Magic Johnson had to convince Michael Jordan to let him be part of 1992 Olympic team

Johnson had retired due to HIV diagnosis, but made a supremely impressive return

Magic Johnson had to convince Michael Jordan to let him be part of 1992 Olympic team

The 1992 US Men’s Olympic Basketball team remains one of the greatest stories in sports, however there was almost a moment where one of the most important players wasn’t even included in the team.

Magic Johnson was a true NBA legend, yet in 1991 he had been forced to retire from the sport as a direct result of his HIV diagnosis.

It was a moment which stunned the sporting world, especially with the comparative lack of knowledge about the disease compared to the modern day.

Yet, Johnson refused to let the disease beat him and within a year he was back playing in the NBA all-star game and pushing for a spot in the 1992 Olympic team, yet he had to convince a number of people.

Johnson had to convince both Michael Jordan and Larry Bird of his value to the team.

How did this situation come about?

On June 23, 2024, BBC News uploaded a video on their YouTube channel featuring Magic Johnson in the series Influential with Katty Kay.

In the interview, Johnson discussed his career, HIV advocacy, and Olympic memories.

Commissioner David Stern had called the five-time NBA champion about his selection, and Johnson couldn’t hide his excitement.

“It was the greatest moment of my life, especially coming after I had retired due to HIV,” Johnson told Influential.

“So personally, I needed this too.”

Johnson explained that convincing MJ was the toughest part since Jordan had already won gold at the 1984 Summer Olympics. But Magic had prepared a speech, enticing Jordan with the idea of hanging out every night and playing cards together and the promise that Jordan could play golf all day, come to the game, score 30 points by halftime, and then relax.

This approach worked, and Jordan gave his blessing for Johnson to join the squad.

To persuade Larry Bird, who was dealing with a back injury, Magic used an emotional appeal.

“Larry, this is a chance for our kids to see us play in the Olympics, not on the Boston Celtics or the Lakers,”

“You can just play 10 minutes a game. All I want to do is come down, do a no-look pass to you, and you shoot a three-pointer.

“We’ll both be very happy.”

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