It’s no secret that Hall of Famers Isiah Thomas and Michael Jordan don’t hold any standing friendship. The competition on the court fueled a rivalry that spilled over to strong disdain. The former Detroit Pistons great has created more buzz around the relationship after his revealing comments.
Isiah Thomas’ rocky relationship with Michael Jordan
The turbulent relationship between Thomas and Jordan is well chronicled.
Various programs such as ESPN’s recent The Last Dance documentary further underlined the precarious nature of their standing. Although Jordan hasn’t outright stated he didn’t want Thomas on the Dream Team, it remains a sore spot for discussion.
Thomas’ continued presence in the media hasn’t put that topic entirely to bed. Simply put, there is unresolved tension that many never find a resting place.
With that in mind, the former Pistons great stoked the flames of that uneasiness last year with some interesting comments about Jordan.
Isiah Thomas didn’t see Michael Jordan as competition: ‘I was dominant over him’
Over the years, Isiah Thomas hasn’t been shy about discussing his on-court battles with Michael Jordan.
Thomas experienced his fair share of playoff success against Jordan as the hurdle that prevented the former Chicago Bulls great from reaching championship success. The Pistons’ dominance over Chicago led the legendary point guard to state on the Club Shay Shay podcast that he didn’t see the fellow Hall of Famer as competition.
“Just head-to-head, I was dominant over him,” Thomas said. “Until ’91 when I basically had career-ending wrist surgery, up until then, my record against him and his team — it really wasn’t competition there.”
Thomas’ firm belief centers on Detroit beating Chicago in the playoffs in three consecutive years. The last two instances featured the Pistons topping the Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals.
It wasn’t until 1991 when Jordan finally pushed past Detroit in a sweep. Beyond that, Thomas’ sole focus and best years occurred in the 1980s. His outlook centered on the Los Angeles Lakers, led by Magic Johnson, the Boston Celtics, guided by Larry Bird, and the Philadelphia 76ers, headed by Julius Irving, as the biggest motivating factors.
“He just wasn’t my competition,” Isiah said. “My focus was [Larry] Bird, Magic [Johnson], Dr. J [Julius Erving], Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Those were the guys. I don’t care what anybody says. You can go back and look at history — those were the guys.”
Thomas’ stance isn’t influenced by his personal feelings toward Jordan. Instead, he had his focus geared toward chasing those other all-time greats in the 1980s because they all had won NBA titles before him.
NBA legacies forever intertwined
Although Thomas’ and Jordan’s careers took largely different paths, their legacies will always remain connected.
The Bad Boy Pistons pushed Jordan to take his next progression of competing for NBA titles. After that point, Thomas’ career took a different path as his playing days came to an abrupt end in 1994 because of a torn Achilles’ tendon.
Meanwhile, Jordan dominated the 1990s, earning all six of his NBA titles behind two separate three-peats. His dominance in the decade helped him earn strong recognition as the greatest player. Thomas holds the reputation as one of the best point guards in league history.
Their tension may never resolve, but it’s a rivalry that became a key part of defining that era.