"This has to scare everybody," says Atlanta Hawk forward Dominique Wilkins. "The more I think about it, the more scared I am. In fact, I'm scared to death."
A lot of players are. In hockey, football and basketball locker rooms across the country, players watched Magic's press conference in stony silence born of fear as well as compassion. "The first thing you heard the next morning was 'I need to get tested,' " says Chris Hale, a cornerback with the Buffalo Bills.
Players' loved ones had much the same reaction. "My mother even called," says SuperSonics forward Michael Cage. "She was crying, 'Michael, have you been tested? How did the test come out? Are you O.K.? Are there any other players who have tested positive?' "
Might athletes actually begin to reassess their sexual habits? Well, some may. "What happened to Johnson has opened my eyes in a major, major way," says Mike Lodish, a nosetackle with the Bills, "to the point of my considering becoming celibate until I choose to get married."
Says Atlanta Falcon wide receiver Andre Rison, "I think maybe there was too much going on. The Lord decided to stick a sense of urgency into this thing. I guess He just needed a hell of a good man to get the message across."
"Hell yes, the players are worried," says another pro athlete, a prominent NBA player. "The groupies scene is as alive as ever. There are nightclubs in certain cities where there are always women looking for athletes: Atlanta, Dallas and Salt Lake City. The Forum Club in L.A. I know cases where women have sat outside the arena with the hood of their car up, like they had car trouble, and tried to get a certain player to help them. If he doesn't, they follow him home. Now that's temptation."
"We don't even have to try," says Phoenix Sun guard Kevin Johnson. "We come into town, and the women come out in force. They know who we are, how much money we make. They throw themselves at us. They call the hotel, they follow the bus, they meet us at the airports. The women hover and wait to try to get you."
Often it is the same women, time and again. "I see the same ones hanging around now that I saw five years ago," says Chicago Bulls forward Horace Grant. "They're passed down from rookie to rookie. Once you've been around the league a while, you know their act."
"I remember one time we were talking in the locker room, and the name of a woman from Seattle came up," says an NBA player in the Eastern Conference. "Another player overheard it and said, 'Wait a minute, you know her?' And a third player said, 'You know her too?' Three different guys, and they'd all heard the same lines from her."
Only three? How about the woman whom the Los Angeles Times wrote about last week who was said to have invited a pro basketball player back to her home on the condition that he give her a pair of autographed sneakers. When the player complied, he found approximately 100 other pairs of sneakers in her closet that had also been autographed by NBA players.