A Look at "The Announcement"
Last night, ESPN aired a documentary called "The Announcement," which covered all of the context and significance in Magic Johnson's telling the world he was HIV positive.
Magic had led the Showtime Lakers of the 1980's to five championships, winning three MVP trophies in four years (87, 89-90). He was taller than most point guards, and he possessed incredible floor vision and passing ability. Magic was also an expert entertainer, which was a perfect fit for the bright lights and Hollywood-ness of not only the Lakers, but also the entire city of Los Angeles. The fact that Magic was known to be always smiling and laughing, engaging with reporters and with fans, contributed to the shock that he had contracted a debilitating virus.
In the documentary, Magic notes that he was perhaps the perfect person to get HIV. There are many reasons for this. For one, Magic put HIV/AIDS into the public eye in a mostly positive way. Now people were aware that the disease could affect people of all sexual orientations and walks of life. Also, Magic did not seem to the public to be incredibly depressed or sickly, which contributed to the belief that HIV/AIDS was entirely beatable, and no longer the death sentence which it had previously been defined as. To top it all off, Magic has become an active, vital leader in the HIV/AIDS community, spreading awareness since he announced he had contracted the disease on November 7th, 1991.
Magic was still confronted by several challenges within his own community. Infamously, star Utah Jazz forward Karl Malone expressed his concerns about playing with Magic in the 1992 All-Star Game (in which Magic competed despite not playing all season). Magic silenced his critics when he put on a show in the game and demonstrated how exciting and fun he was to watch. There was also notable apprehension whenever Magic suffered from a scratch or cut, which in fact led to strict NBA rules changes when it came to bleeding on the court (play must be stopped, trainers must wear latex gloves, uniforms must be changed). This was just one minor example of how much Magic's announcement changed the league.
While I thought that Magic's own telling of the story was important, he was not necessarily the best narrator, and I believe the film suffered artistically from this. Also, the documentary drifted to the cheesy/corny side occasionally. All in all, however, "The Announcement" was a good portrayal of an extremely important moment for one of basketball's most influential icons.
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