NBA legend Earvin "Magic" Johnson says his faith in God was essential in carrying him through the valleys of his Hall of Fame career, including during the days and weeks after he was diagnosed with HIV and thought he was on death's doorstep.
Johnson's personal and public life are the subject of a new four-part Apple TV+ documentary series, They Call Me Magic.
"Faith was everything. I always lean on my faith," Johnson told media members this week when asked how his faith sustained him following his HIV diagnosis in 1991.
Johnson was raised Seventh-day Adventist.
"God has truly blessed me to come through a lot of challenges in my life, especially when I think about HIV," Johnson said.
God, he added, was "always … there for me and helping me make the right decisions when I need to make tough decisions." God "just blessed me with the best wife that a man could have in Cookie, and our children and grandchildren," he added.
"So I lean on my faith all the time," he said. "I will never stop doing that – loving the Lord, loving God. And I just thank Him every day for everything that He's blessed me with."
Although Johnson was the centerpiece of the 1980s Lakers dynasty in big-city Los Angeles, he grew up in a much smaller city, Lansing, Mich.
"I got my values" in Lansing, Johnson said.
He went to high school and college there. Johnson was drafted out of Michigan State.
His mother, Christine Johnson, still lives in Lansing.
"My mother is everything. I'm a mama's boy. I love my mother to death – we're tight., we're close," Johnson told media members. "... She's a woman of huge faith. She's very involved in her church. And she raised us the same way – all the kids – to be involved in the church. And we're all involved in our different ways. She has always prayed for me and has always been there for me."
Johnson says he still enjoys going back to Lansing to eat his mom's "famous sweet potato pie and apple pie" and to "sit back and just talk to her."
"She has influenced my life to give back," he said. "That's the reason I give back so much is because of my mother. And I love her for that."
They Call Me Magic is rated TV-MA and includes some strong language.
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Photo courtesy: ©Apple TV+, used with permission.
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.