When talking about the greatest player rivalries in basketball history, the dynamic between Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas undoubtedly ranks near the top.
When they clashed in the late 80s and early 90s, it was always a rough, hard-fought game. In fact, the “Bad Boy” Pistons of that era were highly criticized for their ultra-aggressive and highly physical playstyle. Michael Jordan was always in their crosshairs, and he wasn’t afraid to call them out on it.
At one point, he even called them undeserving champions.
It festered a rivalry that boiled over into the 1992 Olympics. With Team USA recruiting the top basketball players in the world, both Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas should have among the first names called. Instead, it was only Michael who ended up on that team, and Isaiah thinks he knows why.
“Being left off the Dream Team, that personally hurt me,” Thomas said. “When the Dream Team was selected and I wasn’t a part of it, there was a lot of controversy around it, and I still don’t know who did it or why they say I didn’t make it. I know the criteria for making the team, I fit all the criteria.
That’s a big hole on my [basketball] resume,” Thomas continued. “That is the biggest hole in my resume. … In the sports arena, I’ve won at every level. I tried to do everything correctly, and I thought I should’ve made that Dream Team. And looking back, if I’m not a part of the Dream Team because a lapse in emotion in terms of not shaking someone’s hand, then I am more disappointed today than I was back then.”
It may seem crazy to think that Jordan is what kept I.T. from a gold medal, but it’s not very far-fetched at all. In fact, former NBA star Reggie Miller believes it.
(via the Dan Patrick Show)
Patrick: Do you think Michael single-handedly said ‘I don’t want Isiah on The Dream Team’?
Miller: Yes. Isiah Thomas should have been on that ’92 Dream Team. And people ask ‘who would you have taken off?’ — John Stockton, Clyde Drexler — one of those two guys. Christian Laettner. One of those three guys. Isiah Thomas should have been on that team.
“I wouldn’t say for a fact, but those are the unwritten rules that people talk about,” said Miller. “I wouldn’t say it’s MJ alone.”
He also explained how a Thomas snub was even possible considering his own coach at the time (Chuck Daly) was also coaching Team USA that year.
“It had nothing to do with Chuck Daly because at the time, this was commissioner Stern putting the team together,” said Miller.
So, Michael Jordan wasn’t the only one calling the shots, and that sounds fair enough. But it’s an opportunity Thomas would never get again. He retired just two summers after the 1992 Olympics and — to this day — he considers the “Dream Team” snub to be one of the great blemishes of his storied career.