The Truth About Magic Johnson And Cookie Johnson's Marriage

Cookie Johnson and Magic Johnson are one of the most recognizable couples in the NBA. Magic's legendary basketball career and magnetic personality has made him loved by all, and his impact on the Lakers' dynasty cannot be overstated. His time with the team plays a big role in HBO's "Winning Time," a miniseries about the Showtime era of the Los Angeles Lakers. However, as Magic told ET, he isn't too thrilled about the series because it "can't duplicate" the actual, well, magic of that time period. 

Magic Johnson's legacy isn't just about wins and rings and championships. As The Guardian recalled, the NBA superstar "transformed HIV awareness by announcing his diagnosis in 1991." And when he shared his news at a historic press conference, a strong woman was there by his side, clad in white. As Earleatha "Cookie" Johnson told Gayle King, "I wore that white suit for a reason. I didn't want to wear anything dark or black because to me, it's what it symbolized. And the white suit, to me, symbolized brightness, like a future basically, you know, positivity."

Cookie has been a part of his life long before his Hall of Fame career and supported him every step of the way. Here's the truth about Magic Johnson and Cookie Johnson's marriage.

Cookie Johnson and Magic Johnson met at school

Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Earleatha "Cookie" Kelly first locked eyes at Michigan State University. As Cookie recounted to Mocha Man Style, the two college freshmen met one evening at a club on campus. "The lights came up and I happen to be walking by where he was sitting and I said it was nice to meet you," she remembered. "He said, 'Yeah, by the way, give me your number', I'm like what? Cause he never said anything to me the entire night. It was really funny."

Cookie revealed she was apprehensive at first to give the college basketball star her number, fearing that he wouldn't bother to stay in touch. She eventually gave in and the two went on a romantic first date to a steakhouse. Even though things were off to a great start, trouble soon began to arise. In her memoir "Believing in Magic," Cookie recalls finding another girl in Magic's door room wearing his bathrobe just three months after they began dating. Unfortunately for Cookie, their relationship as "college sweethearts" would only get messier from there.

Magic Johnson had his first child with another woman

Magic Johnson made his entrance to the NBA in 1979. The star was drafted as the No. 1 pick to the Los Angeles Lakers with high expectations. As he took the NBA by storm with his flashy style of play and cool demeanor, his life was beginning to change off the court. In 1981, Magic welcomed his first child, Andre Johnson, with a woman named Melissa Mitchell. The pair reportedly dated while he and Cookie Kelly were on one of their numerous breaks. 

Per, Andre was raised in Michigan by Mitchell, but Magic "never neglected him" and the pair's "relationship remained solid." Andre would spend summers with the sports icon. Based on the family's social media posts, Andre sure seems to have a great relationship with Cookie, too. Magic's eldest son is married to Lisa Johnson, née Meyers, and the two have a son and a daughter. Magic has shared a number of sweet snaps he and Cookie have taken with Andre's kids on social media, including one from the first day of school where he said he was "one proud grandfather."

Their road to marriage wasn't easy

The on-again, off-again pair would soon find their way back to one another and eventually walk down the aisle, but the path to getting there was filled with nothing but drama, as Cookie Johnson shares in "Believing in Magic." In 1986, Magic Johnson proposed to Cookie, but he got multiple cases of cold feet... which led to him breaking off their engagement not once, but twice. The second time he called things off, Cookie had already purchased her wedding dress and handed out invitations. 

The press followed the couple's ups and downs and even asked Magic when he would finally get married. One time, he even bluntly told reporters he wouldn't walk down the aisle until he was "divorced" from basketball. "No more marriage. No more talk about it," he said, per People. The back and forth was devastating to Cookie who later revealed in an interview with Oprah Winfrey that the public humiliation almost led to a nervous breakdown. "At that point, I had to reach back and find God. How do I recover from this? How do I tell my friends? How do I show my face at work? My whole identity was tied to him," she told Winfrey. Cookie revealed that the situation strengthened her faith in God and helped her find her purpose. She weathered the storm and finally walked down the aisle in 1991.

Magic Johnson's HIV diagnosis changed everything

After all the drama it took to make it down the aisle in 1991, things only got harder for the Johnsons. Just 45 days after their long-awaited wedding, everything in their life changed: Magic Johnson told Cookie Johnson that he had been diagnosed with HIV. Though he'd contracted a disease with so many unknowns at the time and had to retire from basketball, his only worry was his wife. "Driving home to tell her — probably the hardest thing in my life I had to do. ...  We had just gotten married and now this comes," Magic recalled to ABC News. And there were even more life changes ahead for their family: As Cookie added, "And we had just found out I was pregnant."

At the time, there was so much fear and stigma surrounding HIV that Magic thought his wife would leave him — a decision he told her he would "understand." Cookie never wavered in her support of her husband. After crying together, she promised to stand beside him and "fight" together. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, she described it as "spiritual warfare" and decided to put her faith in God.

Magic Johnson's HIV announcement led to a lawsuit

After his groundbreaking HIV announcement, Magic Johnson faced scrutiny. Rumors about his affairs hit the front news and speculations about how he contracted the disease began to emerge. As he told Frontline, Johnson decided to speak out about his diagnosis after AIDS activist Elizabeth Glaser encouraged him to use his platform to "educate people about it." Three years after going public with HIV, Johnson was hit with a $2 million lawsuit from a woman named Waymer Moore, according to the AP. She claimed to have previously slept with Magic before his public announcement and accused the basketball star of knowingly giving her HIV. Johnson admitted to having sex with her in 1990 but denied knowing his status at the time. 

A judge later dismissed the suit at the request of both Johnson and Moore. Per the AP, a rep for Moore said they came to a "mutual agreement" but did not disclose whether an out-of-court settlement was a part of the agreement. After his diagnosis, Johnson's wife recalled hearing her husband call his sexual partners to notify them about his diagnosis. She told ABC News that it was difficult to listen to him call all of the women he cheated on her with.

The couple separated in 2001

In her memoir "Believing in Magic," Cookie Johnson revealed that after 10 years of marriage, their relationship hit a particularly rocky point. Cookie told Oprah Winfrey that, at the time, Magic was too consumed with being "Magic Johnson" and that "his ego" became a problem. The two started to grow apart. Things came to a head when Magic received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2001. At the afterparty, Cookie became upset after Magic didn't want to dance with her. The couple had a their "first spat in public," and they ultimately agreed to separate. 

The split lasted for two weeks before the pair found their way back. In an interview with Ebony (via Atlanta Black Star), Magic revealed that nearly divorcing brought them closer together. "Now we're so connected to each other, but it took that situation to bring us back," he said. "I've always told Cookie, 'The only thing I wanted was to grow old with you.' [Now] we just look at each other and say how blessed we are."

Magic Johnson learned to accept his son's sexuality

Magic Johnson and Cookie Johnson's first son was thrust into the spotlight. In 2013, EJ Johnson publicly came out as gay after TMZ outed him. His sexuality may have been news to the public, but it was something his family has known since he was a kid. In her book "Believing in Magic," Cookie described EJ frequently playing with dolls as a child. She knew it was something that would upset Magic so she would hide it from him. After a while, she felt that it was time to encourage her son to speak his truth. She assured him that she would love and accept him no matter what. However, Magic didn't have the same response. 

In a sit-down interview with her son for "The Insider," Cookie revealed that Magic's "stern" reaction deeply upset her. "I was very angry with him when he did that. I told him so that night," she told her son. Magic eventually apologized to EJ and their relationship today is stronger than ever. "I had to stop wanting him to be who I wanted him to be and just let him be himself," Magic said on "The Steve Harvey Show." "I'm so happy that he's happy because this is what it's all about."

They adopted a daughter

In 1995, Magic Johnson and Cookie Johnson adopted a baby girl. Elisa Johnson is their only daughter and she came into their lives when she was just three days old. Just like her older brother EJ Johnson, Elisa has an eye for fashion, and the pair of siblings starred in their own reality TV show titled "EJNYC". 

In one episode of the E! series, Elisa got together with Dawn, her birth mother, as well as her biological half-siblings and aunt. It was not their first reunion, but there was no shortage of tears. The two spoke about feeling a bond despite living apart for so long. "I couldn't wait to see you. I just knew you were the most beautiful spirit," Elisa told her birth mother. Dawn noted how "rare" it is to experience "this much happiness ... and this much healing" in their circumstances. 

In a 2010 blog post, Dawn recounted the emotional journey of getting pregnant at 17 and making the difficult decision to put her daughter up for adoption. "I tried to make myself believe that I was doing the right thing, or saying this is what is best for her, but I was just angry," she wrote. In their reunion, Dawn told her daughter that it was not easy to move on after she was adopted. She spent every birthday thinking of her and hoping that she would one day forgive her.

They celebrated big for their 30th wedding anniversary

On September 14, 2021, Magic Johnson and Cookie Johnson celebrated their 30-year wedding anniversary. That's a huge milestone for any couple, but especially when one of the involved parties happens to be an extremely famous person. To commemorate three decades of marriage, Magic surprised his wife with a star-studded bash, and Cookie recapped the evening on Instagram. "I had NO IDEA what to expect, just the two of us, with an incredible eight course meal followed by Frankie Beverly & Maze!!!!" she wrote. "Earvin, thank you for a beautiful evening and can't wait to electric slide with you another 30 years."

The road to this anniversary has not always been easy, but Magic always knew she was the one. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, he was almost brought to tears discussing his love for his wife. "We've been together a long time," he said. "She's the perfect partner for me. ... We are soulmates and this is my best friend. ... She changed my whole life and shaped it." Life has thrown a lot at them, but these two won in the end.