After rising to popularity in the 90s, Howard Stern made a brand for himself with shock jock humor. While that may be the case, his 1998 interview with Magic Johnson on an NBA player’s late-night show created an incredibly uncomfortable moment.

Johnson recently appeared for an interview with Variety where he reminisced about his decades old show, “The Magic Hour.” During the show’s short span on TV Stern made an appearance on the program which still talked about today.

In that 1998 interview, Stern made some racist comments on Johnson’s show. Looking back on that time, Johnson told the outlet, “So many times, I wanted to say something and hit him at the same time — on air.” 

Johnson pointed out that he hasn’t spoken to Stern since the incident. For those who don’t know, when “The Magic Hour” premiered, Stern started attacking the program on his massively popular radio show, ridiculing Johnson and mocking his comedic timing and interviewing skills. All the antics soon led to Stern being invited on the show for an interview with the NBA player.

When Stern finally appeared, Johnson asked him straightaway, “Why have you been talking about me so much, man?” to which the radio show host answered, “The thing you need to work on, in my estimation, is that you’ve gotta stop trying to talk like the white man. Everybody’s anti-Ebonics. I say, let it fly! What you need to do, ‘my brotha,’ is to really get down with it. You talk Ebonics all you want.”

Stern continued to point out the racial origins of Johnson repeatedly and told Johnson several times that when it comes to being “Black,” he should take advice from him.

“Listen, you’re a Black man. I grew up in a Black neighborhood,” Stern added. “I’m Blacker than you are, trust me. I’m the Blackest Black man you’ll ever meet. And I’m telling you right now, when I lived in Roosevelt, Long Island, which is a Black ghetto, everybody talked like this,” he said, before doing an impression of how he thought Black people spoke. “I was a big marble mouth, but it was fascinating, because I was one of the people. Why does everybody have to understand every word you say? Who cares what you got to say? No difference what you say.”

Soon after that, Stern changed the subject to Johnson’s HIV status, which the NBA star made public in 1991.

“You had the life I wanted,” Stern said later in the interview, prodding Johnson about his sexual history before his diagnosis. “These were white chicks? Black chicks? What do we got? What did you prefer? You would have sex with everybody? At least you had fun getting AIDS.”

Johnson without fuss corrected Stern, saying that he had HIV, not AIDS, and that “nobody has fun” contracting it. “Believe me, brother, you did. It sounds like fun to me,” Stern replied.

Speaking about the incident Johnson said, “I was mad when they booked him. But there’s nothing you can do. When people look for ratings, this is what happens. 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.”

Magic Johnson’s late night show show was cancelled just in three month after premiering. Stern’s appearance was one of the attempts to increase show’s ratings but that never happened.

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Bhupen Dange

Bhupen is a freelance writer for Ringside News and Thirsty For News; he is pursuing further studies in Computer Science. Since high school, he has actively participated in athletic activities, and when he is not playing video games, he spends his time in the gym training, watching movies, and walking his dog outside.

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