Magic Johnson Gets Candid About Wanting To 'Hit' Howard Stern During Shock Jock's Controversial Talk Show Appearance

Earvin “Magic” Johnson is many things: a hall of fame basketball player, a successful businessman and an avid philanthropist as well as a supportive father and husband. Though some may forget that he briefly served as a talk show host in the late ‘90s. While his show, didn’t make a strong impression, many likely remember when Johnson welcomed shock jock Howard Stern to the show for what became a highly publicized interview. Now, over 20 years later, the NBA legend is getting candid about having wanted to “hit” Stern during the controversial broadcast. 

Magic Johnson served as the host of The Magic Hour, which aired in syndication from June to September 1998. The show had its share of critics during its run, with Howard Stern (who’s feuded with hosts in the past) being one of the most vocal. As a result, the producers booked him for Johnson’s program in an attempt to drum up ratings. The interview would prove to be contentious, as Stern would critique Johnson by asserting that the former Laker should “talk Ebonics” on the air. In regard to the host’s diction, Stern would also declare that he was “Blacker” than Johnson was. Additionally, the shock jock made jokes regarding the host’s HIV status, musing that the athlete “had fun getting AIDS.” On the telecast, Stern also made comments about the show’s band leader Sheila E. and Johnson’s former TV sidekick, Craig Shoemaker.

Ahead of his new docuseries’ debut, the five-time NBA Champion reflected on the chat during an interview with Variety. The business mogul admitted that he did have to restrain himself from getting physical. He also revealed how he felt when he first learned that the radio personality was going to be on the show:

So many times, I wanted to say something and hit him at the same time — on air. … I was mad when they booked him. But there’s nothing you can do. When people look for ratings, this is what happens.

Though The Magic Hour did receive a boost from the infamous episode, it ultimately couldn’t save the series from its swift cancellation. The widely viewed moment was one of a few controversial moments that occurred for Stern during the ‘90s. (In recent years, he’s been chided for once wearing blackface and spouting racial slurs during that decade.) Obviously, Magic Johnson doesn’t view the chat as one of the high points of his illustrious career. Nevertheless, there are a few things that he was able to take away from the experience:

It is what it is. I learned a lot from that. I’ve never put myself — or HIV and AIDS, or my race — in that position again, ever again.

It remains to be seen whether the incident will be covered in his latest biographical miniseries, They Call Me Magic - which will be available to stream with an Apple TV+ subscription. Though if the show is indeed as thorough as the program that influenced it, The Last Dance, the moment may end up being discussed. And even if it’s not, fans will surely be happy to know that the beloved sports icon has mostly moved and was able to gain some perspective from the tense situation.

They Call Me Magic premieres on Apple TV+ on April 22nd and should prove to be one of the most exciting new shows headed our way this year.

Erik Swann
Senior Content Producer

Erik Swann is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend. He began working with the publication in 2020 when he was hired as Weekend Editor. Today, he continues to write, edit and handle social media responsibilities over the weekend. On weekdays, he also writes TV and movie-related news and helps out with editing and social media as needed. He graduated from the University of Maryland, where he received a degree in Broadcast Journalism. After shifting into multi-platform journalism, he started working as a freelance writer and editor before joining CB. Covers superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. He eats more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.