Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas reconcile in emotional NBA TV special
Time heals all wounds, and for NBA legends Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas, years of separation came to an end Tuesday (Wednesday Manila time) when the two reconciled in an emotional Players Only Monthly special on NBA TV.
“This has been a tremendous day,” said Johnson. “My wife, my mother, my father have been saying y’all need to get back together. So when everybody called, I said no question we’re going to do this. And just to sit across from you and relive those moments of fun, excellence, working hard, dreaming big.”
”You are my brother. Let me apologize to you if I hurt you—that we haven’t been together. God is good to bring us back together,” he said as the two shared an embrace, mending the fences on what was once a blooming friendship.
— NBA TV (@NBATV) December 20, 2017
Johnson and Thomas were close friends in the 1980s but hit road blocks which tore them apart farther from each other.
Johnson’s Lakers had a fierce rivalry with Thomas’ Detroit Pistons in the tailend of the decade, as the two teams met thrice in the NBA Finals.
“When we got to the (1988 NBA) Finals, our relationship became very different. It was ok for us to be friends when we weren’t competing with the Lakers, but when we started competing with the Lakers, our friendship changed. I remember my son was born in ’88 during the NBA Finals and Magic wouldn’t even come to the hospital,” said Thomas in a previous interview with Sports Illustrated.
Tensions continued to heat up when Thomas allegedly questioned Johnson’s sexuality, something which the latter expounded on the Jackie MacMullan book When the Game Was Ours. That led to Thomas being left out of the star-studded “Dream Team” which competed and won the gold medal in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
“Isiah killed his own chances when it came to the Olympics,” wrote Johnson on the book. “Nobody on that team wanted to play with him. I’m sad for Isiah. He has alienated so many people in his life, and he still doesn’t get it. He doesn’t understand why he wasn’t chosen for that Olympic team and that’s really too bad. You should be aware when you’ve ticked off more than half of the NBA.”
Thomas admitted that he felt “blindsided” by those comments in a previous report by Sports Illustrated.
Despite the rift, Thomas kept Johnson in his heart and even went out of his way to persuade the players to let Johnson, who retired in 1991 after being diagnosed with HIV, to be included in the 1992 NBA All-Star Game.
“They weren’t going to let Magic play in the All-Star Game,” he bared in the same Sports Illustrated article. “All the players were coming out (against him). You know how that all got turned around? I had a meeting with all of the players— because I was president of the players’ association—and I told them not only was he going to play, but we were going to shake his hand and give him a hug. And I was the first to shake his hand and hug him and give him a kiss, to let people know that’s not how the virus is spread.”
Johnson and Thomas may have long been retired, but they have not left the game they love for good.
Johnson is the current president of basketball operations of the Los Angeles Lakers, while Thomas is currently serving as an analyst for NBA TV.