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Thursday, May 17, 2012
Updated: July 6, 3:10 PM ET
Magic Johnson on '92 All-Star Game

By Shannon Cross
ESPN.com

For the 20th ESPYS, ESPN has selected the 20 greatest sports moments of the past 20 years. At No. 2 is Magic Johnson's return to the court, after announcing he contracted HIV, in a dramatic NBA All-Star game in 1992. Johnson recently spoke with ESPN.com about that game, the ESPYS and his new role with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

What do you remember from attending the ESPYS?

When I went, it was like the Oscars for athletes. It's so much fun because everybody wants to be there. Even some of the biggest entertainers want to rub elbows with athletes, so they show up too.

Take me back to the 1992 All-Star game and the intensity surrounding it.

Just playing in that game was an unbelievable feeling. The fans voted me in, and Tim Hardaway allowed me to start in his place. Commissioner David Stern allowed me to play. It was just an amazing moment for me, and I thank all those people and fans who supported me.

When the game actually started, there were so many question marks about how I would play, what would happen in terms of how the players would play against me. The game was great, and I was playing well. Right at the end, I hit three 3-pointers in a row. With a little time left on the clock at the end of the game, all the players came on the court to hug me and high-five me. That was the greatest moment of my life because I felt that I belonged again. I was finally back with my NBA family. It was therapy for me after having to deal with the news that I had contracted HIV. It helped me to go on to do great things in the future.

How has your outlook changed since contracting HIV?

I don't think my outlook on life has changed. I definitely cherish my wife Cookie and my kids. I know how blessed I am because in 20 years a lot of people have died within that time frame, and I'm still healthy. I thank God that I'm able to still help people and be a positive influence for people living with HIV/AIDS.

Describe a memorable sports moment you've experienced.

When I got a chance to watch Muhammad Ali fight -- it was the greatest moment of my life. Going to the Olympics as part of the greatest team ever assembled was also a huge honor. I really enjoyed my time in Barcelona not just on the court, but cheering on the other athletes competing in other events. All the Super Bowls I've been to ... man, there's so many! We'd be talking for two hours! (He laughs)

How are you settling into your new role with the Dodgers?

It's such a wonderful moment in time for me to be able to say that I'm the owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. We have to remember that teams like the Dodgers don't go up for sale too often. The fact that Jackie Robinson was the first African-American to play in the major leagues for the Dodgers makes it even bigger for me. This is a moment in time that is truly special, and I want to make sure I do everything the right way and make sure we bring the Dodger Pride back to the fans. I don't take the responsibility lightly. I'm trying to be the best owner I can be.

What impact does your personal brand have on the franchise?

It certainly helps. The Dodgers are everything in this town, so people have been Dodgers fans for a long time. Teaming up with the Dodgers is unique for fans here and fans across the country because of my involvement. Not to mention, Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw are two of the best players in baseball! We have superstars that fans love and want to see. It's not about me, it's about the players and how they perform.

During your first week in your new role, you were tweeting some of the different welcome gifts you've received so far. What's the coolest gift you have received?

I've got standing ovations at restaurants, high-fives and hugs. It has been crazy! I can't believe all the well-wishes. One of my owner/partners made me a Magic bobblehead, and it blew me away. I tweeted a picture of it, and now all the fans have been asking me where they can get them and if we'll have a Magic bobble-head night. It's crazy! (He laughs)

Did anyone reach out?

Celebrities, athletes, CEOs, former President Bill Clinton, Dave Winfield, LL Cool J and Eddie Murphy all called to say congratulations. Everybody is happy for me and the Dodgers.

You've achieved great success in your career. Which accolade do you hold the dearest?

Winning five championships for the Lakers, the national championship for Michigan State, my championship in high school -- but the No. 1 would be winning the gold medal with the Dream Team.

What's one of your most memorable moments in facing Larry Bird?

It had to be the hook shot and every time we won. That's it right there. Anytime you can beat the Boston Celtics that's memorable.

As a kid who do you look up to?

George Gervin. He was local and originally from Detroit. Bill Russell had all the championships, so I looked up to him. I always wanted to play like the "Big O" Oscar Robertson because he was big like myself.

How much longer does Kobe realistically have?

I think he has a good three or four years for sure as long as he can stay healthy. He can do four easily.

What NBA franchise has the most promise?

There's promise with the Oklahoma City Thunder, being young and still being good. The Clippers are doing a good job. Philly is young and growing, too.

How do you respond to comparisons between you and LeBron James?

Well, we both look to pass and set up our teammates. He probably scores on a regular basis more than I ever did. But I had way more assists than him. We rebounded probably about the same. There's only one difference between us and that's the rings. He just won one, but if he keeps up the intensity, I think he'll end up with 3-5 championships.