Magic addresses criticisms of Isiah
Magic Johnson: It 'was time' to reveal his strained relationship with Isiah Thomas
Johnson said Isiah spread rumors about his sexuality; Thomas denied the claim
Thomas also denied that Johnson helped him get his job with the Knicks
Magic Johnson on Monday addressed criticisms he made about Isiah Thomas that revealed a split between the two former friends.
In the forthcoming book When the Game Was Ours, which he co-wrote with Larry Bird and author Jackie MacMullan, Johnson disclosed that he helped blackball Thomas from the 1992 Olympic Dream Team and that he believed Thomas was responsible for spreading rumors about his sexuality after Magic tested positive for HIV in 1991.
During a conference call with Bird to promote the book, which will be released Wednesday, Johnson was asked why he decided to detail the nature of his relationship with Thomas now.
"I think it was time," Johnson said. "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."
Johnson said that despite the fractured relationship, he has remained cordial with Thomas. Magic reiterated that he helped persuade 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 said.
Thomas, who worked for the Knicks until 2008, told SI.com last month that Magic didn't play a role in his hiring. Isiah also said he was caught off guard by Johnson's criticisms.
"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.''
Johnson said Monday that he and Thomas, the new coach at Florida International, "haven't talked. If that day comes, then we'll sit down and talk. But if that day doesn't come, then it doesn't come. We've both got a lot to do. I got a lot to do with my business and he has a lot to do to get his college coaching career off the ground. I wish him well. It's too bad that it has to come to this, but sometimes that's what happens in life."
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