Former NBA superstar Magic Johnson defended comments in his soon-to-be-released book Monday about his longtime ex-buddy, Isiah Thomas.
Speaking to SI.com, Johnson stood by his book, “When the Game Was Ours,” stating that his relationship with Thomas fizzled because the former All-star point guard badmouthed him after he announced he had AIDS in 1991. In recent weeks, Thomas, who won championships with the Detroit Pistons, denied he ever said anything disparaging about Johnson; he even said he was a lone voice arguing at the time that Johnson should remain in the league despite his disease.
But in the book, which he co-wrote with Larry Bird and author Jackie MacMullan, Johnson acknowledges that he helped blackball Thomas from the 1992 Olympic Dream Team because he believed his former friend had spread rumors about his sexuality after he tested positive for AIDS. The book will be released Wednesday.
When asked by SI.com why he chose to speak out now, Johnson said, "I think it was time. We had an incredible relationship. We used to do everything together back in the day and then that kind of faded during those two championships [when the Lakers and Pistons met in the 1988 and '89 NBA Finals]. It really went in opposite directions from then. Even today, though, I want Isiah to be successful. I'm sure he wants me to be successful even though we're not what we used to be in terms of our friendship. But sometimes what happened at the Olympics and on and on has to be revealed."
Still, Johnson said, their falling out has not stopped him from treating Thomas friendly. He noted that he was the one who told the Knicks to hire Thomas as team president in 2003.
"When [Madison Square Garden Sports president] Steve Mills was deciding on that Knick job and offered it to me, I was the one who told him to call Isiah because I thought Isiah could do a good job," Johnson told SI.com.
Thomas, who worked for the Knicks until 2008, has said that Magic did not play a role in his hiring.
"I'm really hurt, and I really feel taken advantage of for all these years,'' Thomas told SI.com. "I'm totally blindsided by this. Every time that I've seen Magic, he has been friendly with me. ... I didn't know he felt this way.''