When Magic Johnson retired in 1991 due to contracting HIV, the basketball world lost one of its true legends. Even though Johnson would be a part of the 1992 Dream Team, he decided not to return to the league since so many players had concerns about playing against him.
Knowledge of HIV and how it could be contracted was largely unknown during that timeframe, but as the years passed, information on the disease became more widespread, largely due to Johnson himself.
Thanks to less concerns over the years, Johnson decided to return to the Lakers in 1996, changing his role from point guard to power forward. On January 30, 1996 Magic Johnson officially returned to the NBA. And he came back with a bang.
Johnson scored 18 points, grabbed eight rebounds, and dished out 10 assists in his first game back, helping the Lakers defeat the Golden State Warriors 128-118. It was truly a special performance and validated the greatness of Johnson that he could play so well after five years away from the league.
When Johnson came off the bench to check into the game, the ovation he received was one of the greatest ever witnessed in the NBA. Whether you were a fan of Johnson or not, everyone admired his courage to come back and play the game he loved.
Johnson would go on to have a great season, averaging just under 15 points, seven assists, and six rebounds in 32 games for the Lakers, helping lead the team to a 53-29 record, and the fourth seed in the Western Conference.
The Lakers would fall to the Houston Rockets and Johnson would retire permanently after the season, but Johnson had done his part. And the night of January 30, 1996 will always be remembered in Laker Lore.
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