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Isiah Thomas wasn’t the obvious Dream Team choice Pistons fans consider him

I grew up with and firmly believed the story passed down from Pistons fan to Pistons fan:

Isiah Thomas was left off the Dream Team solely because Michael Jordan schemed to leave him off the squad. If not for Jordan’s unfair hatred of Thomas, the Detroit point guard would have been a shoe-in for the 1992 Olympics.

It isn’t true.

If you’re unfamiliar with the story, here’s a solid summary. I don’t doubt that Jordan and friends insisted that Thomas not make the team – and tonight’s Dream Team documentary on NBA TV at 9 p.m. will provided the ugly details on the incident – but I no longer believe Jordan and the NBA’s other stars alone kept Thomas off the team.

Thomas’ decline due to age gave the selection committee the latitude to appease Jordan. If Thomas were a slam-dunk inclusion based on basketball, who knows what would have happened? But he wasn’t, so at that point, the committee could easily grant Jordan his wish.

There was clearly some sort of sliding scale for Dream Team inclusion.

If selection were based purely on career accomplishments, Moses Malone would’ve been an easy choice. Malone, who unlike Magic Johnson, hadn’t yet retired, ranks higher than Thomas on the all-time list.

If the selection were based purely on current ability, 35-year-old Larry Bird never would’ve never made the team. Someone like Larry Johnson would have been a better choice.

No, obviously both career accomplishments and current ability played a part, and it’s not difficult to make a case that Thomas fell short in both categories – or at least didn’t pass both tests with flying colors.

Keith Langlois of Pistons.com provided a very insightful take on how Thomas’ legacy was viewed:

Isiah Thomas arrived in the NBA with a competitive fire that burned hotter than most, but it was further fueled by the criticism he took both going up the ladder and coming down it. He was held to one impossible set of standards – winning above all else – and then when he mastered the art, they changed the rules on him.

Prove you’re a winner, they told him. He proved it. Then they took issue with his methods. Magic and Bird were admired for their cold-blooded ruthlessness. Jordan would soon be exalted as no one before or since for the same qualities. Isiah? His ruthlessness got him exiled.

Maybe it appeared the rules changed on Thomas, but I just think they were never articulated properly when critics bashed Thomas for his lack of winning in the mid 80s. It was simple to say, ‘Win a championship, and we’ll respect you,’ but that was never what the critics fully meant.

Elite play isn’t enough to be an all-time great. Winning a championship isn’t enough to be an all-time great. Elite play while winning a championship is the test.

Isiah Thomas was great when the Pistons weren’t winning championships. Then Thomas was extremely good when the Pistons were winning championships. But he wasn’t great while winning a championship.

Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan meet that scrutiny, and given that they were all still good in 1992, they were the easiest picks for the Dream Team. After them, it was a matter of filling in the squad with the top Americans of the time.

In the four seasons before the Dream Team was announced in September, 1991, Thomas – at least judging by All-NBA teams – didn’t stack up with the chosen players (hat tip: Dave Hogg of the Associated Press). Let’s assign three points to a first-team player, two points to a second-team player and one points to a third-team player.

Isiah could have received another first-team selection, even one at the expense of a Dream team guard, and still not moved up the chart.

I can’t claim to know the selectors’ rationale, but if they believed Thomas – an undersized guard who spent his career crashing into bigger players and would be 31 by the Olympics – was headed for a decline in the year between the team being announced and Barcelona, they would have been correct. The younger Scottie Pippen, on the other hand, made the 1991-92 All-NBA second team and was clearly on an upward trajectory.

And it’s not like the Dream Team and All-NBA selectors were alone. Jack McCallum of Sports Illustrated chose his ideal Olympic team, and Thomas didn’t make the cut.

Someone had to be the best player left off the Dream Team. Unfortunately, it was Thomas, who’s certainly an all-time great. But his “snub” at the expense of first John Stockton and then Clyde Drexler was defensible in basketball terms.

Thomas at his peak vs. Stockton at his peak? Thomas.

Thomas’ career vs. Drexler’s career? Thomas.

Thomas in 1992 vs. Stockton in 1992? Tossup. Thomas in 1992 vs. Drexler in 1992? Tossup. And that’s why the selection committee had such an easy choice to acquiesce Jordan and his followers.

Purely from a basketball standpoint, Isiah Thomas was not a Dream Team lock, and that allowed politics to become the deciding factor. It’s unfortunate that the pettiness of the NBA’s elite played such a large role in Isiah being left off the Dream Team.

But politics were far from the only factor.

66 Comments

  • Jun 13, 20123:44 pm
    by Jeremy

    Reply

    Found this article from the Houston Chronicle Archives: http://www.chron.com/CDA/archives/archive.mpl/1991_816338/isiah-thomas-deserved-snub.html. Was really searching to see if Chuck Daly, who was the 1992 Dream Team coach, made any comments regarding Isiah and this matter. Article made a point that Joe D was really the one hurt by Isiah and others on the Bad Boys team because he had a legitimate chance to be included as well.

    Really, it was Laettner who should have been left off in favor of his college teammate Grant Hill. The committee seems to have almost always missed their opportunities with Pistons players. Dumars was on the 1994 World Championship squad, but by the time the 1996 Olympics rolled around, the Pistons belonged to Grant Hill and he got the nod for the Olympic team. You’ve got Ben Wallace on the 2002 World Championship squad and at a point when he just coming into his prime but left of the 2004 Olympic team in favor of Boozer, Amar’e, Marion, and Odom. Ben was clearly in his prime by the time the 04 Olympics rolled around. Tayshaun was on the 2008 Olympic team, but from what I saw, he was more of a human victory cigar than anything on a team that boasted Melo, Lebron, and Kobe who could all play the 3 spot. Here we are at the 2012 Olympics and we’ve got Monroe being left off in favor of guys like Odom (who came off a terrible, terrible year) and Tyson Chandler (who also had a terrible, terrible year). 

    Irregardless of what I just went off about above, I would much rather have our players at home training and forming chemistry with their Pistons teammates than forming chemistry with guys they are paid to play against. The committee will select the best players and I will root for our country’s team always.

    An intersting thing to remember is since they started including pro’s on the Olympic team, an average of 2.25 players on each team have one a championship prior to those Olympics (1992: 3 players; 1996: 2 players; 2000: 0 players; 2004: 1 player; 2008: 3 players). As of today, you have 4 players on the 2012 team with NBA Championships with the posibility of having another 2 (James and Bosh) to 3 (Westbrook, Durant, Harden) depending on these finals play out. Based off of that, who would win in a game against each other- the 2012 team or the 1992 team (if you could teleport them and their skill levels at that moment)?

    • Jun 13, 20126:57 pm
      by oats

      Reply

      Tyson Chandler is the reigning defensive player of the year and he is coming off a terrible, terrible year? Really? I’ll buy into him not being deserving of defensive player of the year accolades, but to suggest his season was anything but successful is kind of strange. Chandler also does something the U.S. team is in need of. They need someone to play defense and protect the rim to help hide the fact that our PFs are pretty bad at that. Chandler’s inclusion actually makes a lot of sense.

  • Jun 13, 20125:05 pm
    by MikeN

    Reply

    Noone’s comparing him to Stockton, most underrated all-time, or also underrated Pippen.
    How about dump Laettner and Mullin for Oneal and Thomas?

  • Jun 13, 20127:52 pm
    by Irving Singleton

    Reply

    I hate all media for this hate crap of not just Isiah, but of pistons in general…I ha so much more to say..but i retracted it…This is a sore subject for me…well thanks for letting me vent…

  • Jun 13, 20128:14 pm
    by tom

    Reply

    To claim that Isaiah was great teams ranging from poor to pretty good and only very good on great teams I think is off the mark, but at least a fair argument. But then to make that point and a few short breaths later praise someone like Clyde Drexler (or to fail to chastise Chris Mullin) is incredibly unfair. There are few players in my lifetime who exemplify the above phenomenon more so than Drexler and Mullin. I don’t have any great objection to Stockton making team over Thomas, but in order of injustice, Laetner, Mullin and Drexler making the team over Thomas is wholly unjustifiable – at least if youre only considering basketball.
    You could perhaps argue that Mullin filled a role that was otherwise lacking on the team, but thats now that the DreamTeam was about. They were about overwhelming you with talent and mystique, chemistry was, rightfully so, not a concern.

  • Jun 13, 20128:16 pm
    by tom

    Reply

    I wish there was an edit button after you post on here.

  • Jun 14, 201212:44 am
    by Mike

    Reply

    Funny how looking back on time we remember things differently that what really happened(In your case)While Thomas was never the same player after the hand injury in 1991(he had to have bones fused in the hand)He was still a All Star guard.He didn’t dominate the ball from 1986 on not because he couldn’t, but because with the talent Jack McCloskey built on the team he didn’t have to.Remember he had Dumars and Vinnie Johnson also in the back court.Laimbeer,Salley,Dantly,Edwards,Aguirre and Rodman up front.They all could score so his point production took a hit, but when called on he still could put up the numbers(Look up the 25 point Qrt in the 88 finals vs the Lakers,on a bad ankle)At that time Larry Bird was a shell of himself because of a bad back,Magic had left the NBA because of HIV,Mullen,Stockton,Pippin and Drexler were not better than him.Jordan didn’t like him and he had become Air Jordan, the cash cow of the NBA, thats why he was left off.

  • Jun 14, 20122:34 am
    by Max

    Reply

    Props to Mike.   That was the truth on the ground at the time.
    This is all so annoying.
    Thomas overwhelmingly should have made the team as a no brainer and the way he played yearly in the all star games when he started every year proved he was one of the best ever at setting up fellow all stars on the fly.
    Clyde Drexler was on ESPN NBA Today yesterday and said when asked that Thomas should have been on the team, that players shouldn’t have gotten to influence such a decision and that the reasons why he wasn’t included weren’t good enough.   Clyde is a man of integrity.
    F Jordan, Pippen, Malone and Bird.  At least the controversy over Isiah’s non inclusion still casts its cloud at the national level and is being brought up fairly often.
    Sekou Smith of the NBA Hangtime podcast lingered over the issue a couple of days ago and said it still bothers him that Isiah was left off the team.  His co host agreed and they or someone else, I can’t remember, even said it wasn’t the real Dream Team because Isiah would have been on it.
    @JOE DUMARS:
    You should have been on the team too.  You guys were champions?  Didn’t you beat Drexler fairly easily in the finals by becoming the first team to win three in a row in the other team’s own building?   Weren’t you a better outside shooter than Drexler and better PG than Mullin?
    @LARRY BIRD
    What was the problem?   You brawled with Dr. J and seemed fine with him after?   You know it was Rodman who said the thing about you being overrated because you are white and that Isiah was just backing up a teammate so what’s the problem?
    @KARL MALONE
    Do you hate every PG not named Stockton?   Your ignorant and overly vocal stance played a hand in forcing Magic’s premature retirement.   You were just about the dirtiest player ever, which I think is quite in your favor, so I don’t understand your objection.  Were you sucking up to His Airness?

    • Jun 14, 20129:02 am
      by C-Foe

      Reply

      Max,  Yeah there are a couple of players who said they didn’t mind playing with Isiah.  All this crap surfaced when Magic wrote in his book that “nobody” wanted to play with Isiah.
      Regarding Bird the problem was that Isiah was supposed to smile big and laugh like Magic Johnson, say Larry is a basketball god, and reprimand Dennis in the media.  When he didn’t, he was labeled a racist.  It didn’t kill his playing career, but it killed his image and the media rarely gave him any credit after that.  Go find some old Bill Simmons (notorious Celtics fan) ESPN articles and you’ll see that he loves to bash Isiah any chance he gets.  The media loves to run stories about him when they are negative as a punishment.  There was a lot of “poetic justice” sentiment floating around when Larry Bird fired him as Pacers coach years ago.
      Loved the statement about Karl Malone “sucking up to His Airness”.   Many of the players sucked up to the NBA’s big money machine, that’s why they couldn’t beat him in the 90s.

  • Jun 14, 20123:49 am
    by FeldmanLooksUpStatsButKnowsNothing

    Reply

    I hate people who look up stats to decide how good players are.  It’s obvious the writer here was too young to actually watch these guys play.  Please kid you just made a fool of yourself in this article

    • Jun 14, 20129:22 am
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      Yeah, because it’s making a fool of yourself to take a position and try and support it with data and evidence and put your name on/own that position you’re taking. The most intelligent people make a snarky, anonymous screen name, offer no evidence and in general act like dicks. So congratulations on being a mouth breathing internet troll dickhead I guess.

      • Jun 14, 201212:50 pm
        by Max

        Reply

        @Patrick…………he’s right in a way though because in 92, unless you were a Thomas hater, the only players who had any right to be ahead of him for the team were Jordan, Bird and Johnson.   Thomas should have been ahead of everyone else and everyone who watched basketball at the time knew Thomas had sacrificed his stats for team and it was a commonly printed story that was vindicated fairly often when Thomas was beasting the younger generation on the court,   After being left off, Thomas torched Stockton and Thomas was like Kobe or Jordan in that he could just decide to have big stats whenever he wanted.    I don’t believe a person who was actively a fan at the time could hold the opinion that Isiah wasn’t a slam dunk for the team unless they were prejudiced against him.   Duncan’s stats have dipped for what seems like nearly a decade at this point but when his numbers first started to dip, it had nothing to do with the argument regarding whether he was the best or one of the best bigs and the same logic goes with Isiah.   Everyone knew Duncan or Isiah could ramp it up in the playoffs or whenever they wanted.
        Also, finding an article or opinion here and there that indicates that Thomas’ non-inclusion wasn’t a travesty of justice isn’t a good argument when the media and public overwhelmingly held the opposite view–and still do, and even though most of them dislike Isiah.

        • Jun 14, 20121:09 pm
          by Patrick Hayes

          Reply

          “he’s right in a way though because in 92, unless you were a Thomas hater, the only players who had any right to be ahead of him for the team were Jordan, Bird and Johnson.”

          No, he’s not right in any way. In fact, he’s a moron.

          Feldman’s comparison of All-NBA selections the previous four years is a good one. It doesn’t mean Isiah shouldn’t have been on the team — Dan and I both think he should have, incidentally. But the fact that Thomas wasn’t on a All-NBA team for four seasons prior to the Dream Team selection is a pretty good indication that a significant number of people thought Stockton, for example, was better than him at that point in their careers.

          Thomas was deserving, but if the criteria for selection was more ‘how good is this player right now?’ than ‘career achievement award’ type selection, Thomas wasn’t a runaway choice. He was one of a handful of guys right on the cusp. Personally, I would’ve taken him at the time over Stockton, Drexler and Mullin. But I also might have taken Dumars over Thomas, Stockton, Drexler or Mullin.

          The point is, no one ever said that the Dream Team was picked based on who, of active players, had had the best career to that point. If that were the criteria, Thomas is a no-brainer. But it wasn’t. In fact, the only player who probably who did seem to be a legacy pick, as Dan mentioned, was Bird, who was pretty much finished as a player by then. Thomas wasn’t finished, but he was definitely well into his declining years when the team was picked.

          All of your other points are straw men.

          “Also, finding an article or opinion here and there that indicates that Thomas’ non-inclusion wasn’t a travesty of justice isn’t a good argument when the media and public overwhelmingly held the opposite view”

          See, you are not being honest here. If the media thought it was a travesty of justice, why did they, for four straight years, think Thomas wasn’t an all-nba player?

          Travesty of justice is just silly, reactionary and drama for the sake of drama. Was it controversial to leave Isiah off? Sure. Did he have a legit case to be included? Absolutely. If the deciding factor to leave him off was because a couple players lobbied to keep him off, is that a bullshit reason to exclude him and an injustice? You bet. But USA Basketball to my knowledge has never said, “We didn’t take Isiah because Jordan didn’t want him.” Until they do, I’m not calling it a travesty. It’s a controversy. As a Pistons fan, I wanted him there. But I would bet a Jazz fan would argue just as passionately about Stockton, for example.

          Hate when comments get to the point where people can’t rationally discuss something. You didn’t argue anything in your post. You just said, “I feel this way and I’m right,” then made a comparison that doesn’t make sense, alluded vaguely to everyone at the time it happened agreeing with your take without supporting your claim and called it a win for you I guess.

          Also, don’t say things like, “he’s right in a way” about a commenter who is clearly a trolling asshole. It takes away from whatever it is you have to say.

          • Jun 14, 20121:37 pm
            by Max

            The media is much, much larger than the panel who votes on awards and I’ve indicated previously that I believe the voting is wholly corrupt and more often a popularity contest or a nod to the best story than a true gauge of accomplishment.    The overwhelming media dispute came with the hundreds of articles on the topic that continue to this day and Feldmen’s article was one of the first I’ve ever read taking the opposite point of view.   If I’ve read literally hundreds of articles over the last twenty years that say it was a travesty and a couple saying the opposite, I would call that overwhelming.  And I’m a New Yorker so my ratio on the topic is national and not local media to Detroit that might be slanted.
            I said Bird deserved to be ahead of Isiah in the selection and that is because I think his inclusion was necessary to even label the team, “The Dream Team”.   Even though he was a legacy pick, it would have felt wrong and his absence would have been glaring because at the time, even with Bird largely done, the idea of putting together the best team possible required his selection because of all he had accomplished and his value as a teammate and unselfish passer.
            Isiah was one of the greatest passers ever at the time of selection and had just won 2 out of the previous 4 championships as the undisputed best player on the team and he was still starting the all star game every season.
            Stockton’s fan would be passionate about their guy?  Fine, but most of the people who think Thomas should have made the team were and are not arguing as fans of Thomas but rather as fans of justice.  Picking Stockton over Thomas would have been like picking Amare, Bosh or even Nowitski over Duncan in the 2007 to 2010 neighborhood because their stats were better.   To me, this is why looking at players from a stats standpoint is so misguided.

          • Jun 14, 20121:43 pm
            by Max

            And wouldn’t the notion of Isiah as racist who played for the most hated team in the league have influenced the voting over those four years.   He was winning championships but the voters didn’t care because a signifigant number of them couldn’t bring themselves to vote for a player they despised.  It was like James last year saying he was basically inelligable for MVP because of all the controversy surrounding him.  Only the hate for Isiah and the Pistons ran so deep that they couldn’t even acknowledge Isiah after he won a title and then back to back titles.   His non selection as All NBA player those years is another travesty.

          • Jun 14, 20122:07 pm
            by Max

            And I made the references to “everyone” because I was a die hard at the time and very aware.   People would start arguing that Stockton was better than Isiah, but not until the mid to late nineties and beyond.   I don’t remember anyone ever arguing that Drexler or Mullin were better and when I say “everyone” I’m referring to the dominant held perceptions of the time.   Isiah had just been to 3 out of the 5 finals and was a champion who’d start the all star game every year.    And yet at the time, Mark Price was getting “elected”.  Whatever, it was laughable.   There should be naming of names on these votes so we can pull their pants down or give them wedgies.
            At the time, most thought Barkley was better than Malone and Isiah versus Barkley versus Ewing versus Olajuwon were the arguments people were actually having with “everyone” putting Jordan and Johnson ahead of them.
            Isiah Thomas made All NBA first team from 83 to 87 when they only had 2 all-nba teams and then Rodman said so and so about Larry Bird and Isiah backed up his teammate.   Thereafter, Isiah never made an All-NBA team while the Pistons were racking up win and rings, finals appearances and conference finals appearances.   Quite frankly, I’d rather see an article about that.

    • Jun 15, 20121:38 am
      by Geoff

      Reply

      @DanFeldmanlooksupstats  Yeah, you are right on all counts.  This article is trash, and it a kindness to point out that it must be due to youth.  Anyway, the NBA of the late 80s and early 90s was a different game.  These kids just don’t understand.

      • Jun 15, 20128:32 am
        by Patrick Hayes

        Reply

        Yes, it is total trash to put fandom of Isiah aside and look at the situation analytically. What a jerkoff Dan is to do that! Data and information that supports an argument is TRASH! But your comment and opinion is totally valid because you’re like a million years old, drive a DODGE STRATUS and spell your name like an asshole.

        Seriously people … nowhere in this article did Dan say that Thomas shouldn’t have made the Dream Team. He’s right to point out that, outside of Detroit, for a variety of reasons, there wasn’t the groundswell of support for his inclusion that some of these alleged wise old people are remembering.

        • Jun 15, 20121:01 pm
          by Max

          Reply

          I’ve never been anywhere near Detroit and I remember the incredulity over his omission in 92 quite well and the majority of people who were voicing their objection were anything but Pistons fans.
          I think the closest current possible comparison would be if they decided to leave Kobe off next Olympics despite his wanting to play.
          SLAM magazine did a top 500 of all time about 6 months ago and Isiah was ranked 19th and 14 of the players ahead of him were not on the dream team so it was absolutely a no brainer that he merited making the squad.    To say that his skills had eroded and he was in obvious decline to the extent that his status should have suffered is laughable at best.  Thomas should have been ahead of Mullin, Drexler, Stockton, Pippen and at least at that leaves plenty of room for bigs he should have been ahead of like Laettner, Malone, Barkley, Ewing and Robinson.
          And the team was guard light too.

          • Jun 15, 20121:14 pm
            by Patrick Hayes

            Duly noted. Before anyone forms an opinion on anything, here’s a checklist of supporting data that should be consulted: 1. How Max Whoeverthefuck remembered it; 2. SLAM’s top 500 list. Got it.

          • Jun 15, 20123:07 pm
            by Max

            You are so defensive.   You made some assertion about “outside of Detroit” and I can speak to that issue because I’ve never been to Detroit and haven’t gotten to partake in Detroit’s media at all until quite recently.  Also, if you were to throw everyone’s memory and impressions out of the equation, there would really be nothing to talk about other than stats but maybe you think that is all there is.  I wouldn’t think you are as misguided as that but who knows?
            SLAM MAGAZINE’s TOP 500 is a fairly objective source and I feel that Detroit’s success from 88 to 92  dispels any notion that Isiah had significantly declined.  Therefore, Isiah overwhelmingly deserved to be included.
            If everything I and others are saying on this issue is so unreasonably than why is Clyde Drexler basically backing us up every time he is asked the question during his current press tour for the film?
            These are not unreasonable points that should be met with sarcasm and derision but you just go on these crusades.

          • Jun 15, 20123:35 pm
            by Patrick Hayes

            Not everyone is making unreasonable points here — Dan’s points in the post aren’t unreasonable and a few of the commenters have made points that aren’t unreasonable. I think people who say Thomas definitely shouldn’t have been on the team are unreasonable. But I think people who say he definitely, unequivocally should have are also unreasonable. There’s a middle ground, plenty of room for debate, and I find both extreme sides in this particular discussion really lacking in substance.

        • Jun 15, 20127:27 pm
          by Geoff

          Reply

          Wow.  Patrick, I think that you may be a tad defensive.  It’s actually a shame that you guys didn’t get to experience the NBA when it was a far superior sport, and are stuck making silly arguements about whether Isiah was a clear shot for the Dream Team.  Yes, he was as everyone knew at the time.  The slight to Isiah’s career was a huge issue.  Since you are slow to grasp the only conceivable purpose for the article you are defending and you are not familiar with the common spelling “Geoff”, you obviously are light years behind in education.  Stop acting like a spoiled brat.  You guys are just horribly wrong, and the qouting of stats is not going to dig you out of your hole.  Educated people who use stats for a living know that numbers need context.  People are trying to help you with that context, in order that you can stop making fools of yourselves.     

          • Jun 15, 201210:27 pm
            by Patrick Hayes

            “I think that you may be a tad defensive.”

            This is inaccurate. I’m incredibly defensive.

            “It’s actually a shame that you guys didn’t get to experience the NBA when it was a far superior sport”

            Again, what makes you think I didn’t? Do you know how old I am? Do you know how long I’ve watched and followed the NBA? Do you know me personally? Minus this information, you are making bullshit assumptions.

            “and are stuck making silly arguements”

            You mean like the silly argument you just made, devoid of any information, about the credibility of myself and Dan?

            “The slight to Isiah’s career was a huge issue.”

            Isiah seems to be at peace with it. In fact, he didn’t even express disappointment publicly at the time it happened. It was a huge issue to Isiah’s fans. I think he was cool with his championships and Hall of Fame career.

            “Since you are slow to grasp the only conceivable purpose for the article you are defending”

            Please enlighten me, then, as to what the purpose was? Because, if I’m condensing this down, here’s how I read it: “A lot of people are still pissed about Isiah Thomas getting left off the dream team. A lot of people believe conspiracy theories that have never really been confirmed that he was left off solely for political, back-stabby reasons. Here are some other, less controversial reasons, that could’ve played into the decision.” It also points out that, since no one except the selectors knows the actual criteria used, it’s hard to conclusively say why he didn’t make it. Some very respected people at the time (like Jack McCallum in the SI article linked. But McCallum only covered that team and just wrote a book about it, so what does he know?) didn’t consider him a shoe-in. There was certainly a huge amount of support for Thomas to make it, but this bullshit broad brush “EVERYONE THOUGHT THIS WAY!” just isn’t true. If Thomas made it and Stockton didn’t, Stockton fans would still be vehemently insisting he should’ve. There are probably Kevin Johnson, Mark Price and Tim Hardaway fans floating around who insist that their guys were the most deserving. Hell, there are Joe Dumars fans (the player, not the GM) that I know who think Dumars was more deserving than Thomas at the time. So cut the crybaby stuff. No one said anywhere in this article or in these comments that Thomas definitely shouldn’t have made it. But to just accept that he was a lock and some backstabbing cost him the spot (especially considering his GM was on the selection committee and his coach was coaching the team, so it’s not like he didn’t have allies in the room) is a little naive. I legitimately don’t know why he didn’t make. The point is, there are a few plausible explanations.

            “you are not familiar with the common spelling “Geoff””

            I’m familiar with it, I just hate it.

            “you obviously are light years behind in education.”

            I’ve wasted as much money on higher ed as anyone.

            “Stop acting like a spoiled brat.”

            I will never stop calling out weak sauce trolling from ignoramuses in the comments of a site that Dan and I work very hard at.

            “You guys are just horribly wrong, and the qouting of stats is not going to dig you out of your hole.”

            Wrong about what? Just answer that simple question. You don’t even grasp the point of the article enough to mount an argument against it, which is why you resorted to the, “THIS IS TRASH! I CAN DO 50 PUSHUPS IN 30 SECONDS!” retort above.

            “Educated people who use stats for a living know that numbers need context.”

            Dan is one of the best writers at any outlet when it comes to providing context using statistics.

            “People are trying to help you with that context, in order that you can stop making fools of yourselves.”

            Well shit, I guess I owe you an apology. I missed the part of your initial comment where you said, “Hey Dan, here’s why this statistic is taken out of context” or “Hey Dan, I think this part of your post is misleading or incomplete.” A normal, intelligent, non-mouth breather who was truly looking to “help us with that context” would’ve articulated his point that way. Also, I have to believe if we were routinely “making fools of ourselves” or providing shoddy content and analysis here, people wouldn’t read our site. But you’re the properly educated one. Maybe you can answer that? Does a site that provides shitty work typically continuously grow?

            I’m just trying to help you formulate your comments better.

  • Jun 14, 20124:50 am
    by Derek

    Reply

    Well written article, yet fundamentally flawed.  Jordan and Pippen were pretty vocal about not wanting Thomas on the team.  There was a clear ultimatum issued and there was no way the NBA would move forward with the 92 Olympic team without those guys.  Further, in recent years Magic has come out saying none of those guys wanted Thomas on the team.  So now you have Jordan, Pippen, and an unnamed mass of players objecting against having Thomas.

    What should they do at this point?  Resolve the dispute?  No.  How about include Thomas?  No to do so would result in a chunk of your players allegedly leaving the team.  They roll the dice and excluded him from the team.

    As for Isiah’s decline, well that seeming decline coincided with the shift in team philosophy.  The Pistons moved to being a defensive oriented team.  There was a retooling on the team with Vinne Johnson, the emergence of Dumars, the acquistion of Adrian Dantley (then after that Aguirre), James Edwards, etc.  A decision was made for Thomas to stop dominating the scoring so the other capable ballers could score.  A decision was made for Thomas to stop dominating the ball handling duties so Dumars and Johnson could take them over.

    The sacrifices Thomas made resulted in team success.  So assertion that he was in a decline just doesn’t hold up.  This is especially the case when you consider his production in the playoffs.  Thomas was still capable.  He was still the best Piston.  He still deserved to be on the team.

    • Jun 14, 20129:24 am
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      “He still deserved to be on the team.”

      I didn’t read anywhere in here where Dan said he didn’t deserve to be on the team. He just made the point that by ’91, it wasn’t the no-brainer it would’ve been earlier in his career.

  • Jun 14, 20123:24 pm
    by Fennis

    Reply

    Patrick –
     
    I respect the fact that you stepped back and searched for evidence to support your position, but, to me, this is the wrong position to double-down on. I’m enjoying the debate. That said, my understanding is that Jordan recently admitted to using his influence to keep Thomas off the team. Setting credentials aside, it’s pretty much indisputable that Jordan’s influence corrupted the process and this corruption alone robbed Thomas of what may have been the greatest honor of his career. This is the travesty.
     
    David Stern — reportedly, not a Thomas fan — essentially affirms the regrettable decision. See Stern v. Rome at 4:30 – 6:15.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmD-j0MJRsM&feature=related
    “One of the great talents… He played that position in some ways like no one ever played it, or has since.”
     

    • Jun 14, 20123:45 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      @Fennis:

      First, Dan wrote the original post, I’m just giving my two cents in comments, so he’s the one who took the time to provide evidence and a rationale, etc.

      The point I took away from his post and that I agree with is simply the fact that there was a case to be made that Isiah’s play had slipped enough in recent seasons and the play of others, particularly Stockton, had improved enough to make this a debate. I agree with his point that there’s a revisionist aspect to this — namely, people remember the controversy and the alleged ‘Jordan kept him off the team’ stuff because it’s interesting and scandalous and all that. And it very well could’ve played a role or been the deciding factor. But I wouldn’t close the door on it being the only factor, that’s all I’m saying. As I said in a comment above, I would’ve taken Thomas at the time over Stockton, Mullin or Drexler, but I also would’ve taken Dumars over all of those guys, including Isiah. There is room for debate about who the 12 best guys were at the time the team was picked in ’91. Isiah was in the conversation, but not necessarily a can’t miss, guaranteed pick unless we’re factoring in career performance and basing it on lifetime achievement type criteria (and as Dan said, if that were the case, Moses Malone was a bigger snub than Isiah).

      Anyway, I don’t think the point of this post was to say that Thomas definitely should have been left off the team. It also wasn’t to say that he should’ve definitely made it. It was just laying out some other nuance that was going on at the time and showing that it might not all be the giant Jordan-led conspiracy folk tale that it has become today. Conspiracies sell movies well, but they aren’t always necessarily true. If you read a lot about Jordan in that era, yes, he seemed like a petulant asshole behind the scenes. But he also wasn’t necessarily always coddled and given into. He allegedly requested that Krause get fired from the Bulls numerous times, he requested that Horace Grant get traded numerous times, he requested that the Bulls go after several of his buddies, he even reportedly asked that they trade him in one of his angrier moments. The Bulls didn’t give into all of those demands. I think superstars are certainly given into often, but I don’t take it as a given that just because Jordan demanded something from USA Basketball that they necessarily just caved and gave in. Jordan clearly hated him, but I think his exclusion from the team was more complicated than just, “Jordan said no so USA Basketball left him off.”

      • Jun 14, 20124:06 pm
        by Max

        Reply

        It wasn’t that Jordan said no and the facts pretty much slipped out immediately so it was no folk tale.   Jordan, Johnson and Bird all reportedly said they would not play unless the other two played and Jordan and Bird were adamant that they wouldn’t play if Isiah played.
        And comparing the Bulls handling of a player under contract and USA basketball’s handling of trying to convince Jordan to play at all for free is apples and oranges.  Of course USA basketball caved—they had to.  The entire thing might have fallen apart unless Jordan and Bird were bluffing.

        • Jun 14, 20124:39 pm
          by Patrick Hayes

          Reply

          Are you kidding? If Jordan said ‘no’ to USA Basketball, people would’ve freaked. It would’ve meant a ton of negative press for a guy who hated any kind of controversy or negative press. Maybe USA Basketball caved, I don’t know, I don’t have all the details of the inner-workings like you seem to since you’re so conclusively sure of what happened. But to think that USA Basketball was some powerless entity that had to just do what Jordan wanted is laughable. Why is it so hard to believe that they just didn’t want Thomas, regardless of how Jordan felt about him?

          • Jun 14, 201210:48 pm
            by fordman

            .” But to think that USA Basketball was some powerless entity that had to just do what Jordan wanted is laughable”. I find that statement  laughable, USA basketball was not a big thing until the dream team came along.. Nobody really  cared about a bunch of college kids playing .and they surely didn’t try to make it part of their prime time viewing  for the ratings. USA basketball did everything the could to make sure MJ and company would play..

          • Jun 14, 201211:16 pm
            by Patrick Hayes

            @fordman:

            So, USA Basketball could’ve announced that the pros were going to be able to play in ’92, invited Jordan, had Jordan turn them down for a reason as flimsy as “I don’t like that guy and won’t play if he does,” and there would’ve been no backlash against Jordan for that? Sorry, not buying that. I didn’t say USA was all-powerful. I said they weren’t powerless. There’s a distinction there. Sure, they couldn’t coerce Jordan into playing, but public opinion was a huge motivator for Jordan, and there’s no way he would’ve come off well if USA Basketball really wanted Thomas and forced the issue regardless of Jordan’s feelings.

          • Jun 15, 20124:16 am
            by Max

            Jordan, Johnson and Bird all publicly said at the time that they wouldn’t have played unless the other two played so they obviously weren’t afraid of any bad press if they declined.  There was no precedent for their deciding to play or not and no one would have been afraid of the team losing without them.
            Magic was retired and Bird was close to retirement so no one would have said boo to either one of them and they were as beloved as saints at that time.
            Jordan saying no would have been more controversial perhaps but in those days, no controversy could touch him anyway.  There were tons of things you could have thrown his way throughout his career and nobody ever cared for the most part because he was just so darn good.

          • Jun 15, 20128:39 am
            by Patrick Hayes

            “Jordan, Johnson and Bird all publicly said at the time that they wouldn’t have played unless the other two played so they obviously weren’t afraid of any bad press if they declined. “

            Find me a link that proves this.

            “There was no precedent for their deciding to play or not and no one would have been afraid of the team losing without them.”

            It would’ve been a HUGE deal if any of those guys declined to play. The entire push to get pros to play was a result of USA Basketball getting embarrassed in ’88 and realizing that they were sending college kids to play against experienced pros in other countries. It was very much marketed as the USA reclaiming its basketball dominance. If any of those guys declined under those circumstances, it would’ve been covered very negatively by the press.

            “Magic was retired and Bird was close to retirement so no one would have said boo to either one of them and they were as beloved as saints at that time.”

            Well, my argument was about Jordan specifically, but I know how you love the bait and switch and twisting up someone’s words as you argue, so I’ll bite here. Those two were in a different situation. If Bird said, “My back is too painful, I can’t do it,” no one would’ve cared. If Johnson said, “I just retired, I need to rest and find out more about my affliction,” no one would’ve cared. If Jordan said, “I’m not playing because I hate Isiah Thomas,” EVERYONE would’ve been pissed at him.

          • Jun 15, 20121:25 pm
            by Max

            I would like to find a link that proves it but my searching skills are just coming up with recent articles or generalized information on the Dream Team and I’m not going to spend hours looking for a link.   You can find rather easily however, links that reference Jordan’s hesitancy to join the team in many of the current articles on the subject and that he didn’t join until others, namely, Johnson, Bird and Ewing did so.
            However, I remember their quotes quite well and it was during aired interviews or hyped montages of interviews on NBC so a video clip is the link where it would most likely be found.   All three said they wouldn’t have wanted to be on the team without the other two but it was communicated as part of the hype and as a virtue of their mutual respect rather than as any slight against USA basketball or patriotism.   It also was after they were already signed up so their was no controversy about it and players words weren’t so analyzed in those days.   It was just a very different atmosphere and players like Jordan, Bird and Johnson could say nearly anything without causing a negative backlash because they were absolutely adored by the media and public and treated in a beloved manner that probably doesn’t even exist in today’s more advanced media environment.

          • Jun 15, 20121:27 pm
            by Max

            And also, if Jordan had opted not to join the team, he surely would have offered a different reason than hating Isiah.  He would not have even broached that topic and the truth is that Isiah would have been on the team in such case and there would have no controversy whatsoever regarding Isiah as the facts on the score probably would never have surfaced.   If Jordan had declined, he would given a better reason and stuck to it.

          • Jun 16, 20121:32 am
            by Dan Feldman

            “Jordan, Johnson and Bird all publicly said at the time that they wouldn’t have played unless the other two played”

            That’s just not true. 

            Aug. 21, 1991:

            “If a wavering Michael Jordan decides to play and Larry Bird believes his surgically repaired back can hold up an extra two months of pounding, the 1992 U.S. Olympic team will be a memorable one. 

            Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley and Karl Malone — each an All-NBA player this year — haven’t waver in their desire to play since 1989 when the door opened for Olympic participation by NBA players.”

            Aug. 23, 1991:

            “Boston Celtics star Larry Bird has agreed to consider joining the U.S. Olympic basketball team, his attorney said Wednesday.

            Bob Woolf, the attorney, had earlier said Bird would definitely play in Barcelona. But he said Bird called later in the day to say he had agreed only to consider it.

            …and Michael Jordan of Chicago were identified by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution as others who accepted an invitation.”

          • Jun 16, 201210:35 am
            by Max

            Not sure who these quotes contradict but it’s not me.  Bird, Johnson and Jordan all said it during the hyped montages on NBC after they joined whether it was false hype or not.

  • Jun 14, 201210:59 pm
    by Fennis

    Reply

    Fordman is right. It’s hard to recreate the climate decades later. Reading historical accounts doesn’t do justice to a) the power of the Jordan-Magic-Bird, b) the excitement in the US over finally having professional American basketball players in the Olympics, c) the anti-Isaiah sentiment among the three aforementioned stars. If Jordan Magic Bird — the triumverate that created the greatest period of basketball in the game’s history — bowed out of the first opportunity for professionals to participate in the Olympics it would have been a national and corporate catastrophe. I appreciate the counterarguments, but approach the issue with some humility if you didn’t experience it.

    • Jun 14, 201211:09 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      “I appreciate the counterarguments, but approach the issue with some humility if you didn’t experience it.”

      Dude, what the hell? You don’t know me. You don’t know what I’ve experienced and what I haven’t. I was plenty old enough and aware enough as a NBA fan at the time the Dream Team was selected to understand ‘the climate.’

      I hate bullshit arguments like that. “Well, I’m old, I’ve been a fan longer, blah blah blah.” Get outta here with that nonsense.

  • Jun 15, 20121:12 pm
    by Max

    Reply

    http://www.nypost.com/p/sports/nets/dream_team_not_worth_glorifying_6WVVJS8tn3tmCFDaYxUMjJ
    Peter Vescey of the NY Post goes as far as saying the Dream Team doesn’t deserve to be glorified due to Thomas being left of the team and says that Thomas’ treatment might represent the dirtiest a sport figure has ever been treated.

    • Jun 15, 20121:32 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      Oh, you mean this credible guy?:

      The man of the hour was Peter Vecsey, the longtime New York Post basketball columnist who, I must believe, somebody out there likes. Throughout his 32-year career covering hoops, Vecsey boasts an unparalleled record of alienation. This is just a guess, but I’d say 90-95 percent of players dislike him. I’d say 97-99 percent of coaches and owners dislike him. And, among his peers in the media … uh, well … yeah. Not a good track record. The problem, to be blunt, is this: Vecsey has never come off as a particularly nice person. His writing is snide and dismissive; his tone that of a know-it-all third grader. He’s extremely combative, and (this is a guess, admittedly) would rather try and throw punches than engage in an actual intellectual discourse.

      Vecsey got some facts wrong in that column you linked (something he is known for). So yeah … I’m gonna not put much stock in what he has to say about this.

      • Jun 15, 20122:50 pm
        by Max

        Reply

        Wow, what a blistering and biased attack.   You and I are very different and I hate when you accuse me of dishonesty because I don’t care about winning and am honest to a fault.
        I don’t know that either article you posted has any bearing on Vecsey’s creditability and I mostly think he is disliked because he doesn’t pull any punches and NBA players and team personal have no sense of humor about themselves.
        In his defense, I remember well enough how he used to be a member of the yearly draft broadcasts and would correctly announce every pick before it was made which made him seem very plugged in.  It always seemed like he was disliked but some people obviously do talk to him and he’s had his share of interviews and such.
        Further, you wrote that he got some facts wrong and linked an article that was nastier towards him and Isiah than any article I’ve ever read of Vescey’s and I’ve read thousands by him–I find him entertaining for the most part.    However, the only fact in the article that it points out that Vescey got wrong was the timing of the Magic HIV announcement relative to the dream team announcement and to Vescey’s credit, he started off by saying “correct me if I’m wrong” and added “I recall”, so his own article suggests at the very least that he wasn’t completely sure he was right about the issue.   Lazy fact checking is about the worst you could say about it.

        • Jun 15, 20123:47 pm
          by Max

          Reply

          And the worst hall of fame speech I ever saw was by Tex Winter’s son for Tex Winter.  I felt sorry for Tex because you could see how angry and embarrassed he was at turns.

          • Jun 15, 20123:52 pm
            by Patrick Hayes

            Agree on that. Brutal. But Vecsey’s was a couple years prior, so when Pearlman wrote that critique of Vecsey’s speech, Winter’s son’s speech didn’t exist yet.

      • Jun 15, 20124:13 pm
        by Max

        Reply

        @Patrick
        I don’t know how familiar you are with Vecsey in general but my dad bought the NY Post everyday when I was growing up and read all of Vecsey’s columns for many years and would compare him somewhat to a being a Howard Stern of a sports columnist while also offering a high reliability of relative truth in the rumor department regarding trades.
        The Howard Stern part is that he basically attacks everyone, players, teams and personages, wherever they are vulnerable including their names.  He is also consistent and honest in his opinions but does attack everyone because his effort was to provide a snarky and entertaining alternative to most sports writing.
        Those who missed this crucial difference in his writing were apt to dislike him because they weren’t used to being treated with such off the cuff humor and blatant disrespect and as such Vecsey was years ahead of his time and deserved his hall of fame award.
        All that said, I don’t read him much anymore and the article I read today was from the sparkling and witty Vecsey I remember from decades ago.
        Here’s the Wikipedia entry on him which anyone who doesn’t know him and goes by the upper link should read.   Some of the examples of names he had for players and teams are offered,
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Vecsey_%28sports_columnist%29

        • Jun 15, 20124:39 pm
          by Patrick Hayes

          Reply

          Vecsey is essentially the first print guy turned big mouthed TV guy among sports pundits. Now, it’s pretty routine — loudmouths like Stephen A., Wilbon, Kornheiser, etc. have made the transition.

          Vecsey was at one-time a well-connected reporter, which is why he was on NBC in the early NBA on NBC days. But, as Pearlman wrote, he’s pretty universally disliked by players, league personnel and colleagues/peers in media. He lost his TV gig, became less well-sourced and his column is basically a parody these days. It’s just him throwing bullshit rumors at the wall that never pan out. Seriously, I don’t think there’s a less accurate ‘NBA Insider’ working today. Check back through his archive and look at some of the trades his ‘sources’ told him were going to happen. Every reporter gets misled by sources and is wrong sometimes, but there’s no national writer I read who is off more often than he is.

          One positive I will say about him: he’s done a lot to raise awareness for some of the forgotten ABA greats over the years. I fully applaud him using his platform to do that. But overall, he hasn’t been a must-read as a news source, unless you just like bitter old man snark, for a long time now.

          • Jun 15, 20127:54 pm
            by Max

            And yet you read him.  He is entertaining, no?

          • Jun 15, 201210:04 pm
            by Patrick Hayes

            Eh, not particularly. I read him occasionally because I read as many NBA guys at national outlets as I can, but it has been years since his column was considered can’t-miss. It’s more gossipy now, which is fine, that’s kind of what the NY Post does and I have no problem with it. But for linking purposes, for example, there’s little value in me scouring Vescey’s notes columns for Pistons rumors when he’s not all that credible as a reporter. And I honestly don’t find him funny at all (for example: he used to make jokes about Vin Baker’s alcoholism). I think he’s just a crank. I don’t hate him or anything, and I certainly think he knows the game (both basketball and the media game), but there isn’t a lot of value in what he does anymore. There used to be, but now he’s just hanging around because he’s a big name in sports writing.

  • Jun 15, 20121:41 pm
    by DK

    Reply

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1118882/1/index.htm

    Interesting archived article from Jack McCallum, written at the time of the selection of the team on who he (a Hall of Fame NBA writer) would have selected. Helpful to see some perspective from the time in this debate.

    • Jun 15, 20123:13 pm
      by Max

      Reply

      And you’ll notice in this article written in 91 that Jordan was indeed reluctant to join the team.

  • Jun 15, 20129:34 pm
    by Dan Feldman

    Reply

    There are several comments here that amount to something along the lines of: But Michael Jordan (and maybe others) didn’t want Isiah on the Dream Team. I have two responses

    1. Michael Jordan probably didn’t want Bill Laimbeer on the team, either. That isn’t why Laimbeer didn’t make the team.

    2. What if Michael Jordan didn’t want Magic Johnson on the team? Could Jordan have kept Magic off?

    • Jun 16, 20121:39 am
      by Max

      Reply

      The documentary that just aired makes it seem as if Jordan was angling for a way out and hoping not to be asked when he was called first of anyone.   He says that when Rod Thorn called him that he asked a bunch of questions about who would be playing because he didn’t want to play alone.   Sounds to me, reading between the lines and remembering his quotes around that time, that he tried to get out of it by saying he wouldn’t play without Bird and Johnson and I’d guess that is why that story became the story I remember.
      According to the documentary, Johnson then became the first to join when he was asked and Bird then joined and they said it was important to them to finish their career together,
      Jordan also states in the documentary that Thomas’ non inclusion was a stipulation that was put to him at the time he said yes to joining the team.   He said it was coming from some place on high.  This is a denial on his part but I’ve read many times in many contexts that Jordan had Falk tell them that he wanted Isiah off the team so that it was understood at the time Jordan said yes.    So my reading, again between the lines, is that Jordan is simply referring to his own agent when he says “coming from some place on high”.
      Also in the documentary, a leading official, I forget which, said that while a lot of people like to say that it wasn’t a big deal in the media when they left off Isiah, that they are just wrong and that it was a big deal.
      @Patrick and Dan
      Answer my question about Drexler.  Why does every comment he makes on the subject these days reveal both that he thinks is was a travesty of justice that Thomas was excluded in terms of whether he deserved to be on the team and that he believes it was the players objection to him that rendered him ineligible?  Could Drexler really be wrong and ignorant about both points?  Is there any tangible reason to think Drexler is lying?

      • Jun 16, 20129:52 am
        by Patrick Hayes

        Reply

        OK, let’s reel it in here for a second. This was not a travesty of justice. The world is full of actual travesties of justice, so you using that to describe a great athlete being left off a team of other great athletes, you’re being overly hyperbolic and dramatic and it severely lessens whatever point you are trying to make. Just say Isiah should’ve been on the team in your opinion. That is a reasonable stance that doesn’t make you sound like some obsesses lunatic who thinks sports are some life and death thing. Isiah had a fantastic career and is one of the greatest of all time regardless of whether he made the team. His exclusion from the Dream Team was a snub. It wasn’t a travesty of justice.

        Secondly, here’s Drexler’s quote from the radio interview he and Pippen did:

        “He deserved to be on that team. In terms of his talent, I think he deserved to be on the team.”

        In that same interview, Drexler notes that there were guys on the team who hated playing with him and he also derisively called Magic and Isiah ‘kissing buddies.’ Drexler said based on his playing career Isiah should’ve been there, but also noted the importance of chemistry and being able to get along with each other, noting that Isiah would’ve been hard for some guys on the team to get along with.

        So sure, Drexler supported Isiah’s inclusion on the team, was respectful of his playing career, etc. But he hardly sounds like a guy who was outraged by Thomas not being there and for you to frame his comments that way isn’t very accurate. In fact, most people probably have similar sentiments. The only fanatics are people like you, who think this is some career-ruining slap in the face to Thomas and people on the other side, who think Thomas had no case at all to be considered. There’s a middle ground in this argument that is more accurate than either of those extremes. Numerous factors played into Thomas not being considered. But go ahead believing that it was just a conspiracy and nothing else that kept him off the team.

      • Jun 16, 201210:05 am
        by Patrick Hayes

        Reply

        And further, what makes you think Drexler is not just being politically correct here?

        For example, who does Drexler think Thomas should have replaced on that team? Would Clyde give his spot up to Isiah? Has he ever said Isiah should’ve made it and Stockton shouldn’t have? Same with Barkley in the comments he made that were supportive of Thomas. It’s easy to say, “This guy should’ve made it,” and then don’t name a single person he should’ve replaced. They get credited with taking a stand without really taking a stand. But that’s a pretty important part of this conversation, isn’t it? If you take Thomas, who are you leaving home? Drexler was a notoriously nice and non-confrontational person, and he’s continued that reputation into his post-playing career. So until he says, “Isiah should’ve been on the team and Stockton should’ve stayed home,” I’m interpreting his comments on Isiah as being purposely vague so that he doesn’t say something controversial. He doesn’t have anything disrespectful to say about Isiah, but he also didn’t necessarily want him to replace any of the guys he played with in ’92 either.

        • Jun 16, 201210:32 am
          by Max

          Reply

          Drexler has given many interviews of late and I have heard his actually quotes in the full context of his interviews.   His tone is one that says Isiah overwhelmingly deserved inclusion and of stern disapproval that players had the power to keep Isiah off the team for reasons that Drexler said weren’t good enough.  He listed Isiah’s accomplishments and said he was one of the greatest beyond doubt and deserved the opportunity to play.   His comments aren’t wishy washy and they aren’t non-controversial and political correct.  He is taking a stand on the issue and he is consistently making the same points while changing his tone when the subject comes up.
          As far as the word “travesty” going too far; I would have a difficult time naming 10 better NBA related topics of all time to apply the word.   The word can mean a mockery or false  or absurd representation of something and Isiah being left off the team was patently absurd to me.  You disagree?  Fine but I guess I just have a lot more respect for Thomas’ game then you do and think he was simply on a hire tier than at least a few of the players selected.   When the comparison isn’t close, picking the lesser player is absurd.   That is a travesty.   When it was done for scheming political reasons, it is also a travesty of justice.

          • Jun 16, 20128:13 pm
            by Max

            BTW: Drexler also said that some of the other players hated Isiah because he had been kicking their buts and it was a shame that he got left off just for doing his job.  Drexler isn’t being a nice guy, as far as I can tell, but one of integrity who feels the responsibility to offer his true opinion.  It is the opposite of political correctness because the most non controversial thing for Drexler to say while preserving his honor would be to act like Barkley and limit his comments to asserting that he had no problem with Isiah being on the team.   Instead, he his actively labeling the entire affair as something he feels was wrong and not crediting but rather condemning the other side of the debate.

        • Jun 16, 20128:20 pm
          by Max

          Reply

          Also, and this hypothetical, but if Drexler thinks that Isiah was more deserving than say half the players on the team, it doesn’t really put him in the position of having to decide which player should have been cut.  Such would be my position btw and I think Isiah should by right have been amongst the first six called.
          Pippen admits that he didn’t feel like he deserved to be on the team when he was asked.

  • Jun 18, 201211:58 am
    by Ari Shwedel

    Reply

    Your argument that Isiah was not an elite player by the time the Pistons won championships is absurd. Zeke shredded Portland’s perimeter defense in the 1990 Finals - that’s how the Pistons easily won their second championship. And he’s a much better all-time player than Moses Malone – it’s hilarious that you believe otherwise. 

    Anyway, in retrospect being left off the “dream” team was ultimately Isiah’s greatest victory – he’s the only guy ever to get in Jordan’s head. Jordan couldn’t handle losing to Isiah – not the Pistons, not Joe Dumars, not (future teammate) Dennis Rodman, Isiah Thomas was the man he feared – and that tells you all you need to know about Isiah’s place in the game.

    • Jun 18, 201212:08 pm
      by Max

      Reply

      Can’t agree that Isiah was much better than Moses and most rank him ahead of Isiah.   That said, I don’t think Dan or Patrick’s argument (can’t remember which one of them made it) holds any water because Moses had little left to contribute at that point and unlike Bird, was not an all time great passer and chemistry producer.   Also, while Isiah was still arguably better than any point guard in the league and starting the all star game yearly, Moses was far behind Ewing and Robinson at that point in his career.

  • Jun 23, 201210:06 pm
    by Aaron

    Reply

    Isiah should have been on that team plain and simple.  The “calculations” here based on All-NBA selections don’t take into account ONE major, and neglect another major thing.  An NBA Finals MVP should count for something.  

    But the ALl-NBA teams are selected through votes by coaches and media staff… and the fact is Isiah has always been a little to himself with the media… he has been misrepresented on several occasions.  And if you look at his All-NBA selections they all happen before he allegedly supported Dennis Rodman’s statement about Larry Bird.  Thomas says he was being sarcastic, when he agreed with Rodman. 
    The recording is here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBrc11rTjsQ

    After this controversy the media never forgave Isiah.  And it’s no coincidence that Isiah was excluded from media voted awards.  They wanted to root for their white-darling.  And I’m not taking anything away from Bird.  But Isiah is very sincere in this interview.  This had a lot to do with the All-NBA selections he didn’t get after this.  Though he deserved them.  He won back-to-back titles after 87 for goodness sake!

  • Aug 12, 20128:09 pm
    by Robert Michael

    Reply

    Wow.  Just wow.  I rarely ever comment (anymore) on blogs or message boards, but this post is so incredibly off base that i had to chime in.  At the time the Dream Team was selected Zeke was just coming down from one of the most incredible runs in NBA History. If not for a little bit of bad luck and a couple of bad calls he might have had 4 rings instead of two, but regardless his performance over the preceding 7 years was HALL OF FAME clinching and by far the most dominant of any little man to play.   At the time of the selection, Isiah had a winning record against Michael, head to head.  Look it up.  It’s a joke that he was left off the team.  To say that he wasn’t dominant when the Pistons were winning the titles means you weren’t watching.  This Isiah bashing I have come to expect from the johnny come lately crowd, but not from Piston fans, who you might think actually watched the tapes, even if they were too young at the time.  I still break out the VCR tapes on occasion, and Zeke was simply electrifying for the last half of the 80′s and right up until 92.  He was a lock for the team based on his performance.  He was left off because Jordan and Bird hated him. Everyone knows that.   Also, Patrick, your defensive attitude is off putting because your position is such foolishness.   Jeez, man.

    • Aug 13, 20129:24 am
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      I’m not really ‘defensive’ about anything, since I didn’t write the post. I don’t have anything to defend. I’m just responding to things I disagree with in comments, which is the exact same thing that you are doing by expressing your dissenting view.

      I think Thomas should’ve made the team. I don’t think by ’91 that it was a ‘joke’ that he was left off. And I also think that Thomas is fully to blame for some of the behind the scenes politics that helped keep him off. I don’t think those things were good reasons to keep him off, but I also don’t feel all that sorry for him since Thomas has had a tendency to torch bridges in a lot of different places throughout his playing and executive careers. I’m a huge fan of his, but he’s a complex individual and his own actions have hurt him.

  • Jul 17, 20131:32 pm
    by Date Online

    Reply

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  • Sep 24, 201311:53 pm
    by Sage

    Reply

    This is the single dumbest article I have ever read. Drexler admits that Isiah should have made the team. He is a top5 PG of all time, if not top 3. Please stop the stupidity.

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