Pistons great Isiah Thomas still disappointed over '92 Dream Team snub

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

On the heels of the latest episodes of “The Last Dance” docuseries on ESPN, Pistons legend Isiah Thomas was busy on the media circuit on Monday, making appearances on the network's “Get Up!” and “First Take” morning shows.

Thomas addressed questions surrounding Michael Jordan and the "Bad Boys" teams as they were portrayed in the documentary. Thomas talked about issues such as being left off the 1992 U.S. Olympic team, the controversy with Jordan’s Chicago Bulls teams and the infamous walk off the court without shaking the Bulls players' hands in 1991.

Isiah Thomas led the Pistons to back-to-back NBA titles in 1989 and 1990.

Here are some highlights.

►On the physicality in the NBA during the 1980s and 1990s: “This generation thinks that the only one who was getting hit back then was Jordan.

“I can say today that there was no player during that period of time that got hit and punished more than myself — and I have all the scars to prove it.”

►On the controversy surrounding the Dream Team: “Being left off the Dream Team, that personally hurt me. In 1980, I was on the Olympic team and as a matter of fact, I was voted male athlete of the year for the USA Olympic Team. The only team that’s missing from my resume is not being on the Dream Team.

“When the Dream Team was selected and I wasn’t a part of it, there was a lot of controversy…I had fit all the criteria. That’s the biggest hole in my resume. 

“Looking back, if I'm not a part of the Dream Team because of a lapse in emotion in terms of not shaking someone's hand...then I am more disappointed today than I was back then when I wasn’t selected.”

More: 'Last Dance' shows old wounds haven't healed in Pistons vs. Bulls rivalry

►On Jordan not liking Thomas: “It’s okay for him to hate the team, but for him to personalize it in terms of us as individuals, that’s different. The rivalry was the rivalry and teams don’t like each other when they’re playing. That’s on the floor, not off the floor. We competed hard against the Chicago Bulls, but we (also) competed hard against the Celtics, the Lakers and the 76ers.

“This appears that it’s gone outside the four lines. Jordan said something interesting in that take: ‘Given time, he may have a different opinion.’ Of course, in that moment, we had lost — and remember we were champions, so we were coming down from the throne. Everybody’s emotions are different during that particular time. While we were coming down and they were rising, during that emotional period of time, did we do everything correctly? No. Did they do everything correctly? No. But that was it. We walked off; we didn’t shake their hands.”

►On the Pistons not shaking hands after the 1991 series: “After Game 3, Jordan said the Pistons were bad for basketball, we were bad people and we didn’t earn our championships. That didn’t sit right with us as the Detroit Pistons basketball team, nor did it sit right with Detroit. At that time and still today, Detroit is looked at as a city that is always looked over, second-class and not good enough. When he made those comments, not only did he make those comments about us as a basketball team not being worthy of our two championships, but he was talking about our city not being recognized and not as good as a city like Chicago or New York.

“When (Bill) Laimbeer, as a co-captain and one of our leaders, said this is how we’re going to respond to them talking so negatively about us after Game 3…emotionally and mentally, we were all in a place that that really hurt.

“It’s one thing for Phil Jackson to speak that way about a champion. But for Michael Jordan, at that time, who hadn’t become a champion, he hadn’t won yet and for him to pass judgment on our team and us as individuals, that hurt and that’s the context of us leading up to saying we’re going to walk off and be done.”


Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard