Isiah Thomas is still smarting over a 1991 elbow from Karl Malone. (Andrew D. Bernstein / Getty Images)
This is the fifth in a series of stories leading to the reunion of the Pistons Bad Boys team March 28 at The Palace.
One of the most vicious hits in Pistons history didn’t come from the Bad Boys.
It came from Jazz forward Karl Malone, who elbowed Isiah Thomas in the face during a 1991 game in Salt Lake City.
And two decades later, Thomas remains bitter.
“I think it was the dirtiest play I have experienced in the game of basketball in my life,” Thomas said of the play, which happened on a Pistons pick-and-roll with Malone rotating to cover the middle. “I don’t think I’ve seen anything as vicious and as intentional to a player. I still don’t understand it.”
Thomas needed 47 stitches. His head swelled up, and even though he returned to play seven minutes, he was hospitalized and missed two games.
“My head; it was just ugly,” Thomas said. “When I got home my wife started crying. There was so much swelling on my head.”
Why did Malone, who was ejected, deliver such a blow?
Some thought it was because Thomas showed up Jazz guard John Stockton with a 40-point outburst after Thomas was passed over for the 1992 Dream Team for Stockton.
Whatever the reason, it’s a blow everyone remembers.
“It was horrific,” Thomas said. “That was the cheapest (bleep) in my mind in the history of the game.”