Magic Johnson Said His Relationship With His Son 'Changed Me'

Sitting down for an interview with Variety, Magic Johnson opened up about his relationship with his son EJ Johnson. The NBA legend said he first struggled to come to terms with his son’s sexual orientation.

“When you grow up in team sports, you’re thinking, ‘Is he gonna play sports?’” Magic told Variety. “And then when I saw that he liked dolls and to play dress-up … ‘What are you doing?’”

Nearly a decade after his son came out publicly as gay, Magic now holds a different perspective.

“He changed me. He was so proud. This dude here is just so proud of who he is,” Magic said about his son. “As I grew older, as my wife talked to me, I couldn’t [judge EJ]. I had to accept who he was and who he wanted to be. He actually helped me get there. Because he was so proud. Cookie said ‘Look in the mirror.’ I said, ‘You’re right.’ Because I’m proud of who I am. And he got it from me.”

EJ said he first came out to all his friends, but took time to tell his parents that he is gay.

“[My parents] were the last people that I really had to talk to about it,” he said. “It wasn’t new for me, but they had to really take that in and digest it. Especially my dad, because he was really the last person to talk to. I think it was just a lot for him to swallow in that conversation. A lot of just going back and forth. And he just was rattling off about things that weren’t particularly nice. But he’s not somebody who works great being cornered or surprised.”

The 29-year-old remembers the unusual rules he heard while growing up with his father.

“He’d come up with stupid rules: ‘No scarves in the house,’” he said. “But it’s really not about scarves; it’s really about him seeing you be you.”

EJ left his parents’ home at age 17 and attended New York University. After Magic later visited his son in New York, the pair repaired their relationship.

“I had only been gone for two months,” EJ said. “He picked me up at my dorm and I was like, ‘Oh, whatever, hey.’ And he hugged me so hard — he was, like, squeezing all the air out of me. That’s when I knew, there’s nothing but love here.”

EJ’s mother, Cookie, recalls a conversation she had with a young fan who said he was inspired by their family.

“I remember a young man came up and said to me one day, ‘I really want to thank you and your husband for what you’re doing. I’m gay, but I didn’t want to tell my parents. When I went away to college, I got [HIV]. But with you guys talking about this, bringing it to everyone’s attention, it’s made me feel I’m gonna be okay, and I’m going to fight harder,’” Cookie said as she reflected on the encounter with the fan.

Apple TV Plus will release the Magic Johnson docuseries, They Call Me Magic, on April 22.