Dream Team exclusion of Isiah Thomas remains a black eye
The 1992 Dream Team is widely regarded as the greatest assembly of basketball players to grace the hardwood. There was, however, one glaring omission—Isiah Thomas. GQ took an in-depth look at the team for the 20th anniversary and not surprisingly, there were mixed feelings about the Bad Boy.
David DuPree (reporter for USA Today): If they were selecting solely on ability and accomplishments, Isiah Thomas may have deserved it. But who are you going to leave off? Nobody was tougher than John Stockton; nobody was a better passer. John Stockton was a tough son of a bitch.
Jan Hubbard (NBA columnist for Newsday): Stockton broke a bone in his leg, and it healed very quickly. But initially they were going to replace him, and it was going to be Joe Dumars. So Isiah wasn’t even going to be the first substitute.
Russ Granik: The last player, as I recall, was between Clyde Drexler and Isiah Thomas, and you had two pretty great résumés there. I don’t know what the final vote was—I never asked—but when they counted, it came out for Clyde.
Let’s not mince words here. Isiah was left off the team because of a feud with Michael Jordan. A feud that allegedly started with an All-Star game freeze out and continued with the Bulls-Pistons battles of the late ’80s and early ’90s. That’s it. It had nothing to do with ability, accomplishments, talent, Clyde Drexler, John Stockton or whatever hogwash people are spewing these days.
At the time of the ’92 dream team, only two players had more NBA success than Zeke—Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. The Pistons back-to-back championships came in what many regard as the greatest era in basketball history. During that period, the Pistons, captained by Thomas, also reached the Eastern Conference Finals five years in a row (1987-1991).
Team success aside, Thomas’ individual accomplishments were downright incredible. He was the MOP of the 1981 Final Four leading Indiana to an NCAA championship, he was an 11-time All-Star, he was an NBA Finals MVP, he had been named to the NBA first or second team five times and the list goes on and on.
The mere suggestion here by David DuPree that Isiah and John Stockton were comparable is a farce. In no way was Stockton tougher than Isiah, in no way was Stockton a better offensive player, in no way was Stockton a better defensive player. If you compiled a list of greatest point guards in the NBA both then and now, Isiah would not fall out of the top 5 and for most, the top 3. The same cannot be said of John Stockton whose career accomplishments fall woefully short despite having the game’s greatest power forward in Karl Malone.
So as many of us look back on the Dream Team and wax poetically about their basketball significance, remember this black eye. A black eye that left a deserving man at home without a gold medal.