Cookie writes that Johnson called her up and said, ‘I’m coming home early because I have to tell you something.’
Cookie tightened her grip on the receiver and could feel herself becoming nervous.
Johnson said, ‘I have to talk to you, but I’m on my way to the doctor’s office right now.
‘I’ll tell you what’s going on when I get home, Cookie. I can’t tell you over the phone’.
Cookie writes that her husband’s hushed words ‘sent a chill creeping over my heart’. She thought he had suffered a career ending injury, wanted a divorce or was leaving her.
She asked him: ‘What’s wrong, do you have AIDS or something?’
Johnson did not reply.
An hour later Johnson walked through the door. Her 6ft nine inch tall basketball superhero looked ‘small, blank, broken’.
Cookie writes: ‘My husband walked toward me, took my hand into his and slowly marched me back into the den…the two of us sat at the foot of our huge chaise lounge and I held my breath’.
Johnson broke the devastating news to her and they fell into each other’s arms. […]
Johnson told her that she could leave him if she wanted but she grabbed his hand and put it on her belly.
‘We’re going to beat this together,’ she told him, and ordered him to get on his knees and pray.
Then came the most humiliating part of it all: Johnson ‘locked himself in a room and called the long list of women with whom he’d been intimate’, Cookie writes.
When Magic was diagnosed with HIV in 1991, the disease was believed to be limited to the gay community. Hearing of a person receiving HIV from heterosexual sex was unheard of. After his diagnosis, Cookie had to wait 12 days for her tests to come back:
She writes: ‘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.
‘The stress coursed through my veins like a poison, occupying practically every moment of my day.’
To make matters worse, she was pregnant with the couple’s first child, a son to be named Earvin Johnson, III. Both Cookie’s and her unborn son’s tests came back negative. Magic was initially given 3 years to live. He contacted a famous AIDS activist, Elizabeth Glaser, who was married to Starsky & Hutch star Paul Michael Glaser. Glaser had contacted the virus during a blood transfusion and had given it to her daughter through breastfeeding. She encouraged Magic to go public with his diagnosis. It was then in November 1991, during a televised conference that Magic rocked the nation with the news that he was HIV+ and retiring from the NBA at 32 years old.
25 years later at 57 years old, Magic Johnson is still the face of life after an HIV diagnosis.
In the book, Cookie also revealed Magic’s reaction to their only son Earvin “EJ” Johnson, III telling his parents he’s gay. See more on NEXT PAGE.