By Henry Abbott
The gist of the conversation, following the flurry of reports that accompanied the release of Jackie MacMullan's book, has been Magic Johnson saying it hurt his feelings to learn that, he says, his good friend Isiah Thomas spread rumors that Johnson was gay. Thomas has vehemently denied that he did any such thing.
Today, Harvey Araton of The New York Times recalls a conversation he had with Thomas at the time.
As the N.B.A. reporter for The Times, I was on assignment in Auburn Hills, Mich., when I stopped by Thomas’s dressing stall in the Pistons’ locker room. In those days, he considered me something of a news-media ally after I had assailed USA Basketball and those who had conspired to keep Thomas off the Dream Team. I still consider the exclusion to be one of the sport’s all-time slights.
I couldn’t resist asking Thomas about the Johnson sexuality story that was circulating, and his rumored role in it.
“That’s the thing that doesn’t make any sense,” Thomas told me. “Why would he want to accuse and alienate me when I’m the guy who hung out with him, stayed in his house and can stand up and vouch for him?”
Thomas being Thomas, he couldn’t let it go at that. He looked at me with that hand-in-the-cookie-jar smile and added: “And you know what? I would have lied for him.”