NBA Hall of Famer David Robinson is known for being a consummate professional. His naval background prepared him to become a leader for the San Antonio Spurs as they ascended to the top of the NBA. Robinson was also a member of the 1992 Dream Team, and after watching recent episodes of The Last Dance, he said the absence of Isiah Thomas from the team wasn’t an accident.
Michael Jordan denies requesting snub of Thomas
As everyone has seen in recent weeks of The Last Dance, the relationship between Michael Jordan and former Detroit Pistons star Isiah Thomas was tenuous at best. In addition to the already testy Pistons-Bulls rivalry in the late 1980s, there was one particular incident at the conclusion of the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals that seemed to be a match thrown on a gasoline-soaked pile of dry wood.
After two seasons of unsuccessfully trying to overtake the Pistons, the Bulls had finally done it in 1991 in a 4-0 sweep of the two-time defending NBA champions. 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 Bulls teammates were not happy.
Jordan said while that incident bothered him, it didn’t lead to him sabotaging Thomas’ chances of making 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.”
Various sources, including Jack McCallum’s book Dream Team, contradict 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 chairman of the committee that selected the Dream Team.
“Rod, I don’t want to play if Isiah Thomas is on the team,” Jordan told Thorn, according to the McCallum book.
Thorn denies conversation about Thomas ever happened
Rod Thorn recently appeared on ESPN’s Golic & Wingo for an interview to discuss the specific situation with Jordan, Thomas, and the Dream Team. Thorn said he talked with Jordan about the Dream Team, but solely focused on his 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,” Thorn said.
David Robinson said Thomas wasn’t a good fit
David Robinson, who was a member of the team, spoke out about the 1992 Olympics and said there was a reason Thomas was left off the team, and it was all of his own doing.
“If you have a reputation and you take pride in your reputation as a ‘Bad Boy’ it kind of means people aren’t going to like you,” Robinson said on the Bulls Talk Podcast with Jason Goff. “Can you be that surprised when people say ‘I don’t really want to play with the ‘Bad Boys?’ When you talk about putting together a team, chemistry matters. It does. You can’t act like it doesn’t matter and for that team, it was clear that was a consideration for all the people involved.”
After all these years of discussion about Thomas and his omission from the 1992 Dream Team, the Admiral’s admission that the Pistons guard’s reputation was a big reason for his absence just confirms what most people have thought all along. Jordan didn’t have to say anything about Thomas to Thorn or any others involved in the team’s selection. Thomas and his reputation did all the talking for him.