Decades later, Michael Jordan still despises Isiah Thomas and the Pistons

Throughout the illustrious career of Michael Jordan, he truly had no equal on the court.

But there was one player and team that proved to be a thorn in his side in ways that nobody else proved capable.

Detroit Pistons Smile GIF by NBA - Find & Share on GIPHY

And this past weekend, with the release of Episodes 3 and 4 of ESPN’s 10-part docuseries The Last Dance, we learned just how deep that rivalry goes.

From 1988-1990, Isiah Thomas and the “Bad Boys” Detroit Pistons dominated Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, emerging victorious in three consecutive playoff matchups.

However, the Pistons didn’t just beat the Bulls – they beat them up.

Ever heard of the “Jordan Rules”?

Of course you have.

The silver lining to those beatdowns was that they pushed Jordan and his squad to become physically and mentally stronger en route to defeating the Pistons in the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals, before Chicago won the first of six NBA titles in franchise history.

It was after that 1991 ECF win that things got interesting.

The Bulls swept the Pistons that season, and at the conclusion of Game 4, before the final buzzer, the Pistons left the court without shaking hands.

Jordan and his Bulls teammates, of course, took great umbrage, which we learned in greater detail this weekend in Episode 4 of The Last Dance.

In fact, we learned that Detroit’s actions have caused Jordan to harbor hard feelings toward Thomas and the Pistons in the year 2020.

The question has now become, is Jordan justified? Decades later, does he still have the right to be upset?

Well, depends on who you ask.

Skip Bayless, for one, says yes.

Bayless’ teammate Shannon Sharpe agrees, saying that Jordan was owed the same respect from the Pistons in defeat that he showed them every year they eliminated him from the playoffs.

“Find a guy right now that loses in the conference finals or loses in the NBA Finals that’s willing to give you an interview after they lose on the court? … He’s like, ‘Hold on, I got my butt kicked three years in a row and I was man enough to shake everybody’s hand.’”

But, like the saying goes, there’s always two sides to every story.

On Monday, Thomas shared his side of the tale, maintaining that the walk-off wasn’t due to poor sportsmanship or hatred towards Jordan – it’s just the way things were done at the time, citing Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics as an example.

“When we beat Boston, the game was still going on and they took out their starters and then their starters were leaving the court. Bird walked to the locker room.”

Many believe that Jordan’s disdain for Thomas after the walk-off is the reason Thomas was glaringly left off the 1992 Dream Team roster.

If that is the case, Thomas is more disappointed to find out the news years later.

“Being left off of the Dream Team, that personally hurt me. In 1980, I was on the Olympic team. As a matter of fact, I was voted the Male Athlete of the Year. The only thing that is missing from my resume is not being on the Dream Team.”

Thomas also pointed out that after Game 3 of the 1991 ECF, Jordan made some disparaging remarks about the Pistons and Detroit, which didn’t exactly help smooth over the relationship between the two teams.

“Jordan, after Game 3, said that the Pistons were bad for basketball, we were bad people, we didn’t earn our championships. That didn’t sit right with us as a basketball team and it didn’t sit right with Detroit … Detroit is always looked at as a city that is second-class and not good enough.”

Maybe Jordan and Thomas can bury the hatchet one day.

That day, however, doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.

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