Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas may have been dreaded rivals during their playing days, but the respect factor was always there between them. Even though Jordan admitted in the Last Dance docuseries that he hates Thomas, he listed the Detroit Pistons legend as the second-best point guard in NBA history behind Magic Johnson.
Thomas didn’t know Jordan hated him so much until he watched the Last Dance, which explains why he talked so glowingly about him back in the day.
Isiah Thomas went 3-1 against Michael Jordan in the playoffs
The Pistons and Bulls faced each other four straight years in the playoffs from 1988 to 1991. Thomas went 3-1 against Jordan and won back-to-back titles in ’89 and ’90.
The Bulls lost to the Pistons in the 1988 Eastern Conference Semifinals, the 1989 Eastern Conference Finals, and the 1990 Eastern Conference Finals. Each time Chicago lost, Jordan displayed great sportsmanship in defeat by shaking the Pistons player’s hands.
In the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals, Jordan and the Bulls were determined to be the tougher team mentally and physically. Chicago not only didn’t respond to any of Detroit’s dirty plays, but they bullied the “Bad Boys” with their sound play and swept them to advance to the NBA Finals.
As the game was about to end, the Pistons walked off the court and didn’t shake the Bulls’ hands. Jordan was shocked and disgusted and never liked Thomas ever again.
It was a shame that Jordan and Thomas’ relationship was never the same after the ’91 conference finals. Incredibly, it was only a year before the Pistons’ walk-off that Thomas called Jordan the best basketball player he’d ever seen, and MJ smiled while hearing Zeke’s comments.
Michael Jordan reacts to Isiah Thomas calling him the best basketball player he’s ever seen
Thomas went on the Arsenio Hall Show and said Jordan was the best basketball player he’s ever seen. The interview took place a year before the Pistons walked off the court against the Bulls.
Jordan watched the clip of Thomas praising him and couldn’t help but smile since he received praise from one of the top players in the league.
“I think that’s something you have to be proud about,” Jordan said after hearing Thomas’ comments. “You have the respect of your peers, it goes a long way, far greater than any championship that you may win.”
Thomas called Jordan the best player he’s ever seen in 1990. However, the two-time champion has changed his stance on the GOAT talk after seeing LeBron James play. He believes the King has overtaken MJ in the GOAT debate.
From the looks of it, it appears Jordan and Thomas were friends at one point. However, that all changed in 1991 after the Pistons walked off the court.
No “Dream Team” for Isiah
Thomas was left off the 1992 “Dream Team.” Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Scottie Pippen didn’t want him on the team.
In episode 5 of the Last Dance, Jordan said it wasn’t just him who didn’t want to play with Thomas. He also admitted that the chemistry on the team would have been different if the 12-time All-Star was on the roster since several players didn’t like him.
Thomas is open to squashing his beef with Jordan and having a similar conversation he had with Johnson when the two point guards chatted on NBA TV and reconciled. However, the odds of that are low since Jordan likely has no interest in being friends with Zeke.