Skip to main content

From The “Freeze-Out Game” To The “Revenge Game”: When Michael Jordan Got Revenge On Isiah Thomas For Ruining His First All-Star Game

From The “Freeze-Out Game” To The “Revenge Game”: When Michael Jordan Got Revenge On Isiah Thomas For Ruining His First All-Star Game

As a rookie, Michael Jordan took the NBA world by storm. After a stellar college career, Jordan showed the NBA that he belonged.

Jordan went on to win the Rookie of the Year Award with averages of 28.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and 2.4 steals per game.

Jordan led the Chicago Bulls in points, rebounds, assists, and steals per game. He also led the entire league in total points scored.

This was unheard of having a rookie be so dominant. The fans in Chicago just loved Jordan for his efforts.

But not everyone loved Jordan. This was apparent during Jordan's first All-Star Game, which was his rookie season.

The first sense of a problem occurred during the slam dunk contest. Jordan showed up wearing his Nike “Air Jordan” outfit.

He also wore gold chains as he participated in the dunk contest.

This, apparently, didn't sit well with a few of the veteran players in the league, and in particular, a few that we're playing in the All-Star Game.

The main players who reportedly took issue with Jordan's “swag” were George Gervin, Magic Johnson, and Isiah Thomas.

How could one rookie player, wearing the clothes he's paid to represent, upset these players so much?

Could it be the fact, as a rookie, Jordan made more money from his Nike deal than most players made in their entire NBA career? It could be.

Had all the commercials that showcased this young star made the veterans jealous? Possibly.

What if I told you all of the above were the right answers, yet, there was also something else Jordan did to a few of these players that got under their skin.


1984 Summer Olympics

The summer before becoming a professional basketball player, Michael Jordan was preparing for the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

The way the USA team got itself ready for those Olympic Games was by playing the “NBA All-Stars.”

The NBA All-Stars roster included big names like Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Mark Aguirre, and yes, Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas.

The USA team had other solid players besides Jordan, like Patrick Ewing, Chris Mullin, and Sam Perkins. But Jordan would shine the brightest.

Jordan straight up torched the NBA All-Stars. This was unheard of. Here you had the best players in the current NBA (1984) and some kid who's never played a game in the NBA is making them look like high schoolers.

The USA Team played the NBA All-Stars in eight exhibition games, and they won all eight games.

Jordan was proving to every fan in Chicago that the Bulls made the right pick.

Once the Olympics began, Jordan continued his dominance. Jordan led Team USA to an 8-0 record while leading the team in scoring with 17.1 per game.

There have been a few reports stating Thomas and some of the other NBA All-Stars were upset that this “kid”, fresh from college, was beating up on them.


1985 NBA All-Star Game

After winning a gold medal, and a slam dunk title, would a rookie Michael Jordan be looking to take home the All-Star game MVP?

In all honesty, no. Rookie Jordan came into the All-Star game looking to fit in with the other stars.

“I was very quiet when I went there,” Jordan said about his first All-Star Game experience. “I didn’t want to go there like I was a big-shot rookie, and you must respect me.”

Jordan may not have wanted to be a “big-shot” rookie, but some of the other players saw him that way. So, they concocted a plan to “freeze him out” of the game.

The plan was for George Gervin and Magic Johnson to hound Jordan defensively for the entire game. Normally, players ease up during an All-Star Game, especially in the first three quarters.

Now, for Isiah Thomas, who played on the same team as Jordan, his task would be making sure Jordan didn't touch the ball.

Jordan would, in fact, touch the ball, and he'd take 9 shots, only connecting on 2 of them.

It didn't feel like a typical Michael Jordan game, even for a rookie Jordan. To the naked eye, Jordan appeared to be out of the mix.

In the All-Star Game, Jordan was the only starter on the East to take less than 10 shots. Even two bench players took at least 10.

After the game, buzz blew up over the supposed “freeze-out” of Jordan. The media seemed to come down on Thomas the hardest.

Thomas has spoken about the freeze-out game a few times. Most notably came during the 2003 All-Star weekend, where Thomas was coaching the East, with Jordan participating in his last All-Star Game.

“I’ve looked at the film of that game at least 60 times to see whether I could have given him the ball at some point and didn’t. I’m bringing that tape, and the first person who asks me, I’m going to say, ‘Here it is, go ahead and do some homework,'” Thomas said in an interview with the Washington Post.

This incident between Jordan and Thomas would be the start of one of the NBA's most bitter rivalries the game has ever seen.

When Jordan entered the basketball hall of fame, he brought up the freeze-out game during his speech:

Jordan may have denounced the notion of believing the veteran players froze him out, but insiders have repeatedly said Jordan did believe Thomas, Magic, and Gervin did freeze him out.

In a 1988 interview with reporter, Roy Firestone, Jordan was asked about the freeze-out game:

“I was very confused,” Jordan said. “I didn't understand what exactly was going on. I didn't understand the reasoning.”

Former Free Press sports writer, Charlie Vincent, was the one who originally broke the story about the freeze-out.

He wrote an article the day after the All-Star Game, stating that, Dr. Charles Tucker, an adviser to both Thomas and Magic Johnson, told reporters that Thomas and Gervin denied Jordan the ball to teach him a lesson.

Vincent also wrote this in his article:

Several hours after the All-Star Game, when Tucker, Thomas, and San Antonio's George Gervin met as they were preparing to board a flight for Detroit, they spoke for a minute, then broke out into gales of laughter.

Vincent then wrote about what Tucker apparently said:

We were talking about how good they got Jordan. I got together with a bunch of the guys Saturday and talked about it… But I think some of them thought we overdid.

Was this proof Thomas, Magic, and Gervin were behind the freeze-out of Jordan? We can't say for certain, since Thomas whole heartily denies the story.

When the 1992 USA Dream Team was selected, Thomas was notably absent from the roster. It's been reported that Jordan said he would not play if Thomas was on the team.

Was this Jordan's revenge on Thomas? Many people claim it to be, but Jordan's real revenge would come during the first game after the All-Star Game.


The Revenge Game

Sometimes the basketball gods smile down on us fans and give us a real treat. This is exactly what they did on the first game after the All-Star break.

The Chicago Bulls just so happened to play the Detroit Pistons in Chicago.

There was a lot of talk before the game from reporters, about what happened at the All-Star Game.

At the time, we didn't know, but we would come to realize Michael Jordan listens to everything, and the stuff he hears becomes his motivation.

Jordan truly showed us all what was going to happen in the future during this game. He exploded past the Pistons' defense like they were stuck in molasses.

Jordan seemed to be able to do whatever he wanted when he wanted.

Yet, with 5 seconds to go, the game was tied, and Isiah Thomas had the ball with a chance to win the game.

Thomas would not get a shot off as the ball would be knocked out of his hands, and who would pick up the ball? Jordan, of course.

In overtime, the Bulls would pull away for a 139-126 victory. Jordan would score a career-high (at the time) 49 points on 19-31 shooting. He also grabbed 15 rebounds.

This game truly became the first time we'd witness Michael Jordan's competitive spirit, and lucky for us fans, it wouldn't be the last.

Next 

“We Believe”: Before They Had The Splash Brothers, The 2007 Golden State Warriors Eliminated The Top-Seeded Dallas Mavericks

Larry Bird Thought He Would Be A Construction Worker Instead Of A Basketball Star In High School

The Man Who Was “Better” Than Michael Jordan: The Incredible Rise And Tragic Fall Of Len Bias

Harold Miner: How The 'Baby Jordan' Tag Ruined His Career

He Got Game: The Story Of How Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, And Others Almost Won The Role Of Jesus Shuttlesworth Over Ray Allen