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Christmas forgiveness: Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas reconcile after 26 years of bitterness


After a quarter-century of conflict, they finally reach the reconciliation everyone was hoping for.

A new and wonderful page has been written in the history of the NBA. Two of its greatest players, Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas — considered beyond a doubt among the best players in the history of basketball — had been separated by hate, accusations, slurs, and bitterness, for 26 years. Today, in front of the cameras of NBA TV, they sealed their reconciliation with a meeting and an embrace — they even cried.

The confrontation between Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas began in 1991, when Magic Johnson went public about being a carrier of HIV. This created an uproar in the basketball world, and Johnson accuses Thomas of spreading rumors that he was gay or bisexual. This created quite a scandal, both in the general public and in the locker rooms of both players’ teams.

Revenge and ambition

Not only did those rumors and accusations raise a barrier between the two stars; Magic Johnson — as he admitted many years later — made sure that Isiah Thomas wasn’t on the American “Dream Team” that played at the Summer Olympics in Barcelona in 1992. He reportedly vetoed it, with the support of Larry Bird, Magic’s co-captain on the team. Vengeance was served. Isiah Thomas wasn’t allowed to play on the Dream Team.

Throughout the story of their conflict, they have hurt each other over and over, including when Magic Johnson published his book When the Game Was Ours, in which he made various accusations against his rival and confessed his role in keeping Isiah out of the Olympics.

God is good to bring us together again

After 26 years, yesterday’s reunion in front of the cameras couldn’t have been more emotive. Magic Johnson spoke to Isiah Thomas in the following words:

“This has been a tremendous day. 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 have those… relive those moments of fun, excellence, working hard, dreamin’ 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 together again.”

Magic Johnson’s words lasted 58 seconds, after which both players started to cry, and embraced.

Forgiveness proved itself more powerful than that hardness of heart that had kept those great players apart for 26 years. Perhaps it’s the best Christmas story that has been told in basketball in recent times.

Read more: How a Christian invented basketball and made it an evangelization tool

This article was originally published in the Spanish edition of Aleteia, and has been translated and adapted here for English-speaking readers.

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