Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas have ended their beef.
The Hall of Famers had an emotional meeting that was recorded for NBA TV. The reconciliation aired Tuesday night as part of the network’s “Players Only” series. Thomas is a studio analyst for the network.
Johnson apologized to Thomas, who broke down while accepting. Magic asked for a hug, and the two men embraced for close to a minute.
“Let me apologize to you. If I hurt you. That we haven’t been together.”#PlayersOnlyMonthly pic.twitter.com/nDpfDfZek8
— NBA TV (@NBATV) December 20, 2017
The two were very close as young professionals, but the relationship began to sour in the late 1980s as Johnson’s Lakers and Thomas’ Pistons competed for an NBA championship. It took another hit in the early 1990s after Johnson announced he had tested positive for HIV.
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Johnson said in a 2009 book he co-authored with Larry Bird that he was told at the time that Thomas was questioning whether Johnson was gay. Johnson told the public he contracted the virus through heterosexual intercourse, a cause that was considered rare at the time.
Also in 2009, Thomas denied in an interview with Sports Illustrated related to the book that he ever expressed doubts about his friend.
“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,” Thomas told the magazine.
In the same interview with SI, Thomas responded to two other things Johnson laid out in the book: that he lobbied to keep Thomas off the 1992 Olympic Dream Team (Michael Jordan had gotten most of the blame previously), and Johnson largely blaming Thomas for possibly freezing out Jordan during the 1985 All-Star Game.
Thomas’ response to the Jordan claim: He said he also had to pass the ball to East teammates Bird, Moses Malone and Julius Erving, so he wasn’t freezing out Jordan.