Isiah Thomas praises 'Dream Team'

Updated: June 14, 2012, 5:26 PM ET
By Melissa Isaacson | ESPNChicago.com

CHICAGO -- Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas watched NBA TV's "The Dream Team" on Wednesday night along with countless other basketball fans who were not in Barcelona 20 years ago, but he expressed no bitterness afterward over being left off perhaps the most gifted team assembled.

In the documentary, fellow Hall of Famer and Bulls star Scottie Pippen admitted he did not want Thomas, a member of the Bulls' hated Eastern Conference rival Detroit Pistons, on the team.

"Isiah was the general (of the Pistons)," Pippen said. "He was the guy who would yap at his teammates and say 'Kick them on their ass. Do whatever you have to do.' No, I didn't want him on the Dream Team. ... I despised how he played the game.' "

Asked about whether he wanted Thomas kept off the team, Michael Jordan said in the documentary. "That was one of the stipulations put to me that Isiah wasn't part of the team." Jordan said. "I was getting strong innuendos it wasn't just ... it was coming from a higher place who didn't want Isiah on the team."

In a Twitter statement Wednesday night, however, Thomas elected to take the high road: "Today, like all Americans, I congratulate the Dream Team on their anniversary. 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 still a momentous achievement."

Karl Malone, a member of the Dream Team, said Wednesday on ESPN 1000's "Waddle & Silvy" show that he was not involved in the Thomas discussion.

"First of all guys, you know, it wasn't my job to pick the team, OK," Malone said. "It didn't matter who was out there; they are part of our team. I didn't have that kind of (influence) and I would like to think that nobody else did. There were a lot of great athletes left off that team.

"I never had any issue with Isiah. I think guys realized that it didn't matter who was on the team. I know I could have cared less. It didn't matter to me who was on that team. I was a part of something great."

Months before the Olympics, Thomas had led his Pistons' teammates off the floor before the final buzzer had sounded on the Bulls' Eastern Conference championship, marching past the Chicago bench without offering congratulations.

Former NBA deputy commissioner Russ Granik admitted Thomas' behavior was part of the reason he was left off the team.

"We were picking a group just after the Pistons had been eliminated by the Bulls," Granik said. "It was very bad timing for Isiah. Everyone had that impression in their mind, the picture of Isiah walking off the court."

Former Bulls executive Rod Thorn, a member of the Olympic selection committee in '92, echoed those sentiments, saying, "When the Pistons walked off the court before the final bell, it left a lot of bad taste in a lot of people's minds."

Thomas reportedly did not want to participate in the documentary. His Pistons' coach Chuck Daly was shown during a '92 press conference, saying that Thomas "was not very comfortable" with the decision.

"I'm sure he was very hurt," Daly said.

Melissa Isaacson

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for espnW.com, ESPN Chicago and ESPN.com. The award-winning writer has covered Chicago sports for most of her 31-year career, including at the Chicago Tribune before joining ESPN in 2009. Isaacson has also covered tennis since 1986.