always stood out above all the others: Game 6 of the '80 NBA Finals against the 76ers in Philadelphia, when, as a rookie, I played the most amazing game of my career, and we won our first championship of the Showtime era.