Full disclosure: We don’t know much about the origins or reasoning behind this new Los Angeles billboard. What we’re sure of, though, is that it gives us the opportunity to remind the basketball world of one of the NBA’s most iconic pre-game moments.
It’s the late 1980s. Spurred by the all-encompassing influence of their brilliant point guards, the Los Angeles Lakers and Detroit Pistons – along with the Boston Celtics – had firmly established themselves as perennial title favorites. Despite their teams’ obvious rivalry, Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas shared a pre-game peck on the cheek just before tip-off of every Lakers-Pistons matchup.
After the Hall-of-Famers show their platonic affection in Game 1 of the 1988 NBA Finals, though, Los Angeles coach Pat Riley has a message for Johnson. We’ll let Magic explain the rest:
The notorious deterioration of the point guards’ friendship occurred long after Johnson took Thomas to the ground, though. Upon his HIV diagnosis in 1991, Magic came to believe that Thomas was spreading rumors about his sexuality – leading to a multi-decade rift only recently patched-up for good.
For his part, the Pistons legend always maintained innocence when it came to Johnson’s accusation.
Frankly, we’d rather not discuss Johnson’s overtly adverse reaction to some questioning his heterosexuality. It’s certainly not a good look for the five-time champion in hindsight, and definitely not one for Thomas, either. On the other hand, it bears mentioning that both players have since put this nonsense and their personal friction aside when Johnson made a surprise appearance in the 1992 All-Star Game and they exchanged another kiss and embrace.
Bottom line: Regardless of this billboard’s significance, we’re thrilled its up for all to see. Not just because it evokes happy memories of two all-time greats, but also due to its place as an imminent reminder that intolerance of any nature has no place in the NBA.
Here’s hoping we see more classic moments like this one publicly immortalized going forward.