Magic Johnson bashes Isiah Thomas in bookPosted by Inside Hoops
All fans of 1980’s NBA basketball will forever love what Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, plus Isiah Thomas and other stars from the decade brought to the world of hoops. But rumors in those days didn’t quite spread the way they do now in the age of InsideHoops.com and the internet.
Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas are old friends, right? Not so fast.
Ian Thompson of Sports Illustrated reports:
When he heard the criticisms from his former friend Magic Johnson in a soon-to-be-released book, Isiah Thomas said he’d had enough. And so he began to fight back.
“I’m really hurt, and I really feel taken advantage of for all these years,” said Thomas, the Hall of Fame point guard and former NBA coach and executive, most recently with the Knicks. “I’m totally blindsided by this. Every time that I’ve seen Magic, he has been friendly with me. Whenever he came to a Knick game, he was standing in the tunnel [to the locker room] with me. He and [Knicks assistant coach] Herb [Williams] and I, we would go out to dinner in New York. I didn’t know he felt this way.”
Get ready. This gets heated. More from SI:
Much of their story involves Thomas, who as captain of the Detroit Pistons served as a primary threat to the championship ambitions of Bird’s Celtics and Magic’s Lakers. The book offers revelations that have stunned Thomas. Magic addresses years of rumors by finally accusing Thomas of questioning his sexuality after Johnson was diagnosed with HIV in 1991. Magic also admits that he joined with Michael Jordan and other players in blackballing Thomas from the 1992 Olympic Dream Team, saying, “Isiah killed his own chances when it came to the Olympics. Nobody on that team wanted to play with him. … Michael didn’t want to play with him. Scottie [Pippen] wanted no part of him. Bird wasn’t pushing for him. Karl Malone didn’t want him. Who was saying, ‘We need this guy?’ Nobody.”
“I’m glad that he’s finally had the nerve and the courage to stand up and say it was him, as opposed to letting Michael Jordan take the blame for it all these years,” Thomas responded during one of several interviews he gave to SI.com on Wednesday. “I wish he would have had the courage to say this stuff to me face to face, as opposed to writing it in some damn book to sell and he can make money off it.”
And more from SI, on the topic of Magic’s HIV:
“Isiah kept questioning people about it,” Magic says. “I couldn’t believe that. The one guy I thought I could count on had all these doubts. It was like he kicked me in the stomach.”
Thomas vehemently denied that he had gossiped behind Magic’s back, pointing out that he knew better than to engage in such hurtful talk.
“What most people don’t know is, before Magic had HIV, my brother had HIV,” Thomas said. “My brother died of HIV, AIDS, drug abuse. So I knew way more about the disease, because I was living with it in my house.”
“I felt awful for him; I felt awful for everybody,” Thomas said to SI.com. “But I knew enough at that time that he didn’t have to retire. The ‘blood’ thing we do in the NBA — where we stop the game because of blood on somebody’s shirt and all that ceremonious stuff — we’re not stopping HIV/AIDS that way. We still do it out of some insane fear that came about when Karl Malone and everybody was saying they weren’t playing if Magic was playing.”
And what does Larry Bird say in the book? SI:
“Let’s be real. I’m not going to say the things Magic said in private about Larry, but I do know the public stance he’s taken [in becoming Bird’s friend],” Thomas said. I know that’s not how he felt about Larry Bird. Magic hated Larry, and he tried to make other people hate Larry. Magic was no friend of Larry Bird’s during that time. And his Laker teammates will tell you that. And I’m sure they’ve got to be disgusted with the way he’s carried on with this whole me-and-Larry bull.”
I’ll be checking this book out for sure.