OWN

Cookie Johnson On The Moment Magic Told Her He Was HIV Positive

"It took every strength in me to keep standing."

On November 7, 1991, Magic Johnson stunned the world when he announced he would be retiring from basketball because he had contracted the HIV virus. During his historic announcement, Magic briefly mentioned that his wife, Cookie -- who was pregnant with their first child -- had not contracted the virus.

Though she and the baby were safe, Cookie’s entire world was turned upside down. In her upcoming “Super Soul Sunday” interview with Oprah, she goes back to the moment when Magic broke the news to her.

“I’m home alone and he finally walks through the door and at this point, I’m kind of shaking because I’m like, ‘What is it?’ What could it be, you know?” Cookie says. “And he came in slowly and he just said, ‘I don’t know how else to tell you. I’m just gonna tell you.’” 

With every terrible thought undoubtedly racing through her mind, Cookie says she actually guessed what Magic’s news was. “It’s so funny because I literally joked and said, ‘What, are you gonna tell me you’ve got AIDS or something? I literally joked and said that.’”

To Cookie’s shock, he confirmed it was true. Magic had contracted HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. “It was like time stopped and, like, froze,” Cookie says. “I’m standing there looking at him and I couldn’t move.”

It took a moment to sink in, and then Cookie’s first question was to ask if he was sure. He told her he was waiting for more test results to confirm, but then dropped another bomb: Cookie would have to be tested as well.   

“Then that was another fear,” she says. “I’m like, ‘Oh, my God.’ Myself. And then I thought, ‘Oh, my God -- I’m pregnant. What about the baby?’”

“It took every strength in me to keep standing,” Cookie says.

The couple was embracing and crying together when Magic gave Cookie an out. “He pulled himself back and he said, ‘You know, you can leave me if you want. I totally understand. I would not want to put you through this.’”

But Cookie says her mind was already made up. “I slapped him and said, ‘Are you kidding? No. I love you. We’re gonna figure this thing out. We’re gonna figure this thing out together.’”

Cookie’s full interview with Oprah on “SuperSoul Sunday” airs September 25 at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. ET.

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