"Ironically, it was Johnson who played a critical recruiting role in acquiring Malone. Johnson's first comeback attempt, in 1992, a year after his disclosure he was HIV-positive, was aborted in part because of concerns about the ailment by fellow NBA players. Malone was among the most vocal.
The two quickly resolved their differences, Malone memorably embracing Johnson at the 1993 All-Star Game, and they have been great friends since. So, when the subject arose of Malone wearing Johnson's number, there was no hesitation.
'He said he wanted to wear it in my honor,' Johnson said. 'I said it was OK with me."