He had just told his wife that he had HIV and that his glittering basketball career was over.
But Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson faced something even more humiliating than giving his beloved Cookie the shocking news.
That night in 1991 the Los Angeles Lakers point guard ‘locked himself in a room and called the long list of women with whom he’d been intimate’, Cookie writes.
Johnson’s playboy lifestyle and his habit of having unprotected sex had come back to haunt him.
He could not remember how many women he had slept with. So he tracked down as many as he could and gave each a call which would turn their lives upside down.
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’ – one marked by ‘silence and darkness, numbness’.
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 which made him the most public face of heterosexual HIV, a role that he still has 25 years later, at the age of 57.
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