The unglued bond was once again cemented between the basketball legends, and sealed with a emotional hug.
“I would say to you, this has been a tremendous day,” Johnson said on NBA TV. “My wife, my mother, my father said you all need to get back together. So when everybody called I said, no question we are going to do this. And just to sit across from you and relive those moments of fun, excellence, working hard, dreaming big…because we were dreaming moments before we were even…Who sits up at 19, 20, 21 dreaming of stuff we wanted to do? And now here we are doing it.”
“But you are my brother. Let me apologize to you if I hurt you. That we haven’t been together. And God is good for bringing us back together. Alright?”
Johnson couldn’t get out the words without choking up. Thomas also stopped in his tracks before breaking down.
“I know man, it hurt me too,” Johnson said.
Thomas said “I’ll always be here,” before adding: “but I’m still mad you beat me.”
Thomas also brought up the rift in the best friends’ bond during the 1988 NBA Finals.
“You had to make a choice between your Lakers and our friendship,” he said.
Thomas said he was “really hurt” by the decision, “emotionally.”
Another big contribution to the rift was revealed in Johnson’s book When the Game Was Ours, which was co-authored by Larry Bird. In that book, Johnson admitted to helping keep Thomas off of the 1992 U.S. Olympic Dream Team because he believed Thomas spread a rumor that he was gay or bisexual. Those rumors surfaced after Johnson tested positive for HIV. Thomas denied spreading those rumors.
The Lakers won the 1988 title before the Thomas-led Detroit Pistons pulled off back-to-back championships in 1989 and 1990.