Tape busts Jordan conspiracy wide open
A portion of ESPN's 10-part documentary series The Last Dance explored the prolonged tension between Michael Jordan and Detroit Pistons rival Isiah Thomas, digging into the infamous walk-off game in 1991 and Thomas curiously being left off the 1992 Olympic Dream Team.
Over the years, Jordan denied having any involvement in Thomas not making the Dream Team, the first American Olympic side to feature active NBA players when they went to the Barcelona Games.
Jordan repeated those denials in the documentary, saying he never asked for Thomas to be excluded. The former Piston has a different take, believing His Airness played a major role in his snub.
Now sportswriter Jack McCallum has revealed a past interview with Jordan on his podcast The Dream Team Tapes that suggests he may not have been telling the whole truth.
"(Selection committee member) Rod Thorn called me. I said, 'Rod, I won't play if Isiah Thomas is on the team'," Jordan can be heard saying.
"He assured me. He said, 'You know what? Chuck (Daly, USA coach) doesn't want Isiah. So, Isiah is not going to be part of the team'."
In The Last Dance, which dropped its final two episodes last week, Jordan expressed how disrespected he felt when the Pistons left the floor after losing the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals without shaking the Bulls' hands. When producers asked Thomas about the snub in the docu-series, he said he thought "all of us would make a different decision" if given a do-over.
"We would have done it, of course we would have done it. But during that period of time, that's just not how it was passed. When you lost, you left the floor - that was it," he said.
Nearly 30 years on Jordan still doesn't buy that excuse. "I know it's all bulls***," Jordan said in The Last Dance. "Whatever he says now, you know it wasn't his true actions then."
Thorn recently denied that Jordan had anything to do with the decision to leave Thomas off the team.
But the disrespect evidently stayed with Jordan. As Thomas himself says in The Last Dance, he was a worthy choice for the Dream Team, which ended up featuring legendary players like Patrick Ewing, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson and Jordan.
McCallum pointed out that some could argue Utah Jazz star John Stockton was just as good as Thomas, but that it wasn't the most legitimate argument. All signs pointed to Jordan's personal feelings as the reason why Thomas was omitted from the team.
"Please, in the year of our Lord 1991, there was no one who was going to pick Isiah Thomas over Michael Jordan. It's that simple," McCallum said.
This article first appeared on the New York Post and was reproduced with permission
Originally published as Tape busts Jordan conspiracy wide open