Michael Jordan Said 'I Won't Play' with Isiah Thomas on Dream Team in Audio Clip

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMay 26, 2020

Chicago Bulls' Michael Jordan, left, and Isiah Thomas of the Detroit Pistons smile as they talk while waiting for the lights to brighten at Chicago Stadium before their game, Jan. 24, 1992.  The start of the game was delayed 30 minutes because of a broken fuse, and most of the first quarter was played in semi-darkness.  (AP Photo/Fred Jewell)
Fred Jewell/Associated Press

Michael Jordan denied having direct involvement in Isiah Thomas being left off the Dream Team for the 1992 Summer Olympics during The Last Dance documentary, but he previously provided a different version of events to former Sports Illustrated writer Jack McCallum.

McCallum has started a Dream Team Tapes podcast with audio clips from old interviews featuring many of the Team USA players from the Barcelona Games, including one Monday featuring Jordan talking about Thomas (via Dan Feldman of NBC Sports).

"Rod Thorn called me. I said, 'Rod, I won't play if Isiah Thomas is on the team,'" MJ said. "He assured me. He said, 'You know what? Chuck doesn't want Isiah. So, Isiah is not going to be part of the team.'"

Thorn, the executive in charge of building the 1992 Olympic roster, denied Jordan made reference to Thomas during their discussions in an April interview on ESPN's Golic & Wingo.

"There was never anything in my conversation with [Jordan] that had to do with Isiah Thomas, period," said Thorn, who drafted Jordan as the Chicago Bulls general manager in 1984. "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."

The Last Dance spotlighted Thomas' on-court issues with Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, three of the Dream Team's cast of superstars. The Bulls legend said "it wasn't me" who kept Thomas off the roster, but admitted the feeling around the team would have changed if the Detroit Pistons star was picked.

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"The Dream Team, based on the environment and the camaraderie that happened on that team...it was the best harmony," Jordan said in the ESPN documentary. "Would Isiah have made a different feeling on that team? Yes."

It's ultimately a matter of semantics.

Jordan wasn't the decision-maker for the Olympic roster, so the final call about whether Thomas made the team wasn't his, but if he made USA Basketball choose between himself or the then-31-year-old point guard, the choice would have been a no-brainer despite Thomas' own strong resume.

Thomas, who in 2000 was voted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, discussed his feelings on the situation on ESPN's Get Up after the episode that featured discussion about his snub aired in April:

The Dream Team dominated the competition in Barcelona, beating opponents by an average of 43.8 points, including a 32-point triumph over Croatia in the gold-medal game.

It's unlikely Thomas' presence would have made much of a difference on the court.

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