Former LA Lakers legend Magic Johnson still holds a grudge against shock jock Howard Stern, for claiming that the HIV positive baller “had fun getting AIDS” and should “talk Ebonics” during a disastrous 1998 interview.
“It is what it is. I learned a lot from that. I’ve never put myself — or HIV and AIDS, or my race — in that position again, ever again,” he said. “I was mad when they booked him. But there’s nothing you can do. When people look for ratings, this is what happens.”
After retiring from the NBA, Johnson launched a struggling talk show, “The Magic Hour,” which Stern repeatedly mocked him for on his own show. In a desperate bid for higher ratings, the show’s producer booked Stern as a guest.
“Let’s get right to it,” Johnson remarked when Stern walked on stage at the time. “Why have you been talking about me so much, man?”
“The thing you need to work on, in my estimation, is that you’ve gotta stop trying to talk like the white man,” Stern snarked back. “Everybody’s anti-Ebonics. I say, let it fly! What you need to do, ‘my brotha,’ is to really get down with it. You talk Ebonics all you want.”
Stern, who said he grew up in a Black neighborhood, imitated how he believed Black people speak, claimed he was “the Blackest Black man you’ll ever meet,” and told Johnson that he is “Blacker than you are, trust me.”
Stern went on to press Johnson about how he contracted HIV, which he revealed during a 1991 press conference upon his first retirement from the NBA in 1991. Johnson would rejoin the Lakers in 1996, taking the team to the first round of the playoffs, and retiring again after losing to the Houston Rockets.
“You had the life I wanted,” Stern remarked about Johnson’s sex life. “These were white chicks? Black chicks? What do we got? What did you prefer? You would have sex with everybody? At least you had fun getting AIDS.”
Johnson shot back that “nobody has fun” contracting the virus, but Stern disagreed. “Believe me, brother, you did. It sounds like fun to me,” he replied.
“So many times, I wanted to say something and hit him at the same time — on air,” Johnson said about the interview. “The Magic Hour” was canceled after three months and he has not spoken to Stern since.