Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 6/13/12

SALT LAKE CITY - FEBRUARY 13: Karl Malone announces his retirement from playing NBA basketball on February 13, 2005 at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. Malone played 19 years in the NBA, 18 with the Utah Jazz and his last year with the Los Angeles Lakers. Malone is currently second on the all time scoring list. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
For most NBA fans, John Stockton is a fairly uncontroversial figure. An easy Hall of Famer, Stockton and Karl Malone ran the pick-and-roll approximately 17 trillion times over the years, and no one found a way to stop it. Stockton wasn't flashy, wore short-shorts long after they were out of style and played point guard better than all but two or three people in NBA history. In Detroit, Stockton is seen as something completely different: the player who took Isiah Thomas's rightful spot on the original Dream Team -- because of the machinations of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Magic Johnson, Stockton got an undeserved trip to Barcelona in 1992, while Isiah was left home to fume. There's some truth to it, but there are also myths and legends that have become attached over the years. The first is that Jordan had some kind of veto power over Thomas being on the team. Jordan certainly lobbied against Thomas. The two had clashed all the way back to the alleged freeze-out of Jordan in the 1985 All-Star Game. The feud then culminated with Thomas' Pistons walking off the floor without congratulating Jordan's Bulls at the end of the 1991 Eastern Conference finals. Jordan is quoted in the NBA TV 20th anniversary Dream Team documentary, which debuts Wednesday night, as saying that the choice had already been made to exclude Thomas -- a decision made by people well above him on the ladder. That was one of the stipulations put to me that Isiah wasnt part of the team, Jordan says, according to media who watched an advance screening of the documentary Tuesday in Oklahoma City. It was coming from a higher place who didnt want Isiah on the team. Russ Granik and Rod Thorn, both NBA executives who were involved in the decision-making process, reportedly back up Jordan's assertion, saying that Thomas's role in walking off the floor in the playoff series against Chicago had badly hurt his chances. We were picking a group just after the Pistons had been eliminated by the Bulls, Granik says in the documentary. It was very bad timing for Isiah. Everyone had that impression in their mind, the picture of Isiah walking off the court. So even though Jordan and others lobbied for Thomas' exclusion from the team, the documentary seems to make it clear that USA Basketball had decided on its own that Thomas wasn't going to Spain. Another myth surrounding the story is that picking Stockton over Thomas was a horrible basketball decision. The truth is, when the team was picked in the fall of 1991, Stockton was probably a better point guard. Early in his career, Thomas had been a regular on the All-NBA teams, making the first or second team every year between 1983-1987. When Stockton hit his prime, things changed. He made the second team in 1988 and locked up a spot for the next decade. Thomas never made one of the squads again. By the time the Dream Team was formed, Stockton was dishing out almost twice as many as assists as Thomas and shooting at a higher percentage, especially from the 3-point line. Although Thomas was still the more spectacular player -- capable of putting up 40-point nights -- that wasn't a skill particularly needed on a team that already had Jordan, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson, Patrick Ewing and Scottie Pippen. Yes, Thomas had clearly put himself in contention for the Dream Team, especially after the Pistons had won back-to-back championships in 1989 and 1990. But it would been a major snub if Stockton had been left off the team. For Thomas to make the team, it likely would have been at the expense of Clyde Drexler or the token college selection, Christian Laettner. The fact remains to this day, however, that Thomas and Pistons fans thought there had been an unforgivable disrespect paid to him, and that Stockton was the reason. That's why on the night of Nov. 15, 1991, a sold-out crowd at The Palace of Auburn Hills expected something special. The Jazz were in town, meaning Thomas and Stockton would go head to head for the first time since the team was selected a few months earlier. No one went home disappointed. Thomas humiliated Stockton, scoring 44 points by driving past him again and again for easy baskets. Stockton had a good offensive game, finishing with 20 points and 13 assists, but Thomas wasn't worried about defense that night. He just wanted to score -- and did -- helping the Pistons to a 123-115 victory. A month later, the teams met in Salt Lake City, and Thomas was hoping for a similar performance. This time, it was Karl Malone who got revenge on behalf of his teammate. As Thomas drove past Stockton toward another easy basket, Malone laid him out with a vicious elbow to the forehead. The hit was so hard, the Jazz team doctor insisted that Thomas get carried off the floor with a neck brace and backboard. He ended up with a concussion and 40 stitches to close the head wound. In different circumstances, the Pistons-Jazz rivalry could have ended up like the Red Wings and Avalanche did a few years later -- heated, bloody and must-see. Unfortunately, with the teams in different conferences and the Bad Boys nearing the end of their run, things just fizzled out. The bad feelings have never changed for Pistons fans, though. For reasons right and wrong, they will always believe that their hero was cheated out of a gold medal by Stockton and a conspiracy featuring some of the NBA's biggest stars.
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Eli Manning: Losing so much 'can wear you out'

Chargers have 'real concerns' about Mike Williams's knee?

Jerry Jones reiterates support for Jason Garrett

Jay Bilas: NCAA offered committee spot to silence him

Jarvis Landry stands by prediction that Dolphins will beat Patriots twice

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

CFL commissioner explains why he blocked team from signing Johnny Manziel

Everson Griffen asks for help naming son after sack

Manny Pacquiao trying to bait Conor McGregor into fighting him

Watch Chargers punter Drew Kaser somehow miss kicking net on practice attempt

Marvin Jones makes amazing catch in between Vikings defenders

Report: Chip Kelly could make decision by Sunday

Raiders' fall from grace shows there's more work to be done

NFL Week 12 predictions

College football Week 13 predictions

The 'Getting a leg up on the competition' quiz

Biggest sports turkeys of 2017

What each NFL team should be grateful for this Thanksgiving

The '303 yards and a cloud of dust' quiz

NBA Referee Hotline Bling: Kyrie Irving has unlimited range

Anthony Davis may never escape his biggest flaw

NFL MVP Watch: Carson Wentz stands tall among the pack

Young Maple Leafs maturing their way to the NHL elite

The 'Greatest show on flat Earth' quiz

All Sports News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Yardbarker Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

Raiders' fall from grace shows there's more work to be done

The 'Getting a leg up on the competition' quiz

What each NFL team should be grateful for this Thanksgiving

NBA Referee Hotline Bling: Kyrie Irving has unlimited range

The '303 yards and a cloud of dust' quiz

Anthony Davis may never escape his biggest flaw

NFL Week 12 predictions

NFL MVP Watch: Carson Wentz stands tall among the pack

The 'Greatest show on flat Earth' quiz

Young Maple Leafs maturing their way to the NHL elite

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker