Those of us who lament the current incarnation of the NBA despite Lebron James’ and Chris Paul’s (he’s soooo cute — no hetero) greatness do so because we remember the golden age of the league. (Are you looking for Kobe love? You won’t get that here. Move along.) Those of us born in the 80s were raised on the good and nutritiously entertaining similac of dope hip hop and an NBA that was absolutely faaaaaantastic. Part of what made the mid-80s professional basketball such a renaissance was the rivalry between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, a contentious pairing that began during the championship game of the 1979 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, where Magic’s Michigan State Spartans beat Bird and the Indiana State Sycamores. Thirty years after the Bird or Magic debate began, the former adversaries, now friends, have co-written a book with the help of former Boston Globe sports columnist Jackie Macmullan. Though the book won’t be on shelves until November 4, last week the sports world took a brief break from obsessing over football to report on some of the juicier content.
According to reports, in When the Game Was Ours Johnson makes two startling allegations about former Detroit Pistons point guard, Isiah Thomas who was, by all accounts, Johnson’s closest friend in the league, until an on the court fight eventually led to the two buddies becoming estranged. The first allegation concerns Thomas being left off the roster of the 1992 Dream Team. However, what’s most interesting–and what commentators have spent most of their time exploring–is Johnson’s claim that Thomas questioned and spread rumors about his sexuality after his HIV diagnosis was made public.
From the Sports Illustrated article about the story:
Magic’s most shocking accusation, however, is that Thomas was responsible for spreading rumors that Johnson was gay or bisexual after Johnson tested positive for HIV, forcing his retirement at age 32. “Isiah kept questioning people about it,” Magic says. “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.”
The book’s main source for this allegation is Magic’s longtime agent, Lon Rosen, who says Thomas told him in 1991, “I keep hearing Magic is gay.’
“C’mon, Isiah, you know Earvin better than anyone,” Rosen replies.”I know,” Thomas answers, “but I don’t know what he’s doing when he’s out there in L.A.”
On Wednesday, Thomas denied that conversation. “I don’t know Lon like that,” he said, adding that he reached out to Johnson at the time. “I remember calling Magic and saying [of the allegations that he was rumor-mongering], ‘You know that’s some bulls—.’ ”