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For a time in the ’80s and ’90s, there was no greater sports feud than the one between Isiah Thomas and the Detroit Pistons and Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls.

The Pistons called themselves the “Bad Boys” for a reason. They fought everyone and everything in their way en route to becoming one of the decade’s top teams.

Jordan and the Bulls had something to say about the Pistons’ attempt at a dynasty, though. That extended to a personal rivalry between Jordan and Thomas, one that often went far beyond the court.

Isiah Thomas and the Pistons feuded with Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls

Isiah Thomas and the Detroit Pistons found an intense rival in Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls.

The two teams often played physical, close games. Chicago and Detroit had four straight playoff matchups from the spring of 1988-91. Detroit won the first three rounds, including consecutive Eastern Conference finals showdowns in 1989 and 1990.

Chicago swept Detroit in the 1991 Eastern Conference finals before taking down the Lakers in the NBA Finals.

Isiah Thomas’ family rooted for Michael Jordan instead

Before he ever played for the Detroit Pistons, Isiah Thomas was only a kid from Chicago trying to make something of his life through basketball.

At the start of his Pistons career, Thomas would be cheered when he played in Chicago. That changed as the 1980s went on and the Bulls, led by Michael Jordan, became the Pistons’ hated rivals.

How bad did the feud between the two sides get? In a 2020 story on the Bulls’ official website, longtime Bulls beat writer Sam Smith recalled Thomas telling him how his family turned on him during the Pistons-Bulls rivalry.

“I didn’t understand being booed in Chicago Stadium and I took it personally. It was very conflicting. I’m giving my family tickets to the game and they’re rooting for the Bulls. I used to tell Michael, ‘You might wear Chicago on your chest, but I’ll show you what Chicago guys play like.'”

Unlike other rivals, Jordan and Thomas haven’t exactly become friends in retirement. Thomas has fired numerous shots at Jordan over the years, especially when the former’s exclusion from the 1992 Dream Team is discussed.

Isiah Thomas is among the greatest Pistons players ever

Without Isiah Thomas, one has to wonder if the Detroit Pistons would be playing the 2020-21 season in Seattle or Las Vegas.

The second overall pick in 1981, Thomas helped turn the struggling Pistons into one of the Eastern Conference’s top teams. Across 14 seasons, Thomas averaged 19.2 points, 9.3 assists, 3.6 rebounds, and just under two steals per game.

A 12-time All-Star, Thomas averaged 20.4 points, 8.9 rebounds, 3.5 boards, and 2.1 steals in 111 playoff games. Detroit won two NBA Finals during Thomas’ career.

Much like Kobe Bryant, injuries sapped Isiah Thomas of his effectiveness near the end of his Hall of Fame career. Thomas retired in May 1994, just after he turned 33, because of an Achilles tendon injury he suffered a month earlier.

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