Isiah Thomas is trying to reclaim his position in the basketball world after being more or less demoted in stature thanks to the Michael Jordan documentary.
Detroit beat Chicago three years in a row in the playoffs before the Bulls finally broke through by sweeping the Pistons in 1991 en route to their first of three straight championships. Between the handshake incident and Dream Team snub, Thomas was portrayed as somewhat of an outcast.
But he says Jordan wasn’t really his basketball peer because MJ came later. At least that’s what Thomas said on “Speak For Yourself”.
.@IsiahThomas says Jordan wasn't his competition
"When we were all young and healthy from 84-90, the numbers speak for themselves, he wasn’t really my competition; My competition was Bird and Magic." pic.twitter.com/fLO1X4pR92
— Speak For Yourself (@SFY) May 20, 2020
“He wasn’t really my competition,” Thomas said of Jordan. “My competition was Bird and Magic — trying to catch the Celtics, trying to catch the Lakers. Chicago, at that time, and Jordan at that time, from ’84 to ’90, before my wrist surgery, he just – that wasn’t my competition.”
Thomas agrees that Jordan ascended as the Pistons descended, which he calls a “natural progression” of teams.
“When Boston was at their absolute best, we gave them competition. But they were better than us. And as they got older, as they got a little bit more banged up, we were able to catch them. Now, what we were able to learn from Boston during that process – the Detroit Pistons, and every time you hear us talk about who were are, what we became, we do not mention ourselves as championships without saying the Boston Celtics, because those were our teachers. Those were our mentors. Those are the people that really taught us how to win. And they gave us the heartaches,” Thomas said.
“When we got to go to the Finals and finally beat them, then I ran into another one of my mentors, which was Magic Johnson, who had let me become a student under him, learning how to win championships in the NBA, learning that Laker organization, learning that Celtic organization. And I’m sure all of you can look back and remember: You saw me at every NBA Finals game when the Celtics and the Lakers were playing. And not only was I there as a fan, but I was there as a student taking notes, learning how to win, how to put together an organization and, not just become a basketball player in the NBA, but become a champion.
“And that’s what we became. We became a champion, and we were pretty dominant in our era.”
Some may think this is sour grapes, but Thomas isn’t wrong. The Pistons’ dominance and run was in the ’80s, and their championships came at the end of the decade. MJ’s Bulls were the story of the ’90s.
Thomas’ problem is that Jordan still can’t stand him. And when the most popular player in history dislikes you, that doesn’t exactly help your public image.
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An asterisk (*) indicates the player never won an NBA MVP Award.