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Magic Johnson and Larry Bird Talk HIV/AIDS on Letterman

By Kellee Terrell

April 18, 2012

Last week on the Late Show with David Letterman, to promote the new Broadway play about their NBA rivalry, basketball greats Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Larry Bird discussed how their relationship morphed from on-the-court adversaries to best friends. They also discussed the day that Magic disclosed that he is HIV positive.

The Huffington Post recapped a bit of the show:

The two became close friends due to a rivalry that developed beginning in 1979 and through the 1980s as the two of them were among the best players in basketball. That rivalry came with a mutual respect that blossomed into a genuine friendship. One that was firmly solidified by the time of Johnson's announcement.

"The best feeling is when a friend supports you," Johnson said of Bird after the announcement. "And this young man came and supported me. Forget the sports, forget the championships, forget the MVP. He came to my side and supported me and I'll never forget that."

Bird did that while suffering through a sort of grief he equated to when he lost his father. "It was the first time I could ever remember not wanting to play basketball. I had a pit in my stomach for days after, even after I talked to him because in my mind nine or ten years he's gonna be gone."

See a clip of the show below:

Last week, I had the chance to see Magic/Bird here in New York City on the last night of previews before its April 11 opening. I wasn't sure if a play chronicling two basketball legends' relationship from the late '70s to the early '90s was my thing. I also wasn't sure if Magic's disclosure and the stigma that he subsequently faced would be handled with the dignity and respect that it deserved. I feared that it would be some after-school special hot mess. Thankfully I was wrong.

It was touching, understated but powerful and pretty believable.

One of my favorite scenes was the show's opening, with Kevin Daniels, the actor playing Magic, reenacting the press conference, dressed in a similar black suit and tie. Meanwhile the backdrop at the exact same time was a throwback television clip of Magic disclosing. It was really brilliant.

Despite the mixed reviews, this is a play that will speak to both sports fans and anyone who is looking to be inspired.

Read Magic Johnson's interview with Playbill.com here.

Kellee Terrell is the former news editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.

Follow Kellee on Twitter: @kelleent.


Copyright © 2012 Remedy Health Media, LLC. All rights reserved.

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See Also
13 Moments in Black Celebrity Activism
History's Biggest HIV-Positive Celebrities
More About HIV on Television

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