The documentary The Last Dance mainly follows Michael Jordan’s career with the Chicago Bulls, but it is not a one-sided project. Even Jordan’s rival Detroit Pistons alumnus Isiah Thomas has appeared in multiple episodes to share his thoughts on their decades-long enmity.
In particular, the series documented the playoff rivalry between the two East Coast teams. After three losing seasons, the Bulls finally beat the Pistons in 1991. After the game, the Pistons rather walked off the court than shake hands with the winners. During the documentary, Jordan commented, “I hated them. That hatred remains even to this day.”
During the documentary, Thomas said, “Knowing what we know now, after what happened, I think we would all have stopped and said, ‘Hello, congratulations,’ as they do now.”
It seemed that Thomas took the time to reflect on the error of his ways. However, Jordan was not buying it. He replied: “I know they are all bulls ** t. What he says now, you know it wasn’t his true actions then. He has had enough time to think about it, or the reaction of the public has changed his perspective on it”. “You can show me what you want, there is no way to convince me that I was not an idiot.”
Isiah Thomas rumored to sabotage Michael Jordan’s first All-Star Game
There does not appear to be a single source of dispute between Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas. However, many people theorize that Thomas conspired to freeze Jordan, making sure he didn’t get the ball, during the 1985 NBA All-Star Game.
After joining the Chicago Bulls the year before, Jordan managed to earn a spot as a starter on the team. However, it was far from his best performance. Jordan only scored seven points, for NBC Sports. Meanwhile, Thomas scored 22 points, according to ESPN.
Thomas publicly denied the alleged freeze in 2003 after his son asked him privately when he was writing a report for the school. The NBA reported that Thomas insisted: “That never happened.” Thomas commented: “Now it’s written in books and people just assume it’s a fact. I remember saying it and saying it now: ‘If someone were to receive the tape and look, I challenge them to find places where we, as teammates, deliberately choose not to give Michael Jordan the ball.'”
Still, things definitely got tough on the court during the regular season. At the Last Ball, the Detroit Pistons acknowledged that they followed the “Jordan Rules,” which were a different set of tactics specifically aimed at taking down MJ. Pistons’ John Salley shared (via The Undefeated ), “As soon as I stepped on the paint, hit it” was part of the strategy. Thomas admitted, “We had to do everything physically to stop it.”
Former Bulls player Brad Sellers said to Undefeated, “We all hear about what happened in the All-Star Game, but the biggest problem was that Isiah [Thomas] was from Chicago, he worked to be one of the best players to represent that city, and Mike [Jordan] came in and gutted that.”
Detroit Piston’s alumnus John Salley added to the narrative that Thomas’s Chicago roots played a role in the animosity between the two players, but for a more personal reason.
Salley told VladTV, “Isiah is going home, and his nephew is wearing a Bulls jersey, the Michael Jordan Bulls jersey. He said, ‘What are you doing?’ We are in Chicago. That is my team. He is his nephew. I really didn’t understand that the great Isiah Thomas plays for Detroit: ‘We don’t use that. We carry this.”
Salley concluded: “Isiah was mad at that. Not with Michael, personally. In his brain, ‘Every time I play against this guy, I’m going to try to leave so that my nephew sees that this is the shirt you should wear.’ Never with Michael”.
Interestingly, Thomas The Detroit News said in May 2023, “My son was wearing Michael Jordan shirts and shoes. They were wearing Jordan Olympics and Bulls jerseys that I bought for them.”
Fans think Michael Jordan excluded Isiah Thomas from the Olympic team
In 1992, the United States assembled the Dream Team to represent the country at the Olympics. Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Scottie Pippen were among the team members. Isiah Thomas was notably excluded, which is something that many people blamed on Jordan.
Jordan recalled asking who was on the team, insisting that he never mentioned anything about his rival or hinted that he should not be included. Still, during the documentary, he made comments, “The dream team, based on the atmosphere and camaraderie that happened on that team, was the best harmony. Would Isiah have had a different feeling on that team? Yes”. The documentary also suggested that Scottie Pippen, Karl Malone, and other Dream Team players had problems with Thomas.
Thomas addressed the snub during an appearance on ESPN Get Up. Sports Illustrated reported that he said, “Now when the Dream Team was selected and I was not part of it, there was a lot of controversy surrounding it. And I still don’t know who did it or why they say I didn’t do it”. “I know.” I know that the criteria for selecting the team had met all the criteria. And that’s a big hole in my resume, that’s the biggest hole in my resume. ”
Clearly, there are many points of discussion between Jordan and Thomas. Maybe they should speak directly… for another documentary, of course.
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