Today, Magic Johnson is known as one of the NBA's all-time greatest players. A 12x All-Star, 3x MVP, and 5x Champion, Magic is widely respected and revered all around the world.
But back in the early 90s, Johnson was the center of a huge controversy that rocked the NBA community to its core.
In November of 1991, the then-Lakers superstar shocked the world when he announced himself as HIV positive. With a minimal understanding of the virus at the time, it was a scary and somber moment for fans, who were forced to accept Magic's retirement at 32-years of age.
Obviously, nobody can imagine what Magic was feeling at that moment, as he was forced to give up his career for something that was so unknown and misunderstood.
Nevertheless, he would return to the court just months later.
During the 1992 All-Star game, Magic was voted as a starter by the fans, and what was supposed to be an ordinary All-Star match quickly developed into a tribute and love-fest for Johnson, who hadn't played for weeks at that point.
When he walked onto the floor for the first time, he was greeted by a thunderous chorus of cheers, which continued throughout the night.
The best moment, however, came towards the end, when Magic buried three straight 3-pointers to close out the game in typical fashion. With emotions running high, the match didn't even technically finish, as Johnson was swarmed with hugs and cheers.
“Words mean a lot,” Johnson had said. “But it’s feelings that count most. Ours is a game of compassion. I’ll never forget those hugs and high-fives.”
“It’s the first game ever to be called on account of hugs,” he said. “This was the perfect end to the story. I’d been trying to write this story all week, and that was like I was at my typewriter and I said, ‘Here’s my ending. Period.'”
That moment is, without a doubt, one of the best in basketball history, and probably the greatest goodbye any player has ever had.
Magic would return to play one more season in the league (and was actually just months away from playing with Kobe and Shaq), but nothing was more powerful than his experience back in '92.