NBA Legend Magic Johnson Honored by Sports Illustrated With Prestigious Honor

By Joseph Trezza ( | Dec 06, 2014 12:38 PM EST
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Magic Johnson made history this week when he was named the 2014 recipient of the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year Legacy Award, the magazine announced. According to SI, Johnson is the second person and first professional athlete to receive the award in the magazine's 60 year history.

"Sports Illustrated's Legacy Award celebrates individuals whose dedication to the ideals of sportsmanship has spanned decades and whose lifetime of achievement in athletics has directly or indirectly changed the world," the magazine's website says. "Unlike the magazine's Sportsman of the year accolade, which has been given out every year since 1954, the Legacy Award is not an annual recognition. The only previous recipient is Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver, in 2008."

Sports Illustrated gave Johnson his first exposure in its amateur-themed "Faces in the Crowd" feature when he was a teenager. Of course, he went on to become one of the best college and professional basketball players of all time, winning three NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers before retiring due to his contraction of HIV in 1991. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002.

Johnson has donated about $15 million to HIV/AIDS education research, according to Business 2 Community.

The magazine said Johnson's ability to overcome perilous obstacles and inspire others was the deciding factor in honoring him.

"When he retired from the NBA, Johnson's ubiquitous smile was a beacon to basketball fans the world over. It now represents much more," the magazine said in a statement. "Few athletes have done more with the stardom they gained between the lines of competition."

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