Originally written on Larry Brown Sports  |  Last updated 6/27/12

There was a major stir on Tuesday when Clyde Drexler’s negative comments about Magic Johnson’s presence on the 1992 Dream Team were publicized. Drexler implied that Magic made the Dream Team and won MVP of the 1992 All-Star Game out of pity because people thought he was going to die.

Drexler’s comments appear in “Dream Team,” a book by longtime Sports Illustrated writer Jack McCallum that will be released on July 10, and were published as an excerpt released to Deadspin.

Drexler released a statement through the Houston Rockets on Wednesday to deny making the comments.

“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,” his statement says. “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.”

McCallum responded in a post on his website to say that the quotes were accurate, but the context was not.

Let me begin by emphasizing that the excerpt was accurate. But the lead-in was not. Deadspin says that “everyone on the Dream Team felt sorry for Magic because he was going to die.” That was not the context. Clyde was talking about many people in the league, not specifically the Dream Teamers.

In context or out of context, Magic wasn’t too happy with Clyde’s comments when he responded in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.

“If that’s how he felt, then that’s how he felt. I think that Clyde was a guy that always fought for more publicity … a guy who thought he should deserve more credit,” Johnson told The Wall Street Journal. “But if he felt like that, I’m OK with it. I’m not a guy who’s going to be upset that he said these types of things.

“I think that what I would say is that, [from] Clyde or anyone else, I didn’t want any sympathy. Only thing I wanted is that you treated me the same way that you treated me before you knew I had HIV. It was a beautiful thing that I was able to educate the world that a guy living with HIV could still go out there and play, and play at a high level. And then at the end of the day I was able to educate a league that didn’t know about HIV and AIDS.

“You know a lot comes out after the fact. Here it is 20 years later, and now you want to make these comments? Twenty years later. And I know Clyde, so this is really funny you want to make these comments 20 years later.”

Magic says he’ll continue to treat Clyde well and like a friend despite the comments. Based on his response, it looks like Drexler would like to do the same.

I believe Drexler said everything attributed to him in McCallum’s book, and that he felt slighted at the All-Star Game, and that he felt like Magic wasn’t a big leader on the Dream Team like the way it seems. But once it came out in print the way it did, and the way it was presented by Deadspin, he felt pressure to back down. And he has. This is just as simple as Drexler not standing by critical comments he made. He could and should have; it’s OK to be critical of Magic Johnson.

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