The Biggest Winner from 'The Last Dance'? Isiah Thomas.
Updated: May 31
There’s been a lot of talk about who the biggest losers of the “The Last Dance” have been. Who has taken the worst shots from the public and from the media?
There’s Scottie Pippen and his refusal to enter an undecided playoff game, Jerry Krause’s management style (although Jerry Reinsdorf should share some blame) and then of course there’s Isiah Thomas, who along with most of his teammates refused to shake Jordan’s hand after being swept in the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals.
The Pistons have been bashed for this and Thomas himself has said that in hindsight he would go back and do the handshake.
Isiah is taking heat, and just like in his playing days, he’s managing the kitchen at a 5 star Michelin level. Isiah Thomas has won “The Last Dance”
The NBA is winding down a “golden era” in point guard play. Who set the criteria for this era? Players who have won virtually nothing are being held in such high esteem that it’s as if the previous 60 years of NBA basketball never occurred. Shoe deals, sabermetrics and playing nice with the media have created all time greats- overnight.
Isiah Thomas and his monumental (yes, monumental) accomplishments have been largely forgotten for the better part of the 2000’s. Being largely at the forefront for multiple episodes of the documentary has thrust those accomplishments back into the spotlight. Was it a crushing blow not being selected to the Dream Team? Probably. But has anyone on the Dream team received as much publicity as Isiah Thomas since 1992? No. A lot of people get screwed in silence and justice never prevails. Isiah Thomas got screwed simply for being one of the fiercest competitors the game has ever known and now the whole world knows about it.
Now, we see Isiah creeping back up “all time” lists. Sirius XM NBA Radio had him nearly cracking their Top 10 of all time players- unthinkable even a month ago. The fact is, all of the praise is warranted, the dismissals and criticism were not.
Perhaps the feud between Jordan and Isiah runs even deeper than what we’re lead to believe. Jordan said himself he ranks Isiah just behind Magic Johnson in terms of greatest point guards. It’s likely that Jordan was more hurt than actually angered that he didn’t get the respect he thought he had earned. While it’s obviously true that he earned it, he’s viewing the entire situation with the wrong perspective. Two of the games greatest competitors just battled it out for half a decade, the loser is finished and the winner is only beginning his journey to greatness. Jordan should respect this fact and recognize the pain that he had just inflicted on Thomas and the Pistons. The fact that Isiah, Laimbeer and the rest of the Pistons even took the time to think of this plan is in some small way a sign of respect. They just finished a war and there were many bloody battles. Let both sides go their separate and very opposite ways and they’ll see each other again on the other side.
There wasn’t a handshake after the game, it could have been worse. There also wasn’t any pushing or shoving nor punches thrown. The Pistons took their ‘L’ and went home and the rivalry was effectively over. For Jordan to extend that feud to the Olympics knowing he had the power to do so was wrong. The architects of the team (not that it took a lot of intricate detail to assemble) should have never let it happen. Would it really have been so bad if by some chance Jordan refused to play with Isiah? First of all, he wouldn’t have done that. Secondly, it would have reflected more poorly on Jordan than Rod Thorn or anyone else associated with assembling the team had Jordan refused to play as the team was assuredly going to win even without him. The Dream Team executives had nothing to lose by doing the right thing but instead disrespected one of the games all time greats.
The fact that this was and still is such a big deal has given Isiah Thomas his justice. He’s a Champion, MVP, and Hall of Famer and now everyone knows he should also be an Olympic Gold Medalist.