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.

GQ calls Lakers fans worst in the NBA


In case you missed it while checking out the Armani ads, GQ (via The Basketball Joneswent looking for the worst fans in sports — congratulations Philadelphia! — and wouldn’t you know it only one NBA team was able to make this storied list:

The Los Angeles Lakers.

Congratulations, Angelenos! You are the fairest of America’s fair-weather fans! The Lakers unfaithful abandoned their team en masse when Magic retired in 1991, then reconfirmed their fickleness by sending local TV ratings plummeting 30 percent after Shaq departed in 2004. Meanwhile, in these championship days, the Staples Center is more bar scene than sports complex, where fans can’t be bothered to clap—their hands are too busy texting. “The focus is sometimes not on the court,” coach Phil Jackson has said. “It’s on the people in the crowd.” Which explains why eight box suites were recently combined into an offshoot of an abominable nightclub, the Hyde Lounge. After VIPs pass a clipboard gauntlet—at a sports stadium—they can eat $21 nachos at a crocodile-skin bar while waiting for the space to transform into a postbuzzer dance club. When it’s time to leave, a valet will even bring around their bandwagon.

GQ’s not wrong. They’re not totally right, either. And they took the easy way out with bashing the stars.

J.A. Adande has used this description before and it’s very apt — Los Angeles is like an iceberg. In People Magazine and on TMZ you see the 10 percent of the iceberg above water, the industry people who want to be seen. They’re dancing penguins on top of an iceberg (hey, that’s a great idea for a movie… oh, wait).

But the 90 percent you don’t see is just like every other city with mechanics and insurance salesmen and Thai restaurant cooks making up the majority of people. Well, L.A. has more Thai restaurant cooks than other cities, but you get the idea.

Lakers games are the same way — you see the texting stars courtside and hear about the Hyde lounge. But up above the luxury boxes in the 300 section are the real Lakers fans. People who do stick with the team when Shaq leaves town, where the Thai chefs who save their money to go to a couple games a year sit. There are plenty of real Lakers fans, you just don’t see them.

Now, many of those real Lakers fans have an unreal sense of entitlement and arrogance about their team, but that’s another issue all together.

All-Star Game draws best ratings since Jordan era

2011 NBA All-Star Game - Performances And Celebrities
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It was more than just Rihanna and Drake (and Kanye). It certainly was more than Lenny Kravitz.

It’s the game.

The NBA is as hot as it has been since the Jordan era and that continued again Sunday — the All-Star Game from Staples Center had 9.1 million people tune in to watch, the highest ratings since 2003, the year of Jordan’s retirement, TNT announced.

Ratings were up 33 percent over last year and up at least 29 percent in every age demographic and up at least 40 percent in every male age demographic.

That followed on the heels of an All-Star Saturday night that got the best ratings in the 26 years of the event.

All season long television ratings have been up for the NBA (and overall ticket sales are up one percent from last year). Credit the Heat and LeBron James, credit Kobe Bryant, credit the Lakers and Celtics being good at the same time again, credit young stars like Blake Griffin and Kevin Durant. Credit whatever you want (or all of it together), the numbers show it to be a reality.

Which will make it especially sad when the owners and players throw it all away by forcing a lockout that drives many of those fans away.