Legendary Moments in NBA History

NBA History: Magic Johnson retires from basketball in 1991

Magic Johnson shocked the NBA world with the announcement on Nov. 7, 1991, that he had tested positive for the HIV virus and was retiring from the NBA.

At the time of his retirement, Johnson was the NBA’s all-time leader in assists with 9,981, a three-time winner of the NBA MVP and Finals MVP, and a 11-time NBA All-Star. During the 1990-91 season with the Lakers, Johnson averaged 19.4 points, 12.5 assists and 7.0 rebounds per game.

Johnson triumphantly returned to the league at NBA All-Star 1992, where he scored 25 points with nine assists to win All-Star Game MVP.

Two years later, after becoming a prominent spokesman for HIV/AIDS awareness, Johnson re-joined the Lakers as interim coach near the end of the 1993-94 season. The Lakers, who sat at 28-38 when Johnson joined, went 5-1 during Johnson’s first six games, but went on to lose five straight before Johnson announced his plans to not return as coach next season.

After an offseason of training, Johnson returned to the Lakers as a player on Jan. 29, 1996. Johnson came off the bench during his first game back and posted 19 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds in the Lakers’ win over the Golden State Warriors. Johnson averaged 14.6 points, 6.9 assists and 5.7 rebounds over 32 games. The Lakers finished the season with a record of 53-29 and were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.

Despite a desire to return for the 1996-97 season, Johnson permanently retired during the summer of 1996.

“I am going out on my terms,” Johnson explained. “Something I couldn’t say when I aborted a comeback in 1992.”