Transcript for Nov. 7, 1991: Magic Johnson's HIV Announcement
I was on a plane for much -- that they are returning to Washington from overseas. A fellow passenger turned out to be the senior public health physician for the world bank and asked me some... See More
I was on a plane for much -- that they are returning to Washington from overseas. A fellow passenger turned out to be the senior public health physician for the world bank and asked me some information. On the spread of HIV infection throughout Asia. The disease in India it turns out is already have such epidemic proportions that if it continues to grow at its current pace. Then by the year 2000 there will be more HIV infected people in that country alone than throughout the entire world today. The doctor was wondering if there was any way that we could get Americans to focus on that. A couple of hours later my wife and I were waiting for a taxi at Dulles airport one of the dispatchers approached me. And I heard he wanted to know about Magic Johnson. And then of course is what millions of Americans are talking about tonight the tragedy of one man whom we all know and like and admire. There's so much easier to grasp -- phone with far greater impact -- the fate of hundreds of thousands of strangers. That is both a tragedy and the value of the Magic Johnson story. We Begin with this report from -- march. -- -- -- -- -- -- Of the more than 125000. Americans who died of aids -- were household names. And even as the numbers of multiplied. This week the Centers for Disease Control estimated between one and one and a half million Americans are infected with the HIV virus. Our curiosity about people with -- has often been limited to one hostile question how did they get it. Popular sympathy for people with aids has largely been reserved for those like Kimberly Bergalis who was infected by her dentist. Who can answer that one question without admitting to either drug abuse or homosexuality. The exceptions to that rule have been people who were already known to be exceptional -- for the got a news. People I think are jolted. And are surprised and a profound way -- anyone who is famous for anyone who one would not associated with this disease. Becomes diagnosed with -- we saw that certainly in the case of Rock Hudson which was a major turning point -- -- disease. For people who otherwise have had no personal contact with people would they know there's somebody that they know who has this disease. And it personalized as the epidemic in an important way it brings the epidemic -- Today of Los Angeles the epidemic hit home in a new went in describe what -- -- -- your back is against the wall. And I think that you just have to come ons one -- poignant. Somehow the smile that always seemed as magical -- his play on the basketball court never deserted Ervin Johnson today. As he announced at the age of 32. His premature retirement as one of the greatest athletes of -- I missed the battles in the wars for most of all what on this. If there's camaraderie that I have with the guys we want balanced. Perhaps more than any other superstar. Magic Johnson played like one of the guys. The one statistic in which he -- pro basketball's all time leader is for assists. Leading to somebody else's basket. His most legendary game the final game of the 1980 league championship series. He played out of position filling in for the injured superstar center Kareem Abdul Jabbar. As the lakers defeated the heavily favored Philadelphia 76 years. In twelve years with Los Angeles Johnson led the team to nine championship finals. To the lakers his sudden loss cost so much more than just a star player. Obviously it's devastating for us I think particularly emotional -- a lot of us. Good very good thing. Painful emotions swept across all the teams and Arenas of the NBA tonight I think it's very important for us right now at this time. To take a moment of silence not. In any other form other -- to. Give our love and our support. In our prayers for urban. It's obvious saddest day I can remember in my lifetime to hear from -- like -- in order today. -- -- -- -- The demands of the pro game -- doctors make it impossible for Johnson to keep on playing. Even though manager currently has no symptoms of aids other than having tested positive for the HIV virus. The rigors of playing professional basketball to include significant. Exhaustion on a regular basis. -- alterations of normal dietary and activity habits may. Impaired individuals immune system and since this disease also does. The medical judgment is for -- To not continue down. His illness will also cost magical long cherished dream to play in the Olympics. In 1992 when the first contingent of NBA stars -- for their country. Magic Johnson will be where he used them since the beginning of the current NBA season. On the sidelines cheering others. But Johnson says he'll study of -- spotlight. Perhaps as the owner of an NBA -- and -- long held dream and certain as a spokesman for those infected with HIV. Because I want people -- young people to realize that they can. Practice safe sex. And you know sometimes you and I knew about it -- you think he could never happen to you. Jim Graham whose Whitman walker clinic ministers to -- with the aids in the Washington area says Johnson's message is urgently needed in minority communities. Which have been shaken by -- double epidemic. Of HIV infection and denial. -- -- African American for the Hispanic. This is still another problem. -- already burdened shoulders. And it's understandable. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- And you know I think that's been part of the denial. Magic Johnson -- long been a role model often as well -- on the court. His recent wedding to longtime girlfriend cookie Kelly was a major social event. His diversified business -- wrist -- from Los Angeles to Washington. That nagging. At his charity basketball exhibitions have raised millions of dollars for the United Negro College Fund and other causes. Ironically his last games were played in Paris exhibition just before the NBA season began in which his lakers beat European teams. European fans found the same charm grace and generosity American fans have always associate with -- -- jobs. I'm so I've already got me that he -- the role model. -- -- -- -- That's devastated. Absolutely -- city. I can't believe it medics are completely inspirational figure to everybody from all walks of life. Trinidad. Who has. You know money. Interest each. -- -- Claire -- best. And have a -- could have -- Barrett said Dave for all Americans who. Have an attitude of achievement that it doesn't symbolize that throughout his career. A lot of young kids -- doubts colored -- and a and hopefully though this is that negative experience something positive incumbent in that all of us are -- -- terrible. It hasn't -- and we -- just hope for cures and wished abyss of bad spam. So -- of the famous people who have died of aids refused to admit what was killing them. And most of those who work Camden -- on the brink of death before they -- realize their situation. Or publicly disclosed it. -- they evidence of the public perception that any mention of aids is nothing but a death sentence. Magic Johnson seems to have lots of life left -- seems determined to use it to the fullest notwithstanding of virus whose final implementation. Is the only thing about it well understood. I plan on going on live -- time voting you guys that have always have. So you see here around up -- won't -- with the lakers and believe hopefully David to have me for a while. And going on -- my life.
This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.