Magic's last point

November 08, 1991

It belabors the obvious to say that it is a profound tragedy that so winsome and talented a young man as Earvin "Magic" Johnson has become infected with the AIDS virus. But there is also profound irony. Johnson's stunning disclosure comes at a time when another basketball great, Wilt Chamberlain, is promoting his newly published biography in which he claims to have had "sexual encounters" with 20,000 women.

The claim is obviously spurious; it would mean three "encounters" a day for 20 years. But whether intended or not, Chamberlain's boast can only serve to legitimize promiscuous sexual conduct, making it appear as routine an activity as throwing a few baskets after school.

Now "Magic" Johnson intends to devote the rest of his life to erasing that pernicious notion. Johnson is young enough to be Chamberlain's son, and in a metaphorical sense, he now must die for the sins of "role models" like Chamberlain. It is a measure of Johnson's extraordinary life that he intends to spend the remainder of it driving home the point that conduct does have consequences, and they can be fatal.

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