In the late ’90s, Lakers megastar Magic Johnson nearly brought showtime from the hardwood to the big stage when he was tempted to nail former shock jock Howard Stern with an off-the-court hook shot on live television.
“So many times, I wanted to say something and hit him at the same time — on air,” Johnson said of Stern, per Variety.
Magic was referencing his short time as the late night host of a show called — what else? — The Magic Hour. Though Johnson had previously expressed reservations about Stern who regularly bashed the former Spartan on his radio program, the show booked him in an effort to improve its slumping ratings.
True to form, Stern insulted the host almost immediately.
Johnson began the interview by playfully asking Stern why he had been talking about him so often. That’s when Stern went on a cringe-worthy rant: “The thing you need to work on, in my estimation, is that you’ve gotta stop trying to talk like the white man. Everybody’s anti-Ebonics. I say, let it fly! What you need to do, ‘my brotha,’ is to really get down with it. You talk Ebonics all you want.”
He didn’t stop there. “Listen, you’re a black man. I grew up in a black neighborhood. I’m blacker than you are, trust me,” Stern added. “I’m the blackest black man you’ll ever meet.”
Odd as it may seem, things actually got worse from there. Stern, who now spends his air time either babbling about masks or attempting to cancel another celebrity, joked about Johnson’s HIV diagnosis – an obvious point of contention that’s kept Magic from ever speaking with Stern again.
“These were white chicks? Black chicks? What do we got? What did you prefer? You would have sex with everybody,” Stern asked. “At least you had fun getting AIDS.”
Magic Johnson reveals to @Variety he wanted to hit Howard Stern live on air when he to Magic “Atleast you had fun getting AIDS”
— GlockTopickz (@Glock_Topickz) April 5, 2022
Magic somehow showed restraint and calmly corrected Stern that he had HIV, not AIDS.
Stern then replied: “Believe me, brother, you did. It sounds like fun to me.”
Johnson explained to Variety that he had no interest in sitting alongside Stern at the time, but that he’s since learned from the negative experience.
“I was mad when they booked him,” Johnson said. “But there’s nothing you can do. When people look for ratings, this is what happens.” He then added, “It is what it is. I learned a lot from that. I’ve never put myself — or HIV and AIDS, or my race — in that position again, ever again.”
It’s easy to see why Magic wanted to clock Stern, and it’s a shame he didn’t do it. It would’ve been the perfect Hollywood ending that so many are still hoping for.
Follow along on Twitter: @OhioAF