Last Dance? Former Bull Will Perdue goes in hard on ex-Piston Isiah Thomas
After the airing of Episodes 3 and 4 of “The Last Dance,’’ Perdue, who won four NBA championships (three with the Bulls), has grown tired of former Chicago high school legend Isiah Thomas trying to rewrite the narrative.
Will Perdue knew ESPN’s “The Last Dance’’ was going to be big.
And Perdue knows big. The 7-footer won three NBA titles with the Bulls in the first Three-peat, then lifted a fourth Larry O’Brien Trophy with the Spurs in 1999.
But he didn’t anticipate the daily deluge of emotional rehashing by the documentary’s protagonists all these years later.
“I figured, hey, everybody talks about it on Monday,’’ Perdue said in a phone interview Wednesday. ‘‘All right, Tuesday is a new day; you have the NFL, baseball talk, there’s other things going on, but every day, man, it is just unbelievable. All the attention it’s gotten, and it has not died down.’’
Episodes 3 and 4 sure haven’t.
Then again, the recounting of the Michael Jordan-led Bulls’ rivalry with Detroit’s “Bad Boys’’ seldom ends well. That certainly has been the case since the episodes aired Sunday night.
Anyone who’s familiar with Perdue’s straight-shooting style as a pregame and postgame analyst for NBC Sports Chicago knows that he does have a certain allegiance to his former organization, but he also was punched in the face once by Jordan, didn’t exactly enjoy life all the time under former coach Phil Jackson and was traded to the Spurs straight up for Dennis Rodman.
He makes a living trying to be objective.
That goes out the window when it comes to former Pistons guard Isiah Thomas, however. Perdue is not too fond of the daily campaigning he thinks Thomas has been indulging in this week to rewrite his own legacy.
The main focus in the latest “Last Dance’’ was Thomas and the Pistons walking off the court without shaking hands with the Bulls after they were swept in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals in 1991. It was Bill Laimbeer’s idea, and the Celtics had done it to the Pistons years earlier, but it’s the way Thomas has been trying to spin it that irks many former Bulls, including Perdue.
“Listen, I actually thoroughly enjoyed Bill Laimbeer’s interview on [ESPN’s] ‘The Jump’ [on Monday],’’ Perdue said. “He owned it; he talked about it; he called us whiners. It’s no big deal to him. Thank you very much, moving on. But I get the idea that Isiah is almost out there calling shows, ‘You gotta let me on. I need to defend myself.’ ’’
The documentary re-emphasized Jordan’s disdain for Thomas, the former Chicago high school legend, but Perdue made it clear that Jordan wasn’t alone in that sentiment.
The feeling is Thomas has been trying to justify his actions for years, changing the reasoning at least four times. The latest attempt involved Thomas saying Jordan painted the Pistons as thugs and had employed “racialized language.’’
“What I don’t like is when you try to defend yourself as something you’re not,’’ Perdue said. “Was [Thomas] a great high school player in the Chicago area? Absolutely. I had many tell me he might have been the best. Was he a great player in college in Indiana? Absolutely. . . . Was he one of the best point guards ever in the NBA? Absolutely, and I respect him for all of that.
“But what bothers me the most and sticks out is when I first came into the league, and guys that I know personally, that played against him on a regular basis, talked about how dirty he was. He used to have this sweep move with the off foot that tripped the guy he was guarding, and the officials would always put their hands together like they do when it’s incidental contact, play on. . . .
‘‘But what also stood out for me that I never understood is that he drove the [Continental Basketball Association] into the ground because [former commissioner] David Stern wouldn’t pay him a couple more million dollars to buy it. How many people lost jobs because of that? . . . Coaches, players, people lost their jobs, but yet he was so petty that he just ran it into the ground and didn’t put any more money into it because he bought it and thought he could flip it, have the NBA buy it for millions of dollars in profit.
“Now he’s out there whining about a personal attack on him. He’s basically trying to get every angle to get people on his side.’’