Originally published Sept. 23, 1991.
Chicago native Isiah Thomas says he felt sad, mad, hurt and confused Saturday when he learned officially that he was not among the first pros named to the 1992 U.S. Olympic Basketball Team.
“I sit here today still feeling baffled and hurt,” said the All-Star point guard. “I would have liked to have had the opportunity to be on the team. I just hope we beat the scrap out of everybody and win the gold.”
What may come as a surprise is that Thomas, in an exclusive interview with the Chicago Sun-Times Sunday, says he has no dislike for Michael Jordan, who has denied rumors that he encouraged the Olympic selection committee to exclude Thomas.
“I don’t have any ill feelings toward (Jordan) or anybody,” Thomas said. “I’ve never had any ill feelings toward him. Now whatever personal conflict he has with me. . . . I can’t speak for him.
“I’ve heard that he said he would not play if I was on the team. My first hope is that he never said anything like that. My second hope is that if he did, the committee did not base its decision on that.”
Thomas, his wife Lynn and his mother Mary, visiting from Chicago, were in his Bloomfield Hills, Mich., home when the team was announced. The news so aggravated his mother’s high blood pressure that he sent her to San Diego for rest.
“It’s a shame that they left him off the team,” she said, “and I hope that Michael had nothing to do with it.”
“I’m still hoping that I get one of the two spots left,” Thomas said. “But that’s unlikely. And I’m not going to use the season as a personal campaign to make the team. That would not (help) the Pistons.”
In the interim, Thomas must bear the pain.
“Ever since I was a kid, I had two primary dreams as a basketball player,” Thomas said. “One was to lead my hometown Bulls to their first NBA championship. The other was to help the United States win a gold medal in the Olympics.”
Unfortunately, when Thomas made the Olympic team in 1980, the U.S. boycotted the games in Moscow. Also, Thomas was drafted by the Pistons and ended up leading them to two league championships.
How does Thomas explain the rumored bad blood between him and Jordan?
“Supposedly, there was this old (1985) All-Star freeze-out in Indianapolis - this Isiah-Thomas-led group,” Thomas said. “Well, it’s so absurd because if you accuse me of freezing him out, then you also have to accuse, among others, Julius Erving, Larry Bird, Moses Malone, Micheal Ray Richardson, Robert Parish, Bernard King and Terry Cummings, who had more shots than anybody.
“They even charged that me and Magic Johnson were in on this. Magic was on the other team. It makes no sense in terms of a so-called Jordan-Thomas feud. I’ve talked with Michael since then, told him I had no part in any All-Star conspiracy. He even told me that he didn’t believe it and had no problem with me. I helped him win MVP in Chicago. But people continue to bring this thing up for whatever reason.”
How does Thomas feel about Jordan?
“I don’t hate or dislike Michael Jordan,” Thomas said. “I respect everything he is as an athlete. I don’t really know him well enough as a person to comment about my feelings toward him as a person. I only know him when we get on the court against each other; he wants to beat me and my team as badly as I want to beat him and his team.
“Heck, even after we walked off the court in the playoffs and I said I wanted the Lakers to win, I instead cheered for the Bulls because they are still my hometown team.”