In a new book When The Game Was Ours, which was co-written by NBA legends Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, offers up interesting tidbits and insight from the main players during the golden age of NBA basketball, the 1980s.
Much of the book and drama centers around Isiah Thomas.
Despite appearances that Isiah Thomas and Magic Johnson were good friends, Magic details that appearances are certainly not as they seem.
Magic would admit in the book that he was part of the reason why Isiah Thomas was not selected for the 1992 US Olympic Team, otherwise known as the Dream Team.
(Discuss the Magic-Isiah feud in our forum)
Magic also goes on to blame Isiah for spreading rumors during his controversial retirement from basketball because he had contracted the HIV virus. And Isiah Thomas would respond to all the new tantalizing information.
Magic joined Jordan, others in keeping Isiah off ’92 Team
Magic admits in the book, which was also co-authored by Sports Illustrated’s Jackie MacMullan, that he joined Michael Jordan in leaving Thomas off the 1992 Dream Team:
“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.’
Isiah Thomas responded to SI.com: “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 said.
“I wish (Magic) 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.”
Gay Rumors at the core
What seems to have irked Magic Johnson, and was likely the reason the NBA Hall-of-Famer joined other Dream Team members in blackballing Isiah from the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, was his belief that the 6-1 guard was the source of rumors questioning Magic’s sexuality.
Isiah also had a response, denying his involvement in the rumor-mongering: “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 don’t discriminate,” Thomas continued. “I don’t believe any race or ethnic group or social group should be discriminated against, because I have been discrimated against, and I know it would be wrong for me to discriminate.”
“I think Magic has been misled on a lot of things, and unfortunately this has been another one of them. I am hurt and disappointed that he has chosen to believe others as opposed to his closest friends.”
1988 Finals: Beginning of the End
“When we got to the [’88] Finals, our relationship became very different,” Thomas admitted. “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.”
After Thomas suffered a severe ankle sprain in Game 6 of that series — he set an NBA Finals record with 25 points in the third quarter despite the injury — the Lakers refused to let him use their training facilities, he said. “I tried calling Magic on the phone and he wouldn’t take my phone calls,” said Thomas, who got help from an unlikely source, the Los Angeles Raiders.
Isiah Thomas feels blindsided and said that he was never confronted about allegedly spreading the rumors that hurt Magic so much.
“If he was feeling this way, why was he shaking my hand and kissing me and acting like he and I were such buddies?” Thomas said. “Why do you do that?
“People who know me and my family and what I stand for will laugh at Magic and his beliefs. I’m tired of getting punched and people using me because they think I’m not going to say anything. Those days are over. Game on.”