Magic leaves door open for playoff return

INGLEWOOD, CALIF. — INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- One day after Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said he is considering returning to the NBA in hopes of raising money for the battle against AIDS, Magic Johnson said he would not rule out the possibility of returning himself to play for the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA playoffs.

"I don't know, I haven't even thought about it but we'll have to see. Right now it's no," said Johnson, who retired on Nov. 7 after learning he is infected with the AIDS virus. "If I decide, you guys will be the first to know. That's all I'm going to say."


Is there any chance he could play in the playoffs? "If I wanted to?" he countered.

Yes. "Well, we'll just have to see."


Johnson touched on a number of topics in a 30-minute news conference at the Forum before yesterday's Lakers-Sacramento game.

He would not go into detail regarding his meeting this week in New York with NBA commissioner David Stern, but did confirm that L.A. Kings owner Bruce McNall is one of his partners in his quest to purchase a team and one of the teams he is interested in is the Sacramento Kings.

He expressed gratitude for friend Abdul-Jabbar's gesture to help the fight against AIDS; made a plea for more government funding to fight the disease; discussed how "my message started out saying safe sex instead of no sex"; and described why criticism directed at him from those who say he should not be considered a hero because he contracted a disease does not bother him.

"I'm not trying to be a hero, what I'm trying to do is make people be aware of what's going on . . . and it doesn't really matter what they say. I'm not out here to please the public or anybody else. I'm out here to make sure lives are saved."

However, Johnson did concede earlier criticism directed at him for appearing to promote sex with a condom as a way to prevent AIDS was valid. Since then he has undergone a crash course in AIDS education to the point where now he easily spits out facts and figures regarding the disease.

"I was on a job, but on a job I was learning at that particular time," he said. "Even right now, I'm not an expert by any means about HIV virus or AIDS. My message started off with 'safe sex,' instead of saying 'no sex at all,' which is the safest sex -- especially for young people, that is my message to them."