As we saw in episodes three and four of The Last Dance, Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas had a whole lot of beef with one another. Thomas, the leader of the Bad Boys-era Detroit Pistons, physically and mentally beat the hell out of Jordan during their various playoff battles, and when the Chicago Bulls finally toppled them in the postseason, Thomas and his teammates left the floor without shaking hands.
This tension was once again on display during episode five of the docuseries, which spent time focusing on the Dream Team. Thomas, famously, did not make the squad, a curious decision given the fact that he was certainly deserving of a chance to represent the United States at the 1992 Summer Olympics.
“I don’t know what went into that process,” Thomas said. “I met the criteria to be selected, but I wasn’t.”
“Before the ’92 Olympics, Rod Thorn calls me and says, ‘We would love for you to be on the Dream Team,’” Jordan recalled. “I says, ‘Oh, who’s all playing?’ He says, ‘What does that mean?’ I say, ‘Who’s all playing?’ He says, ‘Well, the guy you’re talking about, or you’re thinking about, he’s not gonna be playing.’”
The camera then cut to an interview Jordan gave back in 1992, and before the cameras started rolling, Jordan made clear he wasn’t answering and questions about Thomas. A separate interview featured Marv Albert asking Jordan about Thomas’ snub, although we do not hear MJ’s answer from back then.
“I respect Isiah Thomas’ talent,” a modern-day Jordan said. “To me, the best point guard of all-time is Magic Johnson, and right behind him is Isiah Thomas. No matter how much I hate him, I respect his game. Now, it was insinuated that I was asking about him, but I never threw his name in.”
Jordan was hardly the only member of the team to have their issues with Thomas. Scottie Pippen, another Bull, went through those various battles with Thomas and the Pistons at Jordan’s side, while Magic Johnson and Thomas’ friendship featured a falling out. And as Jordan explained, something at the center of the Dream Team’s dominant gold medal run was the sense of brotherhood that existed among all the players, something he believes might have been jeopardized had Thomas made the roster.
“The Dream Team, based on the environment and camaraderie that happened on that team, it was the best harmony,” Jordan said. “Would Isiah have made a different feeling on that team? Yes.”
Things ended up working out pretty well for the Dream Team, as we all know. The team blitzed the competition in Barcelona en route to a gold medal, earning the title of the greatest international basketball team that has ever existed.