Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas famously kissed each other on the cheek prior to the Game 1 tip-off in the 1988 Finals. Although the relationship between the two Hall of Famers spiraled out of control and soured in the years following, they recently came together to bury the hatchet in an NBA TV special.
The two NBA legends have sorted out their differences, but when did the feud even begin? CASSIUS rounded up a brief history of one of the league’s greatest frenemies.
Beginning of the End
“You had to make a choice between your Lakers and our friendship,” Thomas said in the new NBA TV interview. Meaning that the two were friends, but that they had to make a choice when it came to helping their teams fight for championships or put their friendship first. Both chose the former. Thomas even told the Los Angeles Times once that when his son was born during the ’88 finals Magic didn’t even visit the hospital.
After Magic was diagnosed with HIV he retired from the Lakers in 1991. In his 2009 book When the Game Was Ours he alleges that Thomas questioned Magic’s sexuality. The ignorance of how HIV could be transmitted was rampant in the earlier ’90s as many thought it was something only gay or bisexual men were diagnosed with. It ultimately hurt Magic that he thought his friend would question his sexuality.
1992 Olympics Blackballing
Another huge moment in their relationship was when Thomas was oddly missing from the 1992 Olympic Men’s basketball team that coasted to win the gold medal. According to the NY Post, it was Johnson that kept Thomas off the team. “Nobody on that team wanted to play with him,” he said in his book.
Thomas Claps Back
Thomas got wind of the criticisms in Johnson’s book prior to its release and was totally blindsided by his former friend’s involvement in blackballing him from the Olympics. “I’m really hurt, and I really feel taken advantage of for all these years,” said the Hall of Famer. He also denied that he spoke behind Magic’s back in relation to his diagnosis of HIV because his brother died of HIV/AIDS.