Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas were the tightest of boys and the faces of the NBA in the 1980s. They were dynamic, charismatic, photogenic and, most of all, immensely talented and awe-inspiring on the hardwood.
They were not only the NBA’s most famous friends – by far – they were seemingly inseparable, bonded together by their intense thirst for life and their shared obsession with the game of basketball. Despite one of them being 6-foot-9 and the other barely tipping 6-feet, they were amazingly similar: magnetic, ultra-competitive, relentlessly driven, natural-born leaders and blood-lusting title seekers who – along with Larry Bird, Michael Jordan and Julius “Dr. J.” Erving – authored what is known as the “golden era” of the sport.
The two Hall of Famers’ relationship took a dive in the late 1980s as the Los Angeles Lakers and Detroit Pistons played each other in two consecutive NBA Finals. Johnson even admitted in a co-authored book with Larry Bird that he lobbied to throw a deserving Thomas off the 1992 U.S. Olympic Dream, the greatest collection of NBA players the sport had ever seen. Johnson wrote in the book that he was told that Thomas was questioning whether Johnson was gay. Johnson told the public he contracted HIV through heterosexual intercourse, a cause that was considered rare at the time.
Thomas came back in a 2009 interview with Sports Illustrated and denied that he ever expressed doubts about his friend’s heterosexuality.
“Let me put it to you this way: If he and I were such close friends, if I was questioning his sexuality, then I was questioning mine, too. That’s how idiotic it is,” Thomas told SI.
The men known simply as “Magic” and “Zeke” finally reconciled after 25 years in an emotional, teary-eyed “Players Only Monthly” special that aired on NBA TV Tuesday night. Thomas is a studio analyst for the network.
“This has been a tremendous day,” Johnson said. “My wife, my mother, my father have been saying y’all need to get back together. So when everybody called, I said no question we’re going to do this. And just to sit across from you and relive those moments of fun, excellence, working hard, dreaming big. Who sits up at 19 or 21 dreaming of stuff we wanted to do and now we are here doing it.
“You are my brother. Let me apologize if I hurt you,” Magic said, choking up on his words, “that we haven’t been together. And God is good to bring us back together.”
The two men then embraced for an entire minute.
Take a look at this poignant, tear-jerking moment as these once-in-a-generation talents finally make-up after more than two decades.
— NBA TV (@NBATV) December 20, 2017