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Drexler denies Dream Team comments about Magic… but he said them

Jun 27, 2012, 8:26 PM EDT

1992 Olympics: USAB Getty Images

Life is never really all that simple and all that clean. Politicians like to paint issues as black or white, but all of us know life is lived in shades of gray.

So it is with Clyde Drexler’s comments on HIV-positive Magic Johnson as part of a new book about the 1992 Dream Team — “Everybody kept waiting for Magic to die. Every time he’d run up the court everybody would feel sorry for the guy, and he’d get all that benefit of the doubt.”

Drexler told the Associated Press he said no such thing.

“I was one of Magic’s biggest supporters during that difficult period in his life and I take great exception to having such comments attributed to me. Magic and I have a friendship that goes back more than 28 years and I would never say such hurtful things. I have reached out to Magic to assure him that I did not say those things and to apologize to him and his family for even having to respond to something as baseless as this.”

Thing is, I have no doubt he did say that. The book’s author Jack McCallum is not some novice reporter, he’s a 30-year Sports Illustrated veteran — and he knows to tape his interviews.

But that doesn’t mean there is context that should be taken into account. McCallum goes into all of that on his blog in what is a fascinating read. He talks about how 10 of the 12 players were named to the team before the start of the 1991-92 NBA season and that two spots were left open — one for a college player (Christian Laettner) and one spot for the best of the rest in the NBA. At that moment, Drexler was at the peak of his game and felt he should have been in the first 10. Drexler always has felt he didn’t get enough recognition.

Here is a slice of what McCallum added as context.

I didn’t feel comfortable writing that because Drexler is not a cruel man. But that’s what he said. Now, is there an element of truth to it? I can’t say for sure. What’s clear, though, is that it was extremely impolitic of Drexler to say it. And let me emphasize again that he wasn’t talking about the Dream Teamers but more the league in general.

But here’s something else that was not in the Deadspin excerpt but is in the book:

When Magic came back to the NBA after the Olympics, he faced renewed controversy, some of it coming from a Dream Team mate—Karl Malone. And in that charged atmosphere–freighted with ignorance, misunderstanding and, frankly, a dearth of information about a disease that we still can’t fully control–Drexler said this: “If Magic wants to play, I’ll play against him.”

It’s never that clean, it’s never really that simple in life.

  1. tecmobowl2k - Jun 27, 2012 at 8:43 PM

    Drexler, be a man and own up to your comments. The only reason you won a championship is because of Hakeem and Nick Anderson. Dont hate on Magic, for gods sake he owns a baseball team!

  2. mrlitl - Jun 27, 2012 at 11:40 PM

    Seems to me that Drexler said it but wants to deny it now because it makes him look like a jerk.

  3. rexgrossman8 - Jun 27, 2012 at 11:43 PM

    Seems like a credible writer for him to stand up for Clyde when he says: Drexler said this: “If Magic wants to play, I’ll play against him.”

    The problem with print is that tone and intent get lost. When it’s 20 years after the fact, we can manipulate it for our own agenda.

    If you re-read what he said in a non-malicious light hearted tone, it reads different. Just saying.

  4. j0esixpack - Jun 28, 2012 at 12:21 AM

    People really need to remember the context of AIDS back then.

    HIV WAS viewed as a death sentence. There was the taboo of implications as to whether someone was gay – whether it could be picked up through, contact, sweat – and the very real concern of blood.

    So Drexler sounds like he was speaking the truth – that they didn’t know how long he had to live – and it also sounds like he took a stand against the stigma of HIV in sports – so in that respect he was still way ahead of his time.

    Of course we still have plenty of clowns around here who think gay references are a witty insult – so Drexler may be ahead of THIS time as well.

  5. rocketsredbear - Jun 28, 2012 at 1:07 AM

    So what if he said them? He’s Clyde Drexler. He’s one of the most stand up guys whoever played in the league. He was a class act his entire career and even after it. If anyone lets one moment of anger over being disrespected change their perception of him, then they need to get off their high horse.

  6. kregaway - Jun 28, 2012 at 1:24 AM

    So Magic is/was Gay right?

  7. beardedhawk - Jun 28, 2012 at 8:36 AM

    magic is still married and is not gay (not that it should matter) that was an idiotic comment buddy. Drexler also comes off like an idiot with his absurdly ignorant comments as well.

  8. 700levelvet - Jun 28, 2012 at 10:27 AM

    Man………..Chuck Daly had one hell of a Haber Dasher……..

  9. 11jlacy - Jun 28, 2012 at 9:21 PM

    Yeah,right u said it u no what it dont even matter no more because this dream team now is going to be better than dream team 1 ya dig.

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