Magic Johnson said this week he wanted to hit Howard Stern for mocking his HIV status on the NBA Hall of Famer’s short-lived talk show in 1998. The ex-Lakers star said he hasn’t spoken to the shock jock since, although the two sat one seat apart from each other at a 2012 New York Knicks game.
“So many times, I wanted to say something and hit him at the same time — on air,” Johnson told Variety in an article published Tuesday.
Stern had been critical of Johnson’s show “The Magic Hour,” and producers hoped to bump up the ratings by asking Stern on as a guest. (Watch the clip below.)
The appearance followed Johnson’s 1991 announcement that he had HIV and was retiring from the NBA. He went on to play in the 1992 NBA All-Star Game and on the U.S. 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 bad taste, teasing Johnson about his HIV status and his pre-married life of “booty parties.”
“These were white chicks? Black chicks? What do we got? What did you prefer?” Stern said. “So, you would have sex with everybody? At least you had fun getting AIDS, you know what I’m saying.”
Johnson said “let’s get something straight:” he had HIV and “nobody has fun getting HIV.”
“Believe me, brother, you did. ... It sounds like fun to me,” Stern responded.
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’ve 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 actually took place, Johnson said he was upset about inviting Stern. “When people look for ratings, this is what happens,” he said.
Stern did not return a request for comment from Variety.