Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas, whose fractured friendship has long grabbed headlines, made amends in a tearful Players Only Monthly special that aired on NBA TV Tuesday night.
"This has been a tremendous day," Johnson said at the end of the one-on-one sit-down. "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.
"You are my brother. Let me apologize to you if I hurt you—that we haven't been together. God is good to bring us back together."
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“Let me apologize to you. If I hurt you. That we haven’t been together.” #PlayersOnlyMonthly https://t.co/nDpfDfZek82017-12-20 04:59:49
Johnson and Thomas were dear friends throughout the 1980s, but their high-profile bond hit a series of speed bumps.
In his book, When the Game Was Ours, which was co-authored with Larry Bird and famed basketball scribe Jackie MacMullan, Johnson said that Thomas "questioned his sexuality and that several players did not want him [Thomas] on the original 'Dream Team' that easily won Olympic gold," according to the Associated Press (via NBA.com).
Thomas was subsequently left off the 1992 United States Olympic men's basketball team.
"Isiah killed his own chances when it came to the Olympics," Johnson said in the book, per the AP. "Nobody on that team wanted to play with him. ... I'm sad for Isiah. He has alienated so many people in his life, and he still doesn't get it. He doesn't understand why he wasn't chosen for that Olympic team and that's really too bad. You should be aware when you've ticked off more than half of the NBA."
Thomas later told Sports Illustrated he was "blindsided" by Johnson's criticisms.
Thomas also disclosed the two started to drift apart following a physical clash in the 1988 NBA Finals that saw the Los Angeles Lakers top the Detroit Pistons in seven games.
"When we got to the ['88] Finals, our relationship became very different,'' Thomas told SI. "It was OK for us to be friends when we weren't competing with the Lakers, but when we started competing with the Lakers, our friendship changed. I remember my son was born in '88 during the NBA Finals and Magic wouldn't even come to the hospital."
Thomas and the Pistons responded by sweeping the Lakers in the 1989 Finals. Johnson played just 75 minutes in the entire series because of a hamstring pull.
Despite the animosity, Thomas has maintained he helped facilitate Johnson's inclusion in the 1992 NBA All-Star Game after the Lakers floor general, who had been diagnosed with HIV, retired prior to the 1991-92 campaign.
"They weren't going to let Magic play in the All-Star Game; all the players were coming out [against him],'' Thomas said, per SI. "You know how that all got turned around? I had a meeting with all of the players— because I was president of the players' association—and I told them not only was he going to play, but we were going to shake his hand and give him a hug. And I was the first to shake his hand and hug him and give him a kiss, to let people know that's not how the virus is spread."
Johnson took home MVP honors in the league's most memorable midseason exhibition to date after totaling 25 points, nine assists and five rebounds in 29 minutes.