They were rivals on the court and best of friends off the court during much of the 1980’s when the NBA saw a resurgence in popularity, but years after retirement Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas had a major falling out.
After 8 years of not talking, the pair finally reconnected in a TV sit down conversation. During the chat, Magic gave a heartfelt apology, to which Thomas immediately broke down in tears. The exchange showed the power of forgiveness, and just how much words can hurt – and heal – a relationship.
Johnson had caused hurt feeling with commentary in his 2009 book When the Game Was Ours. According to The Herd Now, Johnson expressed frustration with Thomas for questioning his sexuality after it was revealed Johnson had HIV. But the real damage was done when he opined about why Thomas was excluded from the famed Olympic Dream Team:
“Isiah killed his own chances when it came to the Olympics. 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.”
In the short clip posted to Twitter, Johnson reminisces about the past before apologizing. The emotions flow almost immediately.
“You are my brother, let me apologize to you, if I hurt you, that we haven’t been together,” Johnson began. “And, God is good to bring us back together. Am I right? I know man, it hurt me too. Come here, man.”
The pair then engage in a long embrace, with both crying a release of tears that have obviously been built up for some time.
— NBA TV (@NBATV) December 20, 2017
A great lesson for everyone, whether you are a sports fan or not, to see grown men, especially macho athletic types, expressing empathy and compassion and forgiveness. Very powerful stuff.