Skip to main content

Mark Jackson Tells The Story Of Playing The Lakers Shortly After Magic Johnson Retired From HIV: "I Was Shattered..."

Mark Jackson Tells The Story Of Playing The Lakers Shortly After Magic Johnson Retired From HIV: "I Was Shattered..."

There are many moments that have rocked the course of NBA history, but perhaps none surpass Magic Johnson's infamous press conference in 1991 when he shocked the world by announcing he was positive for HIV.

It was a scary and taboo diagnosis at the time, a virus that society had yet to fully understand. Magic would retire abruptly, leaving the NBA shook and the Lakers without their star.

For then-Knicks point guard Mark Jackson, he was floored when he heard the news. Here's what he said when he spoke on the subject in an interview with Shannon Sharpe on "Club Shay Shay":

"Magic Johnson announced that he tested HIV positive. We were playing the Lakers that night and I'm shattered. I’m sitting in my hotel room looking at the ceiling and my head is gone, we play the Lakers tonight and Magic just gave an announcement. Back then we thought it was a death sentence, so I’m shattered as a kid."

There is no doubt that it was a crazy time for the league that season, as everything had basically changed overnight. For many players, like Jackson, they had t come to grips with the idea that their favorite player might never be "healthy" again.

Of course, it also taught Mark another lesson.

As he went on to explain, his Knicks went on to face a Magic-less Lakers steam later that season, and Sedale Threatt (who was starting in Magic's place) went off for over 40 points that night.

"And so Sedale Threatt is starting for  Magic Johnson. That's a big drop off from Magic Johnson to Sedale Threatt, with all due respect. Sedale Threatt gave us 40+.  Gave us the business, the absolute business. There's nothing we could have done, we threw everything at him, but he was on fire. That's the difference between playing AAU ball, High School ball JV ball, college ball -- everybody in uniform has the ability to give you the business."

So, Mark and the Knicks didn't end up playing L.A. until much later -- months after Magic's retirement. But it is true that Threatt went off against them during the game, scoring a career-high 42 points.

In the NBA, you just never know what's going to happen. Whether it's a legend like Magic being forced out of the sport completely or his unknown replacement dropping 40 just a few months later.

Regardless, it's kind of wild to imagine what it must have been like for Mark Jackson that year, and what it must have felt like to play against L.A. for the first time since Magic's infamous presser.