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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Basketball A Tonic for Magic's Ills

LOS ANGELES -- Magic Johnson pumped new life into basketball when he returned to the court this week after 4 1/2 years. AIDS experts say basketball may return the favor, helping the HIV-infected athlete stay healthy longer.


The benefits, doctors say, are both physical and psychological: The workouts will help his body, and the purple-and-gold Lakers jersey is certain to help his mind.


"The positive, beneficial effects of feeling good about himself and his body image and how he performs are going to outweigh any negative effects whatsoever," said Dr. Steve Miles, a hematologist-oncologist who treats AIDS patients at the University of California at Los Angeles.


"There's never been a study that showed [exercise] prolonged anybody's life, but there's no doubt in my mind that the patients not only feel better but have a substantially improved quality of life."


The long hours and road trips shouldn't be a problem either, Miles said: "There's plenty of people with HIV who have equally as grueling, if not more so, schedules who do just fine."


Exercise helps preserve lean muscle mass -- important in HIV-infected people, who gradually accumulate fat and water and lose lean muscle as the disease progresses, said Dr. Gary Cohan, a specialist with Pacific Oaks Medical Group in Beverly Hills, the nation's largest AIDS practice.


"Lean muscle mass is correlated directly and very closely with survival. A lot of people die just because they lose too much lean tissue," Cohan said.


Putting on lean muscle, which acts as a reserve against wasting late in the disease, is done with a combination of good nutrition and exercise, he said.


Many people felt Johnson's comeback was timed in part to set up a meeting with Michael Jordan, the Bulls and their long winning streak. Chicago was to play Los Angeles Friday night.


"It's going to be wild," Johnson said on Thursday.


Despite the Bulls' 17-game win streak and 40-3 record, the game is essentially a showcase for the renewal of a long-running duel between two men who love to compete -- and win.


The summer Johnson and Jordan were teammates on the original Dream Team, they spent countless hours testing one another's skills during off hours.


"We played so many games -- shooting, free throws, left-handed shots, one-handed shots," Johnson said. "We were mad when we lost."


The setting is a flashback to the 1991 NBA Finals and the last meeting between Johnson and Jordan.


Game 5 at the Forum gave Jordan and the Bulls the first of their three straight league championships and marked the last real game of Johnson's career until his comeback this week.


It was just before the start of the next season that he learned he had contracted HIV and retired from the sport.


Johnson knows the matchup is just as important to Jordan as it is to him.


"He's sitting back licking his chops," Johnson said. "You've got to put on a show in L.A. He wants to rub it in his boy's face because we do a lot of talking in the summer. He wants to get the best of me just like I want to get the best of him. And it's going to be fun."


Said Jordan: "I'm looking forward to it. He made a point to come back and play against us. We don't want him to come back and spoil our parade."