In 1992, the original "Dream Team" was formed as the United States men's Olympic basketball team rolled through the competition en route to a gold medal in Barcelona. A new documentary will highlight the squad, but the most interesting aspect may be who didn't make the cut.
According to Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk.com, former Detroit Pistons point guard Isiah Thomas, who was left off the roster, was essentially trashed throughout the documentary, which will air Wednesday night on NBA TV.
The battles between Thomas' rough-and-tumble Pistons teams and the Chicago Bulls, led by Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, are the stuff of legend. Jordan and Pippen were both very prominent members of the Dream Team, and according to Helin, neither of them wanted Thomas on Team USA, particularly Jordan.
As Jordan said (via Helin), "That was one of the stipulations put to me (on the team) that Isiah wasn’t part of the team."
It was always pretty clear that Jordan and Thomas didn't have a great relationship due to how hard their teams went at it in the playoffs every year, but clearly, Jordan let personal differences get in the way of professional success.
Thomas didn't let the ire of Jordan and Pippen get to him, however, at least not outwardly. After the airing of the documentary, Thomas commented on his exclusion from the Dream Team and said all the right things, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post.
Today, like all Americans I congratulate the Dream Team on their anniversary, Thomas wrote. I am proud of my career in the NBA and have fond memories of going head to head with all the members of the team.
I can’t speak to the selection process as I wasn’t involved. But 20 years later, their gold medal is a momentous achievement
Obviously, the Dream Team didn't need Thomas, since it was laden with other talented players like Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson and so many others, but Thomas still would have been an asset.
Thomas was near the end of his career in 1992, but he was still among the best point guards in the game, as he averaged 17.6 points and 8.5 assists per game during the 1992-93 season. There is no question that, based on talent and accomplishments, Thomas should have been on the Dream Team.
But politics kept him off.
There has always been some thought that Thomas being left off was a case of him being blackballed by rival players, and the documentary certainly confirms that. It truly speaks to how universally hated Thomas was, because guys like Magic and Bird were able to put aside their differences and coexist, but nobody was willing to do that for Thomas.
While the big guys, like Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn, did most of the dirty work for the Pistons' "Bad Boys" teams of the late 1980s and early 1990s, Thomas was always viewed as the conductor. He was perhaps more willing to mix it up than anyone, and his tenacity rubbed Jordan, Pippen and many of the other players the wrong way, according to Helin.
Was Jordan right to blackball Thomas from the Dream Team?
Thomas wasn't available for comment for the documentary, and it's tough to blame him.
Isiah accomplished a ton during his career, but there is likely an empty spot in his trophy case where he wishes a gold medal could be. It's quite possible that Thomas feels as though Jordan, Pippen and his contemporaries robbed him of his rightful spot in history, and that may very well be the case.
Perhaps there was never a time in basketball history with more star power than when the Dream Team was constructed in 1992. With all of that star power, there were bound to be some big egos as well.
A team with Jordan, Pippen and a bunch of scrubs probably could have won the gold, so Thomas' omission didn't affect the way the Dream Team played.
It does prove how fickle stars like Jordan, Pippen and others truly were back then, though.
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