NBA legend turned entrepreneur Magic Johnson was in the Valley on Friday at the Scottsdale/Paradise Valley YMCA, but he wasn’t there to shoot hoops. He’s serving as a spokesperson for “Sideline RSV“, an awareness campaign for the respiratory virus that claims the lives of 10,000 older adults every year.
Before Friday’s event, Johnson spoke exclusively with ABC15 about the campaign, his own personal health battle and his successful hall-of-fame career.
The NBA superstar had a remarkable 13 years with the LA Lakers, accomplishing everything a player could dream of from five championships, MVP Awards and an Olympic gold medal.
When asked what his fondest memory is from his basketball era, Johnson said winning those five champions with the Lakers.
“It was something that I’ll never forget and going to the finals nine times in 12 years, and you never forget your teammates, right? Because we were on this incredible journey together,” he said.
But in 1991, Johnson stunned the world, announcing he was retiring after testing positive for HIV, which he was told was a death sentence at the time.
“I had a lot of questions for my doctor. How can I be here a long time? He told me I had to take my meds and have a positive attitude and continue to work out so all three of those things I was able to do. But also, the support of my family was very important,” Johnson said.
At the time, he vowed to be a spokesperson for HIV, breaking the stigma surrounding who could get it. Now 32 years later, he’s serving as a new spokesperson, joining the YMCA and the healthcare company GSK to raise awareness about RSV.
“Promoting good health, health and wellness has been important to me,” Johnson said.
Data from the CDC shows every year, over 170,000 people 65 and older are hospitalized with RSV. About 14,000 of them die.
But for the very first time, just this past June, the CDC gave the green light for two RSV vaccines for older adults.
“We want them to go call their family members, their friends, their community and spread the word,” Johnson said.
Along with this new campaign, Johnson is a sports team owner and successful entrepreneur. When asked what’s next in his career, he said we will just have to wait and see.
“God usually has a plan for me,” he said. “I don’t know what is next, whatever he has in store for me, I’m fine with that.”