Isiah Thomas Doesn't Remember a Time When NBA Players Hated Each OtherMay 4, 2020
There is a longstanding narrative that NBA games were "more competitive" in the 1980s and 1990s because players "really hated each other" and weren't friends who grew up on the AAU circuit.
That's not the way Isiah Thomas remembers it.
Thomas appeared on the Atlanta Hawks' A Night with Legends series Sunday and attempted to dispel the notion that bad blood carried over off the court.
"You know, this narrative about players not being friends and hating each other, I really don't remember that time in the NBA. I was with 'Nique [Dominique Wilkins] every summer. I was with Magic [Johnson] and George Gervin, and we all traveled around and we played. I remember when I first came in Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] telling me stories about how Bill Russell used to invite Wilt Chamberlain to his house.
"So this narrative about all of us having to hate each other—yeah, out on the floor, it was that, it was real competition—but once the four lines was over, you walked outside and it was kinda like 'OK man, how's your family? Everybody good?'"
We're gonna go out on a limb here and say Michael Jordan wasn't part of Thomas' summer traveling crew of friends.
That said, Thomas' comments do open a window into a common misconception about how things have "changed" in the modern NBA.
Basketball players are not mortal enemies because they wear different shirts and shorts at their job. We just see them interacting more now because of modern technology and social media. There were exceptions then, as there are now, but by and large, it's more natural for players to be friends off the court than enemies because of the commonalities they share.