Since Episode 5 of The Last Dance aired and covered the 1992 Dream Team and the controversy surrounding Detroit Pistons guard Isiah Thomas being left off the team, Michael Jordan has denied having any involvement. New audio of Michael Jordan specifically discussing the topic has come out, and it reveals that Jordan lied in the documentary.
Michael Jordan’s contentious relationship with Isiah Thomas
In The Last Dance, it’s evident Michael Jordan, and former Detroit Pistons star Isiah Thomas are never going to be friends for a multitude of reasons. For starters, the teams were bitter rivals throughout the 1980s in the brutal Central Division of the Eastern Conference. The rivalry only intensified when the Pistons ascended to the top of the NBA and claimed a pair of NBA titles in 1989 and 1990.
According to the documentary, Jordan’s disdain for Thomas took it up another level following the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals. After three consecutive seasons of the Pistons eliminating the Bulls from the playoffs, including two exits in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Bulls swept the two-time defending NBA champions in 1991.
Before the final seconds had ticked off the clock, most of the Pistons squad, including Thomas, walked off the court in front of the Bulls bench and avoided any post-game congratulatory handshakes. Jordan and his teammates were not happy. Despite that incident, Jordan said it didn’t result in him doing anything else, like sabotaging Thomas’ chances to make the Dream Team.
“I respect Isiah Thomas’ talent. To me, the best point guard of all-time is Magic Johnson, and right behind him is Isiah Thomas. No matter how much I hate him, I respect his game. Now, it was insinuated that I was asking about him; but I never threw his name in there.”
Rod Thorn denies conversation ever happened
While Michael Jordan vehemently denied any involvement in Thomas’ absence, various sources, including Jack McCallum’s book “Dream Team,” contradicted Jordan. According to the book, Jordan approached former Bulls general manager Rod Thorn, who had become the NBA’s Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations and was the chairman of the committee that selected the Dream Team, and expressed his thoughts.
“Rod, I don’t want to play if Isiah Thomas is on the team,” Jordan told Thorn, according to McCallum’s book.
Thorn appeared on ESPN’s Golic & Wingo for an interview to discuss the specific situation and said he talked with Jordan about the Dream Team, but solely focused on Jordan’s participation because the Bulls star had balked at the initial invite to play.
“I was the guy that called Jordan,” Thorn admitted. “And when I called Jordan, his first inclination was he didn’t know if he wanted to play or not — because, as he said, ‘I played on an Olympic team before’ with Bobby Knight in Los Angeles. … And so we continued the conversation, and at the end of the conversation, he said, ‘You know something? I’ll do it.'”
Thorn said despite all the rumors and innuendo through the years, he has always known that Jordan never personally told him he didn’t want Isiah on the team. “There was never anything in my conversation with [Jordan] that had to do with Isiah Thomas, period. Isiah’s name never came up during that conversation.”
New podcast features Jordan audio saying he won’t play if Thomas on team
This week, author Jack McCallum, who has remained silent while others quoted his book, has provided audio evidence that Michael Jordan and Rod Thorn were lying.
In Episode 3 of McCallum’s new podcast series “The Dream Team Tapes,” the author said he went to interview Jordan in 2011 for his book, which came out in 2013. Going into the interview, McCallum wondered how he would bring up the subject of Thomas and the Dream Team. Fortunately, much to his surprise, he didn’t have to. Jordan brought up the topic himself. On the podcast, McCallum played the audio of Jordan and his thoughts on Thomas.
“And when they called me to ask me to play, Rod Thorn called, and I said Rod, I won’t play if Isiah Thomas is on the team. He assured me. He said, ‘You know what, Chuck (Charles Barkley) doesn’t want Isiah, so Isiah is not going to be a part of the team.'”
The audio closely aligns with what news sources have quoted since the book came out in 2013. The podcast confirms Jordan and Thorn lied. While The Last Dance reminded the older generation and revealed to the younger generation why Michael Jordan is the GOAT on the basketball court, it’s also shown a darker side. Jordan’s legacy on the court will never change, but his legacy off of it has been tarnished forever.