ESPN The Last Dance docuseries, which premiered on Netflix in April 2023, covers Michael Jordan’s career and the controversies that plagued the NBA Chicago Bulls during the 1997–98 season. The 10-part series also explores any lingering questions fans may have about the basketball dynasty, including the mystery surrounding Isiah Thomas’s exclusion from the 1992 Olympic “Dream Team”.
The controversy was studied in Episode 5 of The Last dance, giving viewers an idea why Thomas, a then-point guard for the Detroit Pistons, did not join other NBA stars, such as Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, to secure the medal for Gold at the 1992 Summer Olympics. “I don’t know what happened to that process,” Thomas said of the apparent snub, on ESPN. “I met the criteria to be selected, but I was not.”
Although Thomas seemed to downplay the incident, it was long speculated that Jordan and the other NBA players conspired to shut him out. This is because Thomas was not the most beloved athlete at the time, a sentiment that has long overshadowed his impressive career.
Michael Jordan has not buried the ax
Considering that many years have passed since Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas played in the NBA, one would think that their enmity has subsided. The truth? Jordan still feels embittered by Thomas, as revealed during The Last Dance. But before we get to the drama, let’s go back to explaining what caused these epic consequences.
For starters, there was a playoff rivalry between the Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons, and the latter won three seasons in a row. When the Bulls finally beat the Pistons in 1991, the team walked off the field rather than shaking hands with the winners. During the documentary, Jordan joked, “I hated them. That hatred continues to this day.”
“There was also a persistent problem that Thomas would have tried to ‘freeze’ Jordan in the 1985 All-Star Game,” said NBA reporter Jeff Zillgitt.
But arguably the biggest point of contention in the athletes’ relationship is whether Jordan excluded Thomas on the subject of the 1992 Olympics. “You want to credit me, go ahead, and be my guest,” Jordan said during The Last Dance about participation, by ABC News. But it wasn’t me.
The Chicago Bulls student concluded: “I respect Isiah Thomas’ talent. For me, the greatest point guard of all time is Magic Johnson, and right behind him is Isiah Thomas. No matter how much I hate him, I respect his game.”
Scottie Pippen ‘despised’ this about Isiah Thomas
Not only did Michael Jordan dislike Isiah Thomas, but so did his teammate Scottie Pippen. The NBA legend confirmed this in a 2012 documentary on “Dream Team,” sharing, by The Bleacher Report, “He despised how he played the game … Isiah was the general, he was the guy yelling at his teammates and He said ‘kick them in his a **. Do what you have to do, ‘” he added. “No, I didn’t want it on the Dream Team.”
This echoed Pippen’s comments in 1991 when he said, in The Chicago Sun-Times, “If they name Isiah for the team, then I’ll be going,” Pippen said. “I will not play with him because there is too much bad blood between us. He is a faker. He has that little sneaky smile to trick people.”
As for Thomas, not being selected for the “Dream Team” still bothers him to this day. “I tried to do everything correctly, and I thought I should have formed the Dream Team,” he said in an interview with ESPN.
“However, I was not part of that. That hurt. And looking back, if I’m not part of the Dream Team because, you know, a span of excitement in terms of not shaking someone’s hand, if that’s the reason I didn’t form the Dream Team, then I’m more Disappointed today than back then when I wasn’t selected. ”
Magic Johnson and Isiah ended their enmity
Although Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen have clearly broken up with Isiah Thomas, this is not the case for Los Angeles Lakers student Magic Johnson. The two smashed their flesh in 2017, after a long rivalry, which was partly inspired by Johnson’s claim that Thomas spread rumors about his sexuality once his HIV diagnosis was made public in 1991.
This was especially painful for Johnson since the two were good friends in the 1980s. However, Thomas denied that he was the one who spread the gossip.
The bad blood intensified when Johnson was against Thomas joining the Dream Team. The athlete recalled in his book: When the game was ours, “Isiah killed his own chances when it came to the Olympics. No one on that team wanted to play with him… I’m sad for Isiah. He has alienated so many people in his life, and he still doesn’t. Get it.”
Johnson added: “He doesn’t understand why he wasn’t chosen for that Olympic team and that’s really a shame. You must be vigilant when you have scored more than half of the NBA.
However, both athletes were able to overcome their differences during an emotional session for NBA TV. “You are my brother,” Johnson told Thomas. Let me apologize if I hurt you, that we haven’t been together. God is good to unite us again.”