Basketball superstar Magic Johnson locked himself in the bathroom after his shock HIV diagnosis to call all the lovers he’d had unprotected sex with.
Unable to remember how many women he’d slept with, the LA Lakers player tracked down as many as he could recall and told them his bombshell news.
In her upcoming memoir ‘Believing in Magic’ wife Cookie tells how the pair had barely been married six weeks and were expecting their first child at the time of their traumatic news in 1991.
Cookie, 57, tells how that night Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson’s playboy lifestyle and his habit of having unprotected sex came back to haunt him.
Johnson had to explain to each of them that he had tested positive for the disease, which at the time was considered a death sentence.
In the period before same-day HIV results, the women then had to wait 12 excruciating days to find out if they were in the clear.
Cookie writes in her new memoir ‘Believing in Magic’ that going through that herself was like being in her own ‘personal hell’
In the book, which is published later this month, she writes: ‘In just one moment our world, this perfect union we’d fought so hard and so long to have was obliterated.’
The memoir tells for the first time the impact on Johnson’s family of his decision to go public with his HIV diagnosis and quit the NBA.
It was a choice that made him the most public face of heterosexual HIV, a role he still has 25 years later, at the age of 57.
At the time a pregnant Cookie was terrified their first unborn child EJ might also have HIV.
Yet despite everything, not once did Cookie consider leaving her new husband.
‘We’re going to beat this together,’ she told him, and ordered him to get on his knees and pray.
Back then Johnson’s doctors told him he had three years to live.
She writes: ‘Every morning I would wake up in a panic, worried that I too might be HIV positive and die. Or worse, that my baby would be sick and not make it.
‘The stress coursed through my veins like a poison, occupying practically every moment of my day.’
Thankfully the tests proved negative.
The biggest challenge the family faced however, was how to handle Johnson’s public announcement.
The Lakers had claimed Johnson was out with flu-like symptoms and jet lag.
But at a press conference on November 7 1991, Johnson bravely revealed the truth.
He said: ‘Because of the HIV virus I have obtained, I will have to retire today from the Lakers’.
Johnson was 32 – eight years younger than Michael Jordan was when he retired from the NBA aged 40.
The announcement was like a bomb going off.
NBC’s Tom Brokaw said it was ‘so shocking and so unexpected it is difficult to absorb it, even as we report it’.
Johnson also had to endure speculation he was gay or bisexual.
After two attempts to rejoin the NBA Johnson left the game for good.
He shifted his focus to the Magic Johnson Foundation, which has spent the last two decades educating people about HIV and encouraging community groups.
Cookie writes that throughout she had been at his side.
She says that any troubles they went through after their marriage were arguably not as bad as the 12-year on-and-off relationship they had before their wedding.
The couple, who have been married 25 years, have three children together, Earvin ‘EJ’ who is the openly gay star of reality show “Rich Kids of Beverly Hills” , second son Andre and daughter Elisa.