Cookie Johnson has opened up about the devastating moment when her NBA star husband, Magic Johnson, told her he was HIV-positive in 1991.
"It scared me to death,” she told Good Morning America
on Tuesday. “I fell to my knees. We both fell on our knees and we started crying."
"I didn't have time to get mad about whatever happened, you know, or start asking questions,” she continued. “[My mind] went to, 'He is possibly going to die.'"
The shocking news came as Johnson was at the height of his basketball career with the Los Angeles Lakers and just 45 days after the couple’s wedding. The pair had also just discovered they were expecting their first child, E.J
. (now 24), and the revelation put their relationship to the ultimate test.
"He said, 'If you want to leave, I don't blame you. It's OK. I understand,'” recalled Johnson, who shares the harrowing time in her new memoir, Believing in Magic. “Then I said, 'Are you kidding me? No. I love you. I'm gonna stay here and help you live. We're gonna figure out how to beat this thing."
Johnson added that she was "scared to death" while waiting to find out if she or her baby had also contracted the virus.
"In those days, you had to wait almost 10 days to get your results back, so that was agonizing," she told GMA. "Finally, the results came in and what they told me was that if the mother is negative, then the baby is automatically negative. And they didn't have to worry about trying to test the baby because he hadn't really formed yet. It was very early on."
Further heartache ensued on the "difficult day" that Johnson waited for her husband to complete calls to inform women he had slept with about the news.
During the interview, the basketball legend expressed how grateful he was for his wife standing by him over the years.
"This woman here, God let me know why I married her, why he brought us together,” said the athlete, who has gone on to become an advocate for HIV/AIDS
awareness. “I know when I come here [home], I'm not Magic. I'm Earvin. We're still those kids from Michigan. I'm only as good as Cookie.”
See the couple talk about supporting their children in our exclusive video below.