It's widely believed that Michael Jordan's distaste for Isiah Thomas kept the latter off the famed Dream Team in 1992. The fact that Thomas and his Detroit Pistons refused to shake hands with Jordan and the Bulls after Chicago finally defeated Detroit in the 1991 Eastern Conference finals was a big reason why. Even Thomas himself can't fully debunk this theory.
"That's a big hole on my [basketball] resume,"in an interview on ESPN's "Get Up" Monday. "That is the biggest hole in my resume. ... In the sports arena, I've won at every level. I tried to do everything correctly, and I thought I should've made that Dream Team. And looking back, if I'm not a part of the Dream Team because of a lapse in emotion in terms of not shaking someone's hand, then I am more disappointed today than I was back then."
While that narrative has persisted for decades, NBA executive Rod Thorn, who served as the Bulls general manager when they drafted Jordan in 1984 and also played a key role in piecing together the roster for the Dream Team, said that Jordan never approached him about leaving Thomas off the roster. Thorn chaired the USA Basketball Men's National Team Selection Committee in 1992, 1996 and 2000.
"I was the guy that called Jordan," Thorn said on ESPN's "Golic & Wingo" Wednesday. "And when I called Jordan, his first inclination was he didn't know if he wanted to play or not -- because, as he said, 'I played on an Olympic team before' with Bobby Knight in Los Angeles. ... And so we continued the conversation, and at the end of the conversation, he said, 'You know something? I'll do it.'
"My conversation with Michael was strictly about Michael, about Michael playing," Thorn added. "Obviously, the committee was hopeful that Michael would play, because he was the No. 1 player in the league at that time and the No. 1 player in the world and the most popular player in the world at that time. ... But he didn't say anything to me about [Thomas], and I certainly had no reason to bring it up either."
Thorn emphasized the fact that Jordan never mentioned Thomas in that context to him, though admits it's possible that he did so to someone else.
"There was never anything in my conversation with [Jordan] that had to do with Isiah Thomas, period," Thorn said. "He said, 'I'll do it.' ... Isiah's name never came up during that conversation. And he never backtracked and said he didn't want to do it from that time on, to those of us in the NBA office. ... Now, if that in fact happened, then it happened with somebody else, because when I talked to him, he ended up saying he would definitely do it."
So, if it wasn't because of Jordan's influence, why wasn't Thomas, a champion, a perennial All-Star and clearly one of the best players of his era, selected for the squad?
"That's a good question, because Isiah was a great player, a fantastic player," Thorn said. "There was some controversy with the Pistons regarding not shaking hands with the Bulls -- there was some bad blood, obviously, there. ... But when we ended up going with the first 10 guys, he did not end up making the team."
Thorn pointed out that Thomas wasn't the only great player that didn't make the roster, and mentioned James Worthy, Reggie Miller and Dominique Wilkins as other stars who were considered but ultimately not selected. Whatever the real reason, it's clear that the fact that he didn't make the team will never sit right with Thomas.