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Former Utah Jazz great Karl Malone never backed down from any situation on the NBA hardwood, no matter how many allegations of dirty play ever popped up. Once, he even controversially elbowed fellow future Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas so badly that he left the Detroit Pistons guard bloodied and in need of 40 stitches.

Decades after the incident, Malone added more fuel to the fire.

Karl Malone’s controversial elbow left Isiah Thomas bloodied

It’s well-documented that Isiah Thomas was frustrated with his omission from the 1992 Dream Team roster, especially because John Stockton seemingly received a spot at his expense when the first 10 players were announced in September 1991. He responded on the court with a legendary performance against the Utah Jazz and Stockton himself on Nov. 15, 1991, exploding for 44 points, four rebounds, and four assists in a 123-115 victory.

When the two teams faced off again on Dec. 14, things quickly went off the rails.

Karl Malone hit a driving Thomas with an elbow to the head that left him bloodied. The aftermath featured Pistons head coach Chuck Daly and a few of his players storming onto the court enraged. Malone was ejected, receiving a $10,000 fine and a one-game suspension. Meanwhile, Thomas required 40 stitches.

Years later, the former Jazz great added another layer to the situation.

Karl Malone’s justification of his infamous elbow

Karl Malone had a reputation for overly physical play throughout a career that featured several on-court confrontations, though none were more infamous than the Isiah Thomas elbow.

Decades later, during a May 2012 interview on The Dan Patrick Show, the power forward discussed the matter and claimed he didn’t intentionally hurt his fellow future Hall of Famer.

“No, sir,” Malone said. “I never went out to hurt anybody on purpose. But he was driving to the basket, and I was following through because he had the ball in front of me. … I’m not here to defend my actions when I played. I played the game physical. I didn’t start playing until I got hit. Now go back and replay all the other stuff and things they were doing.”

Malone apparently felt his physicality was necessary to combat the playing style many other contemporaneous players — especially those on the “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons — embraced. He admitted he fouled Thomas hard but emphasized that he never backed down from sticking up for his teammates.

“I never meant to do it, but if it comes between my teammates and opposing players, I don’t like ’em,” Malone said. “We can spin it any way we want to spin it. I fouled him, and it was a hard foul. That’s what it was.”

Isiah Thomas is still bitter about Karl Malone

Karl Malone may not regret his actions, but they still bother Isiah Thomas.

During an interview with Terry Foster of the Detroit News in March 2014 (h/t Basketball Network), the former Pistons great said he viewed the incident as the “dirtiest play” he experienced in his basketball career.

“I think it was the dirtiest play I have experienced in the game of basketball in my life,” Thomas explained. “I don’t think I’ve seen anything as vicious and as intentional to a player. I still don’t understand it.”

“It was horrific,” he continued. “That was the cheapest s*** in my mind in the history of the game.”

Thomas wasn’t a stranger to dishing out some hard fouls of his own, and he has to acknowledge the hard fouls his Detroit teammates — in particular, Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn — committed themselves. Still, he felt Malone’s actions crossed the line.