Magic Johnson says he was infected with the AIDS-related virus by a woman, that he has never had a homosexual experience and that when doctors advised him to retire from pro basketball, he never gave it a second thought.
Writes Johnson in this week's issue of Sports Illustrated:
"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. . . . 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."
Chamberlain, the NBA's all-time leading rebounder, wrote in his recently published autobiography that he has had sex with about 20,000 women.
Johnson also indicates that he might still play in his annual charity game to raise money for the United Negro College Fund and the Olympics next summer in Barcelona, Spain.
"If I'm healthy, I might very well be on the floor for the opening tap at Barcelona," he says. " . . . I've won championships in high school, college and the pros. And I've won every major award there is. But I don't have an Olympic gold medal. I want it. God willing, I'll get it."
Johnson disclosed that he found out on Oct. 25 that he had tested HIV-positive and sat out the Los Angeles Lakers' first three games because of "flu" only because he and his doctors wanted to verify the first tests.
"I never had the flu as the team announced after I didn't show up for the game against the (Utah) Jazz on Oct. 25 and then missed the first three games of the regular season," Johnson says.
"I was not trying to deceive anyone. I only wanted to make sure that the insurance company's results were correct."
Johnson announced last Thursday that he had tested HIV-positive as the result of an insurance policy examination and said he had found out the test results the day before.
But in the Sports Illustrated article, co-authored by his biographer, Roy Johnson, Johnson says that he first found out when Michael Mellman, the team physician, telephoned him at his hotel room in Salt Lake City before an exhibition Oct. 25.
" 'I need to see you in my office. Today,' " Johnson says Mellman told him.
Johnson then flew back to Los Angeles, where Mellman told him he had tested positive for HIV, which causes AIDS.
Writes Johnson: " 'OK, that's it,' I said. 'I'll deal with it.' "
Johnson also says he told Cookie, his wife of less than two months, that night. "Naturally, she was stunned and hurt. And scared," he writes. "I said she should get tested right away. Then I started to tell her that I would understand if she wanted to leave me and that I wouldn't stand in her way if she wanted a divorce, but before I could get most of the words out of my mouth, she slapped me upside the head and said I was crazy. Cookie is a very strong woman. Marrying her is the smartest thing I've ever done."
From then until last Thursday, only a few people knew about the infection, he says--his agent, Lon Rosen; Laker owner Jerry Buss and General Manager Jerry West, and Johnson's parents.
"It was becoming more and more difficult to keep the secret from the other people who are closest to me--my teammates," Johnson says.
Shortly before his news conference, Johnson says he called five of his closest friends--talk-show host Arsenio Hall; his former coach, Pat Riley, now of the New York Knicks; Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics; Isiah Thomas of the Detroit Pistons and Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls.
"Larry cried. So did Arsenio. Isiah just didn't want to believe it. Pat and Michael listened in stunned silence," he says.
Johnson says also he spoke to my son, Andre: "He's 10 years old and lives with his mother in Michigan," Johnson writes. "I'm not sure he understood what I was telling him, but the most important thing, I said, was that no matter what he heard about his father, I still loved him. He understood that."
Johnson repeats that he is not a homosexual. "By now I'm sure that most of America has heard rumors that I am gay," he writes. "Well you can forget that. . . . 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. . . ."