Tag: Los Angeles


20 years ago today, Magic Johnson changed the face of HIV


I know exactly where I was 20 years ago today, Nov. 7, 1991, a little after 3 in the afternoon.

I was at a part-time job at a medical company I had to earn beer money while in school, listening to the radio and doing menial work a trained chimp could have done better. Then the DJ broke in with the news:

Magic Johnson had HIV. He was retiring from the Lakers.

If you grew up a Lakers fan as I did — or even just a fan of basketball — was a punch to the gut. Maybe more than that. The rest of the day seemed foggy. I don’t remember if I cried, but I know Jerry West, Pat Riley, A.C. Green and virtually everyone close to Magic cried a lot that day.

Ervin Magic Johnson was bigger than basketball in Los Angeles, he was (and is) my favorite player and he had been given what we all thought at the time was a death sentence.

Fortunately for all of us — especially Magic — it didn’t turn out that way. For much of America he would change the face of the disease and what it meant to live with it. Magic would go on to play again, be on the Dream Team and win gold, then go on to help reshape Los Angeles as a businessman bringing amenities and shopping to neighborhoods where before that chains feared to tread.

His announcement 20 years ago today changed a lot of things, as a great Time magazine article on the issue reminds us (via The Big Lead).

“It made people notice, for the first time, that you can get infected with HIV without being gay, without being a drug user, without being a sex worker,” says Kevin Frost, CEO of amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research. “A lot of people took notice, and that changed the perception of how people got infected, and who was at risk.”

And since that day, Johnson has changed the perception of what it means to live with HIV. By not only surviving the past 20 years, but also by all appearances remaining healthy while becoming a prosperous businessman who has replicated his on-court success in the boardroom, Johnson has shown that HIV doesn’t have to be a death sentence. Johnson is still the most visible, high-profile symbol of a fact unimaginable in 1991. HIV can be beat.

When Magic someday passes — long, long into the future, we hope — there will be highlight videos of no-look passes to James Worthy and remembrances of his battles with Larry Bird. His basketball accomplishments will rightfully be celebrated.

But what Magic has done off the court will forever dwarf what he did on it.

The lives he changed by changing the perception of HIV. What he has done as a businessman. That changed more lives than all the no-look passes put together.

That is Magic’s true legacy. And it all started 20 years ago today in a way that shocked us all.

Jennings says Kobe isn’t L.A. enough for Drew League

Milwaukee Bucks v Atlanta Hawks, Game 7

The Drew League wants a rematch. The legendary Los Angeles pro-am league flew its best to Washington D.C. to take on the Goodman League and its best lost by one point with some controversial refereeing thrown in.

Drew League officials are working to make a rematch happen on the West Coast. As part of that, they want to bring in the biggest name in Los Angeles basketball — Kobe Bryant. Because he’d help the team, and because his name helps sponsors jump on board.

But L.A. native and Drew League regular Brandon Jennings is not down with that. Here is what he told Chris Palmer of ESPN (via twitter):

Brandon Jennings on Kobe: “He wasn’t born and raised in LA. You gotta be from LA to play for Drew. Show me a birth certificate.”

That birth certificate will say Philadelphia. East Coast.

Kobe has his defenders, including Kevin Durant, who got into a little twitter fight with Jennings on the issue.

Born there or not, Kobe is the face of basketball in Los Angeles right now. He owns the city. He’s got five rings that all say Los Angeles on them. And he’s played a game at the Drew League — an odd little add-on game, but a game none the less.

Kobe may not be pure Drew like Jennings or James Harden or Baron Davis, but right now he is pure Los Angeles. Even if he lives in Newport Beach in the OC. So I guess the question is how do you define being an Angelino.

I think I know how Jennings defines it.

Spurs win, Lakers lose — top seed in the West rests in San Antonio

San Antonio Spurs v Atlanta Hawks

I hope y’all like Tex Mex, because the road to the NBA finals in the West runs through San Antonio.

Sure, the two seed Lakers and top seed Spurs play next Tuesday, but now people will want to see that game about as much as they want to listen to a new Go-Go’s album. Or a watch regular season Kansas City Royals game.

Mathmatically the Lakers are still alive, but the Spurs all but wrapped up the top spot in the West they beat the Atlanta Hawks 97-90 in a pretty sloppy game Tuesday. The win kept the Spurs (59-19) two games up on the Lakers in loss column — and three of San Antonio’s four remaining games are against lottery teams. They weren’t likely to lose those if they put out much effort, so even if the Spurs fell to the Lakers (and the Lakers won out) it wouldn’t matter if they won the other three.

Then the Lakers went out and played a sloppy, disinterested game against the Jazz and lost.

The Jazz were one of those lottery teams expected to roll over at the end of the season, but to quote Apollo Creed’s trainer from Rocky, “He doesn’t know it’s a damn show! He thinks it’s a damn fight!” Gordon Hayward hit a game winning free throw, then Kobe Bryant fumbled the ball out of bounds on the last play and walked off the court staring at his hands in disbelief.

That puts the Lakers at 55-22, 3.5 back with four to play and three back in the loss column.

The Spurs magic number is 2 (any combination of Spurs wins and Lakers losses to reach that number and San Antonio clinches the West). Look for the Lakers to start resting guys as they realize they are the two seed (third seed Dallas is two full games back of Los Angeles and is not going to catch them).

San Antonio does have Chicago just 1.5 games back and the Spurs magic number for the best record in the NBA is 4. Meaning the Spurs still need to get some wins to lock up home court throughout (Chicago still plays Boston, Orlando and has a New York/New Jersey back-to-back left, so there may be losses in their future).

All hail the Spurs. They won the regular season prize. Which is not the big prize they covet, but it does come with home-court advantage. And Tex Mex.