When former NBA star Magic Johnson first learned that his youngest son, EJ, was gay, he had trouble accepting him for who he was, especially after thinking he would follow in his footsteps one day.
Magic Johnson is a father of three kids, sons Andre Johnson and EJ Johnson and daughter Elisa Johnson whom he and his wife, Cookie Johnson, adopted when she was only three days old.
As a dad, the former basketball player takes pride in raising, loving, and teaching his brood. In a Facebook post for Father's Day in June 2020, he said that he takes fatherhood seriously.
(L-R) Andre Johnson, Lisa Johnson, Cookie Johnson, Magic Johnson, Elisa Johnson and EJ Johnson during the 2014 Carousel of Hope Ball at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on October 11, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. / Source: Getty Images
Magic also thanked God for blessing him with three children by his side. When coming to parenthood, the professional athlete once told Entertainment Tonight that he and Cookie always tried to do the right thing, referring to their son, EJ, who publicly came out as gay in 2013:
"We’ve always been people who try to do the right thing and do the thing we were supposed to do. No way we were not going to support our son. No way we were not going to love him, as we tell him, be who you want to be, we are going to love you regardless."
Even though the Michigan native encourages his children to be who they want to be, there was one hurdle that he struggled to face, EJ coming out.
EJ'S STRUGGLES WITH HIS SEXUALITY
Magic Johnson and his son EJ Johnson during Magic Johnson Foundation's 4th Annual Children's Mardi Gras at Earvin "Magic" Johnson Recreation Center in Los Angeles, California. / Source: Getty Images
EJ, a TV personality, already knew he was interested in high fashion from the ages of four and five. He revealed to the New York Times in September 2017 that he used to play in his mother's closet during that period, asking her questions about which designer items she had, which she explained.
His sister, Elisa, shared that the older he got, the bigger his personality became. Meanwhile, EJ's older half-brother Andre, whom Magic welcomed with his then-girlfriend Melissa Mitchell, revealed that they used to have drawing sessions with him, and his figures always came out with a Louis Vuitton bag.
Through their father's advocacy for HIV & AIDS, EJ caught a glimpse into what the gay community is. He recalled going to AIDS fundraisers at Elizabeth Taylor's house, where his mom explained that Taylor had lost many gay friends to the epidemic.
Cookie Johnson posing with daughter Elisa Johnson and son EJ Johnson on October 25, 1997 in Los Angeles, California. / Source: Getty Images
When EJ was fifteen, his mother found him staring at other boys while on vacation in Hawaii and tried talking to him about it. But he was young and still figuring out his sexuality.
Cookie and Magic are devout churchgoers of the West Angeles Church of God in Christ. However, the reality star stopped going to church with them after he heard negative remarks about homosexuals during sermons:
"I remember sitting there in sermons and hearing some less than reputable things about homosexuals."
MAGIC & COOKIE'S REACTION TO THEIR SON BEING GAY
Magic Johnson and his wife Cookie Johnson speaking onstage at the Supercharged Summit At NeueHouse Hollywood on October 27, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. / Source: Getty Images
It was not until three years later, when EJ was about to leave for New York University, that he decided to come out to his parents. His mom, a churchgoing Christian, was initially conflicted about the news, telling Oprah Winfrey in an interview that she had to pray about it.
EJ admitted that he had already told all his friends and that his parents were the last to find out. In his docuseries, "They Call Me Magic," the former Los Angeles Lakers star shared that he struggled when his youngest son EJ came out as gay to the family at age 17.
Magic was expecting his child to become a sports star like him one day, but when he saw him playing with dolls and dressing up, it stunned him.
Still grappling to come to terms with it, the father and son would often argue, leaving Magic to make rules at home that would be against his child. EJ mentioned that his father is not someone who reacts better at being put in a corner:
"He's not somebody who works great being cornered or surprised. It was a lot for him to swallow. A lot of going back and forth."
The duo argued about how EJ presented himself at home the summer before attending NYU. He wore scarves, which he explained were a big deal for men's fashion, and his father could not stand it. Magic would devise rules that included the prohibition of scarves in the household.
Cookie revealed on the "Red Table Talk" that it did not go too well when she and EJ talked with her husband. Magic said some hurtful words to his son:
"My husband is the kind of person like he reacts quickly. Everything that came to the top of his head, he just let it out. "
She was hurt by how the conversation turned out and explained that it was not what she wanted for her son. The Alabama native told her spouse that what he said to EJ would not be well received by the world.
After that, the couple had a heart-to-heart regarding "The Dream Team" star's remarks. The doting mother of two expressed to Magic that what he said to their child was harsh and was not right. Magic then remained quiet.
The next day, Magic walked into his son's room and told him they would get through it together, stating that he needed time to digest everything. She revealed that they both started crying:
"We're going to get through this, and I just need time."
MAGIC FINALLY EMBRACED EJ'S SEXUALITY
There were tensions at home in the last few months before EJ left for college. But soon after he departed for NYU, his dad visited him in New York, and the pair mended their relationship. EJ had only been gone for two months when his father picked him at his dorm:
"He hugged me so hard. He was, like, squeezing all the air out of me. That's when I knew there's nothing but love here."
Then came 2013, when the socialite was forcibly outed by TMZ, publishing images of him holding hands with a male friend. But his dad supported him through and through. He even received letters from the LGBTQ community thanking him for embracing EJ, while some criticized him.
"A lot of people don't love that I love my son," said the proud dad. Magic always vowed to love and support his son, adding he has to shield him:
"As a parent, I wanted EJ to know that we loved him and would always love him. My job as a father is to protect him."
Moreover, on EJ's 30th birthday, Magic paid a heart-warming tribute to his beloved son on Instagram, wherein he called him "incredible" and said he was honored to be his parent. "Happy 30th birthday to my incredible son EJ! I am so honored and blessed to have you as my son!" he captioned the post.
With the loving message, Magic shared a photo posing with EJ brimming with pride at the "They Call Me Magic" Apple + premiere.
EJ's brother Andre also posted a heartfelt birthday post wherein he stated that his younger brother lights up every room he walks into while expressing his love for him and that he is blessed to have him as a sibling.
The Johnson family celebrated EJ's birthday with a trip to Six Flags Magic Mountain theme park in California. They later got together for a family dinner at LAVO in Los Angeles and donned formal attire for the special occasion.
Magic admitted to Variety that EJ changed him as he is proud of his identity. The basketball legend recalled that his beautiful wife once told him to look in the mirror, and he responded to her: "You're right. Because I'm proud of who I am. And he got it from me."