Upset over a 117-88 loss to the Phoenix Suns on April 13, Magic Johnson, who had taken over as coach of the Los Angeles Lakers on March 27, ordered his troops to report at 7:30 the following morning. At one point during the pre-practice meeting, as Johnson was complaining about "all your beepers and car phones and outside business interests," a beeper went off. Johnson stalked around the room until he found the offending device, which belonged to center Vlade Divac. Johnson grabbed the beeper from Divac, fired it against a wall and watched it smash into little pieces.
"That's the——I'm talking about," someone at the meeting quoted Johnson as saying, "and I'm sick of it." The next day Johnson announced he would not return as coach.
There is no news on whether Divac has replaced his beeper.
When Isiah Thomas limped off the court on April 19 with a torn right Achilles tendon, it was probably his last appearance in an NBA uniform. At the time Thomas was averaging 14.8 points and 6.9 assists and was shooting .417 from the floor, all three among the worst numbers of his 13-year career with the Detroit Pistons. The Pistons were one of the worst teams in the NBA and would finish the season on Sunday with a 20-62 record. Thomas had already had a falling-out with Detroit owner William Davidson, and that probably cost him a shot at a management position with the team. In all, the 6'1" Thomas, whom many NBA observers consider the best little man ever, deserved a far nobler farewell.
Thomas may gain solace from the fact that other superstars in other sports were denied fitting final seasons and/or graceful exits. Here are a few of them:
•Shortly after he became a worldwide hero in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Jesse Owens was suspended by the AAU for refusing to attend a meet and subsequently took to running against racehorses to make a living. "I wasn't sure whether what I was doing was participating in an athletic exhibition or just making a spectacle of myself," Owens wrote in The Jesse Owens Story. Sadly, it was more of the latter.
•Willie Mays finished his immortal career in highly mortal fashion with the New York Mets in 1973. He lost fly balls in the sun, fell down on the base paths and, despite his memorable 12th-inning RBI single off the Oakland Athletics' Rollie Fingers in Game 2 of the World Series, hit only .211 for the season.
•O.J. Simpson will be forever remembered for his glory years with the Buffalo Bills, but he ended his playing days with two lackluster seasons with the San Francisco 49ers. He gained only 1,053 yards for the Niners while sharing the rushing duties with one Paul Hofer on a team that won only four of 32 games.