Former NBA superstar Isiah Thomas said he wishes that his longtime buddy Magic Johnson would have talked to him before publishing a book accusing him of selling out his friend.
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In his soon-to-be-released book, When the Game Was Ours, which he co-wrote with Larry Bird and author Jackie MacMullan, Johnson blames Thomas for spreading rumors that Johnson was gay or bisexual after the Los Angeles Lakers all-star tested positive for HIV, forcing his retirement at age 32. "Isiah kept questioning people about it,'' Johnson writes. "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.''
It is the first time that Johnson has publicly blamed Thomas, a Hall-of-Fame point guard for the Detroit Pistons from 1981-1994, questioning his sexuality after Johnson announced he had the disease in 1991.
Thomas said in an interview with SI.com that he was devastated by Johnson’s assumptions. "I'm really hurt, and I really feel taken advantage of for all these years,'' said Thomas. "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.''
In the book, SI.com reports, Johnson acknowledges 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.''
Said Thomas 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. 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.''
Thomas, who also served as coach of the New York Knicks before his current gig as head basketball coach at Florida International University, said that Johnson had some “really bad information.”
"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.'' (His brother, Gregory Thomas, died five years ago.) “…Whatever friendship we had, I thought it was bulls*** that he believed that. Let me put it to you this way: If he and I were such close friends, if I was questioning his sexuality, then I was questioning mine too. That's how idiotic it is.''
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