Magic Johnson said this week he wanted to punch Howard Stern for mocking his HIV status on the short-lived NBA Hall of Fame talk show in 1998. The ex-Lakers star said that he hadn’t spoken to the shock athlete since, although they sat a seat apart during a New York Knicks game in 2012.
“So many times I’ve wanted to say something and hit it at the same time — on air,” Johnson told Variety in an article published Tuesday.
Stern had criticized Johnson’s show “The Magic Hour”, and the producers hoped to boost ratings by asking Stern to be a guest. (Watch the clip below.)
The appearance followed Johnson’s announcement in 1991 that he had HIV and was retiring from the NBA. He then played in the NBA All-Star Game in 1992 and the USA Dream Team at the 1992 Summer Olympics before returning to the NBA in 1996.
On Johnson’s show, Stern — even by his notoriously low standards — displayed poor taste, teasing Johnson about his HIV status and his pre-married life of “booty parties.”
“Were they white chicks?” Black chicks? What do we have? What was your favorite?” Stern said. “So you’d sleep with everyone? At least you had fun getting AIDS, you know what I mean.
Johnson said “let’s get this straight”: he had HIV and “no one has fun getting HIV”.
“Believe me, brother, you did it. … Sounds fun to me,” Stern replied.
Johnson ― whose career is featured in the upcoming Apple TV+ documentary series “They Call Me Magic” ― told Variety of Stern’s appearance, “I learned a lot from that. I never put myself ― or HIV and AIDS, or my race ― in that position again, ever again.
Stern also encouraged him to use more Ebonics slang on the show and asked band leader Sheila E. to take off her top.
Even before the infamous interview took place, Johnson said he was upset that he invited Stern. “When people look up notes, that’s what happens,” he said.
Stern did not return a request for comment to Variety.