Despite growing up a Pistonâ€™s fan, I stopped being an Isiah Thomas fan around the time he failed in a power play to take over the Toronto Raptors. By the time he ruined the CBA, I wondered if he was all there. I lost whatever respect I had for him during his time with the New York Knicks and the allegations of sexual harassment started to come in.
I do feel some remorse for him after being blindsided by Magic Johnson the new book about Magic and Larry Bird. I felt sorry for Thomas while reading this in the Sporting News about their relationship after Magic was diagnosed with HIV.
Isiah and Magic were great friends during their playing days and have remained on good terms, so it’s not surprising to see him cut Johnson a little slack. But things get really hairy really fast when it comes to Thomas’s supposed gossiping about Magic’s sexuality.
As Zeke says, "What most people don’t know is, before Magic had HIV, my brother had HIV. My brother died of HIV, AIDS, drug abuse. So I knew way more about the disease, because I was living with it in my house.” That’s also where you get the sense that, for real, it’s on.
As much of a laughingstock as Thomas has become, you have to feel for him here. Not only does he feel betrayed, but he’s getting accused of spreading rumors on a subject that, based on personal experience, he’d never be so ignorant about. What remains to be seen is if he’s got enough credibility left to launch the meme that "There’s this public person and then there’s this b.s. person. There’s Earvin and then there’s Magic."
As Isiah said to Sports Illustrated
"It’s so hypocritical,” said Thomas, who was replaced by current Knicks president Donnie Walsh in 2008. "There’s this public person and then there’s this b.s. person. There’s Earvin and then there’s Magic. OK, I understand you’ve got to sell a book. But if this is how you sell it, then who’s kicking who in the stomach? And it’s just like the line he perpetuated that he got me the Knicks’ job. Oh, yeah? Ask [Knicks owner] Jim Dolan. Call Barry Watkins [the Knicks’ senior VP]. That’s a lie.
"You’re talking about being two-faced? Magic says he put me up for the job, that he was showing up in hard times and telling me everything was OK. And I come to find out he’s been the one stabbing me in the back. … I’m really hurt and disappointed, particularly with the Olympic team, if he was doing that stuff.”
Thomas said Magic has never confronted him about the HIV rumors or his true feelings about their relationship. As recently as August, Thomas attended a charity event in Beverly Hills, Calif., honoring Magic, where he said they greeted each other warmly.
"If he was feeling this way, why was he shaking my hand and kissing me and acting like he and I were such buddies?” Thomas said. "Why do you do that?
"People who know me and my family and what I stand for will laugh at Magic and his beliefs. I’m tired of getting punched and people using me because they think I’m not going to say anything. Those days are over. Game on.”
Okay, if I am Magic Johnson, I fly out to Florida, take my old friend out for supper and have a long talk with him before the book is finished. I give him a heads up, I let him see the first draft of the book, I get his comments, I apologize, I even visit a few recruits for my old friend and sit on the South Florida sidelines. Actually if I was Magic Johnson, I wouldnâ€™t say those things about someone I called a friend.