Throughout the duration of ‘The last Dance,’ Isiah Thomas has tried to keep his comments regarding Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls classy to avoid anymore backlash from people who were already blasting him for what the Detroit Pistons did to them back in the late 80’s.
Detroit beat Chicago three years in a row in the playoffs before the Bulls finally broke through by sweeping the Pistons in 1991 en route to their first of three straight championships. The handshake incident and Dreamteam snub had Thomas portrayed as somewhat of an outcast.
But he says Jordan wasn’t really his basketball peer, because he came later in his career.
“He wasn’t really my competition,” Thomas said of Jordan. “My competition was Bird and Magic — trying to catch the Celtics, trying to catch the Lakers. Chicago, at that time, and Jordan at that time, from ’84 to ’90, before my wrist surgery, he just – that wasn’t my competition.”
He did, however, agree that Jordan ascended as the Pistons descended.
“When Boston was at their absolute best, we gave them competition. But they were better than us. And as they got older, as they got a little bit more banged up, we were able to catch them. Now, what we were able to learn from Boston during that process – the Detroit Pistons, and every time you hear us talk about who were are, what we became, we do not mention ourselves as championships without saying the Boston Celtics, because those were our teachers. Those were our mentors. Those are the people that really taught us how to win. And they gave us the heartaches,” Thomas said.
“When we got to go to the Finals and finally beat them, then I ran into another one of my mentors, which was Magic Johnson, who had let me become a student under him, learning how to win championships in the NBA, learning that Laker organization, learning that Celtic organization. And I’m sure all of you can look back and remember: You saw me at every NBA Finals game when the Celtics and the Lakers were playing. And not only was I there as a fan, but I was there as a student taking notes, learning how to win, how to put together an organization and, not just become a basketball player in the NBA, but become a champion.
“And that’s what we became. We became a champion, and we were pretty dominant in our era.”