Magic Johnson on How Supporting Son EJ Inspired Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade (Exclusive)
By Mona Khalifeh
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Magic Johnson is leading by example. The basketball legend spoke with ET's Kevin Frazier ahead of the release of his new Apple TV+ docuseries, They Call Me Magic, about how his support of his son, EJ Johnson -- who came out publicly as gay in 2013 -- inspired Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade, when Wade's daughter, Zaya, came out as transgender.
"We've always been people who try to do the right thing and do the thing we were supposed to do," Johnson shared. "No way we were not gonna support our son. No way we were gonna not love him, as we tell him, be who you want to be, we gonna love you regardless, we gonna support you. And then because of that, Dwyane and Gabs said, 'Oh man, look at that.' We are looking at out part, do our own thing with our own son, so if we can help anybody just by being who we are, just by doing the right thing, that’s a good thing and a powerful thing."
He continued, "So, thank God we have influenced people, whether it's on the court, off the court and just in our everyday walking life. If we've done that, then we have been a blessing."
Union and Wade appear in the doc, where they share just how much of an impact Johnson had on them and how they navigated Zaya's transition.
When ET spoke with Union and Wade at the show's premiere, Union said Johnson and his wife, Cookie, showed them "the way."
"It's all about perseverance and putting your family first and loving every member of your family equally and out loud. And they showed us the way," Union said. "They were the first people we called, 'OK, we're moving to L.A., what school do you guys think is the best school for Zaya?' And they gave us the blueprint. And literally, every step of the way, in my career, in his career, they have been there."
For Wade, seeing Johnson embrace EJ, allowed him to better embrace Zaya, and it allowed their kids to be there for each other too, as they each embark on their own journey.
"We got an opportunity to see EJ and Zaya embrace. As a father, to see all of our kids embrace, and understand that they're on journeys that are different than our journey. They all are. And to see them embrace and see them be all like, 'Yo, whatever you need, I got you. I'm here.' To me, that's like what Magic and Cookie have been to us as adults. And to see EJ do the same thing to Zaya, it was amazing," Wade shared before recalling watching Johnson speak proudly about his son while on Arsenio Hall in 2013.
He continued, "That moment, when I seen a Black man, a professional athlete, stand up proud of his child, no matter what they're doing in life, just being proud of who they are and who they've come to be, it makes it easier for me to say, 'I saw one of my idols do it, a big brother, I can do the same.'"
The four-part docuseries not only touches on how the family handled EJ coming out, but how they dealt with the former L.A. Lakers' very public HIV diagnosis.
"We have to remember this is a story that’s never been told fully, so now to your point, we have everyone that was involved speaking about it and I’m so happy that the story is being told and everybody is telling their version," Johnson explained. "It's powerful and you're gonna laugh, you're gonna cry and you're gonna think. You're gonna see moments you've never seen before, and it's been a part of my life now for 30 years. It's probably the most powerful part of the doc series."
He continued, "What Cookie felt and what she was going through, and being pregnant with our son, EJ, at the time. What I was going through, thinking it was a death sentence, 'cause I didn’t know no better, so, just all the people that were involved get to tell their side of it, and I think that’s what makes it great. And EJ, who is about to turn 30, now, he gets to share his side, so, everybody gets to be a part of this and it's really wonderful."
They Call Me Magic premieres April 22 on Apple TV+.