the original man love
The original man love pic. I guess now we know why Isiah avoided the lips...

As you may or may not know, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson have "co-written" a book together. (That is, they probably did a lot of talking while author Jackie MacMullen did the actual writing.) It's called When The Game Was Ours, and it comes out on November 4th. However, it's already making headlines...by making Isiah Thomas want to kick Magic's ass. The two main points of contention are:

1. Isiah spread rumors that Magic was gay or bisexual...or so Magic believes: Remember back in 1991 when Magic tested positive for HIV and had to retire? Magic's agent Lon Rosen claims Isiah told him: "I keep hearing Magic is gay." When Rosen reminded Isiah that the two men were friends and that Isiah knew him better than anyone, Isiah allegedly replied, "I know, but I don't know what he's doing when he's out there in L.A." In the book, Magic responds to this story by saying, "Isiah kept questioning people about it. I couldn't believe that. The one guy I thought I could count on had all these doubts. It was like he kicked me in the stomach.''

2. Magic (along with Michael Jordan) co-blocked Isiah from making the 1992 Olympic Dream Team: Said Magic: "Isiah killed his own chances when it came to the Olympics. Nobody on that team wanted to play with him. ... Michael didn't want to play with him. Scottie [Pippen] wanted no part of him. Bird wasn't pushing for him. Karl Malone didn't want him. Who was saying, 'We need this guy?' Nobody.''

You can kind of see how this happened, right? Magic hears that Isiah might kinda-sorta wonder whether he's gay in 1991, because science at that time had proven that only homosexuals and junkies got AIDS. When he hears what Isiah might have kinda-sorta said, Magic gets pissed but doesn't say anything, because it's uncomfortable to address rumors that your best friend thinks you might want to put his penis in your mouth. When 1992 rolls around and it's time for him to stand behind Isiah's inclusion on the Dream Team, Magic exacts his revenge by helping to keep one of the best point guards of all time off the greatest team of all time. And now, after all these years, Magic decides "clears the air" in a book about his rivalry with Larry Bird. Without telling Isiah in advance.

Sounds pretty fifth grade, right?

There's only one problem with Magic's claims and assumptions. Isiah denies questioning Magic's sexuality, mostly because his own brother, Gregory Thomas, had HIV. Said Thomas: "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.''

Whoops.

You know what this reminds me of? More fifth grade stuff. You have two best friends (Magic and Isiah) and one bitter enemy to both of them (Bird). Only, by some strange twist of fate, one of the bosom buddies (Magic) becomes friends with the enemy (Bird). Suddenly, the other bosom buddy (Isiah) is on the outside looking in...and wondering what in the hell happened. But of course boys don't talk about their feelings, so the two former friends just drift apart. By 8th grade (or in this case almost two decades later), one former friend (Isiah) finally hears through the grapevine (or in this case a book prepared for mass distribution) that his old buddy thinks all kinds of bad things about him based on stuff that may not even be true.

Ah, children.

Here are some of Isiah's responses to all this. Regarding the Dream Team cock-block:

"I'm glad that he's finally had the nerve and the courage to stand up and say it was him, as opposed to letting Michael Jordan take the blame for it all these years. I wish he would have had the courage to say this stuff to me face to face, as opposed to writing it in some damn book to sell and he can make money off it.''
Regarding the "I said Magic's gay" rumors:

"Magic acted and responded off some really bad information that he got. Whatever friendship we had, I thought it was bulls--- that he believed that. 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.

"They weren't going to let Magic play in the All-Star Game; all the players were coming out [against him]. 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. And you can go back and check at the players' association. Call Charlie Grantham [the former union executive director and COO] and ask him how Magic got to play in the All-Star Game. Ask him who called the meeting.

"I don't discriminate. I don't believe any race or ethnic group or social group should be discriminated against, because I have been discriminated against, and I know it would be wrong for me to discriminate. I think Magic has been misled on a lot of things, and unfortunately this has been another one of them. I am hurt and disappointed that he has chosen to believe others as opposed to his closest friends. And I think you can go back and look in that era and see who his closest friends were, and who his closest friends are now. At that time, I don't consider Lon Rosen to be one of his closest friends; he was one of his business advisers making money off him."
Believe it or not, I feel a little bad for Isiah. The dude has been having a pretty rough decade or so. Misfortune and tragedy -- much of it self-imposed -- have dogged him at every turn. If you think about it, this all started in 1987 when he said that if Larry Bird was black he's be just another good player. Then, after a couple championships, he walked off the court without congratulating the Bulls after the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals. Then he bombed as Toronto's GM. Then there was the CBA debacle. Then Larry Bird fires him as coach of the Indiana Pacers. Years later, he gets fired again after almost destroying the New York Knicks. Then he allegedly tries to commit suicide and says it was actually his daughter who did it. Now this.

Bad times all around.

It's hard to blame 1991 Magic Johnson for being upset. After all, back then being diagnosed with HIV was like a death sentence. And, frankly, it was easy to believe that Isiah would say something stupid like "I don't know what he's doing when he's out there in L.A." in light of his previous comments about Bird. And yeah, maybe he was too emotionally wrung out to deal with it by the time the original Dream Team was being put together. I get all that. What I don't get is why it's taken Magic -- who's healthy and has seemingly long since come to terms with his HIV-positive status -- so long to speak up. And, really, he should have told Isiah directly before putting it into a book that's not even about Isiah.

But if The Magic Hour taught us anything, it's that Magic doesn't always make the best decisions. Oh well. I guess it's better to have man-loved and lost...than to have never man-loved at all.

Update! I had to add this comment from BleedingHeartPessimist: "I can just picture Larry Bird, sitting in his Birdcave, looking at a giant flow chart entitled "Plan to Destroy Isiah and Magic", crossing off another box, and chuckling to himself."

Update again! More high comedy from Hilary:

Michael Jordan probably saw it as Magic letting him take credit, not the fall.

Top Secret Meeting of Dream Team Players

Magic: He's not my BFF anymore. That is so 1990.

Larry: I never liked him either.

Karl Malone: Speaking of manlove, if he gets on, my basketball other half is probably going to be left off. Down with Isiah!

Charles Barkley and Scottie Pippen: We vote however Michael says, and everyone knows how he froze Michael out during that All-Star game.

Jordan: I want him off the team, too, but on one condition.

All: What?

Jordan: He thinks I'm the one behind everything. He gets to sit at home all summer and think about how if he would have acknowledged my greatness, he could have been on the greatest team ever. The biggest mistake anyone can ever make is not acknowledging my greatness, you know. And I never forget, and I will dedicate the rest of my life to humiliating anyone foolish enough to motivate me by -- anyone got a pen? This is good stuff, and I want to save it for my hall of fame induction speech.

Malone: Make sure John gets to be the other point guard, and he'll make up something about wanting to be brought into the hall of fame by another small dominant guard so Isiah can be there in person when you make the hall of fame speech!

Jordan: Deal!

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28 Comments:
I can just picture Larry Bird, sitting in his Birdcave, looking at a giant flow chart entitled "Plan to Destroy Isiah and Magic", crossing off another box, and chuckling to himself.

Blogger Michael said...
In this instance, I feel for Isiah, too. It's disappointing that one of my all-time favorite players (Magic) would be such a little bitch about this. The fact that they were best friends yet competed at such a high level on the court, for years, was one of those childhood touchstones for me - it somehow seemed to represent all this great stuff about sports.

Isiah has brought most of his misfortune on himself, but this is just kicking him when he's down.

Blogger Japes said...
Damn, I'm actually on Isiah's side on this one. It seems that Magic was misinformed and made quite a few assumptions at the time. I'm just surprised Magic needed to write a book to make even more money. Isn't he like the richest former NBA player right now?

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Zeke kinda got fucked by history. A lot of 'ball fans think the Golden Period goes Celtics, Lakers, Celtics, Lakers, Bulls x6, lockout, new era. But it doesn't.

And now Magic is loved on television as an occasional studio analyst (and sounding like a total bullshit artist, I might add), Larry and McHale get free rides doing Christ-knows-what in the front office, Joe D is a genius GM (until this time last year, anyway), Kareem gets a say-nothing column in the LA Times. MJ still makes headlines about taking people 1-on-1. Worthy, Pip and Chief are living in retirement. Quietly. (AFAIK, anyway.) Hell, even Reggie Miller is getting in the best kinds of trouble with another man's (not)wife and getting paid to bullshit into a mic, and he never won two rings.

Zeke, on the other hand, has had the worse after-game career (of anyone, I think? Challengers?) and his back-to-back rings have become pretty much forgotten.

Blogger 49er16 said...
You have to love Magic letting Jordan take the fall all these years on the lockout Isiah of the Olympics story.

Nice guy.

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
Pioneers, no, martyrs of the modern day bromance.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
"Birdcave" made me LOL. Is there a Robin? More importantly, an Alfred?

And, of course, you must only call Birdman if you are Commissioner Stern. Ick.

Blogger chris said...
That picture makes me long for the days when everyone in the Association looked scrawny, rather than bulked up!

Anonymous Wormboy said...
And let's not forget Karl Malone's charming AIDS comments around this time. To me, this is when Malone captured the title of World's Most Prominent Black Redneck."

Blogger Hilary said...
Michael Jordan probably saw it as Magic letting him take credit, not the fall.

::top secret meeting of Dream Team players::

Magic: He's not my BFF anymore. That is SO 1990.

Larry: I never liked him either.

Karl Malone: Speaking of manlove, if he gets on, my basketball other half is probably going to be left off. Down with Isiah!

Charles Barkley and Scottie Pippen: We vote however Michael says, and everyone knows how he froze Michael out during that all-star game.

Jordan: I want him off the team, too, but on one condition.

All: What?

Jordan: He thinks I'm the one behind everything. He gets to sit at home all summer and think about how if he would have acknowledged my greatness, he could have been on the greatest team ever. The biggest mistake anyone can ever make is not acknowledging my greatness, you know. And I never forget, and I will dedicate the rest of my life to humiliating anyone foolish enough to motivate me by-- Anyone got a pen? This is good stuff, and I want to save it for my hall of fame induction speech.

Malone: Make sure John gets to be the other point guard, and he'll make up something about wanting to be brought into the hall of fame by another small dominant guard so Isiah can be there in person when you make the hall of fame speech!

Jordan: Deal!

Anonymous flip said...
Magic comes off as a bitch, really.
He even "writes" that he heard that Isiah was asking people about what he was up to in LA but never confronts his supposed best friend about it, like a grown up is supposed to.

I think BleedingHeartPessimist is right about Larry Legend's plan to destroy both of them (although Isiah is doing well in that department by himself...).

What kind of dude would not simply come out and ask about it? Of course that means that there's more to the story than what is in the book, but how the hell

Blogger chris said...
Wormboy: To think, he had ALREADY started down that path with his illegitimate kid years before...

Anonymous Anonymous said...
There's an old saying, "My enemy's enemy is my friend."

Blogger LA Huey said...
hilary: fantastic. i've officially registered that scenario in my brain as "fact"

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
Hilary: The agreement was made official when they recorded it in their scrapbook diary.

Blogger Wild Yams said...
Isiah gets no sympathy from me, even if he might deserve it in this case. The reason he gets no sympathy from me is because he was the most prominent member of the team that, IMO, permanently (at least up till now) disfigured the NBA game. Being the leader of the team that brought thuggishness to new heights along with being the team that introduced flopping, all while winning two championships (which legitimized such awful tactics), ruined the game and it has still yet to recover.

He deserves every bad thing that's happened to him since retiring.

Blogger home handymum said...
Wild Yams, I think you must be confusing Isiah with Bill Laimbeer as leader of the pistons

Blogger jslater said...
Re the comment about Larry Bird only getting attention because he was white . . . Dennis Rodman said that, after a bitter playoff loss to the Celtics. Zeke tried to explain what Rodman meant later to the press, which was actually a good think for Zeke to try to do. First, he was deflecting heat off of a more vulnerable young player on the team. Second, Zeke put the quote in context of how white players and black players were portrayed differently by the media.

Thomas has done a lot of dumb things in his career, but I don't think that was one of them.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
jslater -- Here's the full story of Isiah's anti-Bird comment, courtesy of Peter May's The Big Three:

After the Boston Celtics defeated the Detroit Pistons in Game 7 of the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals, Dennis Rodman said Bird was "very overrated" and that Larry had won three consecutive MVPs only "because he's white." When asked if he agreed with Rodman's assessment, Isiah Thomas said, "Larry Bird is a very, very good basketball player, but I'd have to agree with Dennis. If he was black, he'd be just another good guy."

That's not really explaining anything or putting the quote in context. He claimed that Bird -- one of the greatest players of all time -- would be "just another good guy" if he was black. That's beyond ridiculous no matter how you look at it.

This caused such an uproar that the NBA had to hold a press conference before the NBA Finals so Isiah could apologize to Larry and thus calm everybody down.

Blogger Iceberg said...
For what it is worth (and that is probably not much), the actual writer says she received confirmation that Isiah was questioning Magic's sexuality from "2-3" other sources while writing the book and heard it "all the time" back then. This was on PTI's 5 good minutes yesterday. Even considering Isiah's brother, I'm not sure I would be surprised either way.

Blogger Clay said...
The thing everybody leaves out when discussing the Dream Team, is, of course, that Stockton had no ego and was a better pure passer and setter-up-guy than Isiah and as such would be a much better point guard for a team of Hall of Famers.

I mean, I'm not saying Isiah didn't deserve to make the Dream Team - he absolutely did given his accomplishments. But that doesn't change the fact that giving the second spot to Stockton made for a better team. If I could build a team from Hall of Famers and Magic had already been picked I'd take Stockton as my point guard way way before even thinking about Isiah.

Blogger jslater said...
Basketbawful:

Fair enough, but those were the heat-in-the-moment, lockerroom after a bitterly disappointing loss quotes. After that, the TV network broadcasting the Lakers-Celtics finals that year (I forget which) dragged Isiah on air to "explain" his comment. I thought he did a pretty good job talking about how black players were often portrayed as "natural atheletes" while white players were often portrayed as "hard workers." I remember Isiah saying, among other things, hey, I have to practice and work hard too.

I also remember later in that series one of the TV announcers referring to the Lakers lineup as a bunch of "thoroughbreds."

Again, this isn't to say Isiah or Rodman were right about Bird in particular, and it certainly isn't meant to excuse Zeke's many other f-ups. And if your point was Isiah got some bad press for the Bird thing, then I agree. But I think in the big picture Isiah made some good points on that issue.

Blogger The Dude Abides said...
Here's a link to a November 2001 ESPN article that mentions Isiah spreading the bisexual rumor:

http://espn.go.com/gen/s/2001/1105/1274006.html

It's not like this is huge news to most NBA insiders. Magic never forgave Isiah for gossiping about him.

Blogger The Dude Abides said...
Shaq recently said that he's having trouble picking up Cleveland's offense. So they made a flow chart for him to use as a cheat sheet.

Caution: beverage spray on keyboard may occur upon reading
http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=19504

Blogger Buck Nasty said...
Shaq on that waitfornextyear flow chart: "Whoa. The Big Steamer is the real king. Prince James might be good, but I was the reason he got chances in this league. I invented marketing for basketball players. I invented the post. I invented dribbling, as a matter of fact. Now Ima go where a pink speedo, which I also invented."

OpenID NarSARSsist said...
Bawful - This is completely unrelated to basketball, but according to ESPN's Scout's Inc.'s Jets-Raiders game breakdown, the Raiders actually have the advantage when it comes to quarterbacks. Doesn't this make you miss Footbawful at least a little? I took a screenshot of it, as it is possible this will be the only time we'll ever see the Raiders having a QB advantage with poor Jamarcus Russell.

WV: Mismake: Likely a word creation by Magic while he's on the air. "Phil Jackson really mismaked his game plans when he decided to match Space Cadet against Paul Pierce in the 08 Finals."

Blogger CassavaLeaf.com said...
I might get bashed by you guys on this since there is a lot of larry bird love on this here site:

BUT

if Larry Bird had been black, he wouldn't be as revered as he is now. The difference between Larry Bird and Dirk is the quality of teammates and dearth of competition. Larry was great but he will never enter the discussion as G.O.A.T. to a black guy....now..... white dudes think that he is the GREATEST thing that ever happened.

OpenID NarSARSsist said...
CassavaLeaf.com - I never personally watched Bird play, as he was before my time, but looking back at his career, but he had the stats, had the wins, and has the championships. I don't see why he should be not as revered as he is today (which honestly, outside the web, I don't hear a whole lot of, except for "Oh man Adam Morrison can be the next Bird!" followed by "Man did MJ blow that pick"). These days everyone is foaming at the mouth about how great Lebron is, but Bird put up those kinds of numbers before Bron Bron did. Even if Lebron's career ended right now, down the line people would still talk about him and how great he was, no?

As for having teammates, every winner needs good teammates. I mean, I'm a Kobe fan (yes, boo, evil empire, etc. etc.), but I also know that getting Gasol really helped with his legacy. It may not be fair for the guys who never got any help, but that's just how the media and the public see winners. I also really like Chris Paul for example, but I can easily see people viewing him down the line in a lesser light if he ends up rotting with a mediocre Hornets team. It's unfortunate, but that's just how it is.

For what it's worth, I'm yellow, so clearly Yao and Chairman Yi are the GOAT! (Oh yeah, forgot about Wang Zhi Zhi too.)

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