Back in 1991 when Magic Johnson announced he had HIV, a young Pau Gasol was devasted and decided to work towards being a doctor.
Magic Johnson was one of the best players ever. However, there did come a tough phase in the 5-time NBA champ’s career. Back in November of 1991, Johnson stunned the whole world announcing that he had contracted the HIV virus.
During that time, the understanding of the virus was much more different from what it is now. Especially in California, the area had been hit hard during the epidemic leading the league to panic.
This news spread in no time and left many fans and fellow players in shock. Johnson, who was known to be a womaniser, wasn’t responsible enough, leading to the eventual diagnosis. No player wanted to play with or against Magic. The league had forced its 12-time All-Star to retire from the game.
Pau Gasol decided to become a doctor after Magic Johnson’s retirement due to the HIV
Like many other Magic Johnson fans, an 11-year-old Pau Gasol too was devasted by hearing the tragic news. The Spanish big man wanted to help his idol in any which way he could’ve. And that is when Gasol decided to become a doctor, and had started working towards that goal of his.
“My perception didn’t change when I heard the news. It was just sad to hear that he was retiring from basketball and that his life was in serious risk.”
“I thought, ‘He’s going to die. At that time, HIV-AIDS equaled death. I was wandering around the school, just thinking about it, just wow. There was a lot of speculation on how you can catch it. You were afraid of sipping on somebody’s bottle of Coke or eating off the same plate. Things like that or saliva. Is it transmitted by blood only? As an 11-year-old, it’s a lot to take. It had an impact.”
The elder Gasol brother even enrolled himself in a medical school at the University of Barcelona at the age of 18, while still playing for FC Barcelona’s senior team. However, decided to pursue his dreams of being an NBA player because of his incredible talents and immense potential.
Even though he wasn’t able to become a doctor, Gasol, to date, offers his services outside basketball. While playing in the NBA, he was privileged to become an ambassador for UNICEF, with whom he went to South Africa to visit families affected by HIV and AIDS. And has consistently worked with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, in Los Angeles.
Gasol is one of the many athletes in the world who uses the platform he created for the betterment of society. With his illustrious career at its tail-end, Pau could very well go ahead and attempt to become a doctor.