An NBA player is as good as his closest competitor. If someone played in the Michael Jordan era and nobody compared him to MJ, chances are that this player lacked greatness. But what if a player rejects the idea of one such comparison? Welcome on board, Isiah Thomas!
The Detroit Pistons legend shared an undying rivalry with MJ back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. They crossed each other’s paths more often than not. So what was it that compelled or allowed Isiah to rubbish arguably his closest opponent?
In a recent interview, the 59-YO expressed, “Head-to-head, I was dominant over him. When our teams met, when you go back and you look at until ‘91, when I basically had a career until wrist surgery, up until then, my record against him and his team, it really wasn’t competition there.
“Most people think I am five years older than him, but we’re only a year and a half apart. He just wasn’t my competition.”
Now, Isiah is not making claims out of thin air. His stats against the six-time NBA champion speak the same language. From 1984-85 (when the Bulls drafted MJ) till 1989-90, the Pistons had a clear dominance over the Bulls. Isiah’s Pistons were 20-10 ahead in the regular-season games and 12-6 ahead in the post-season. This means the Pistons won 66.66% of their meetings.
However, dark clouds mounted over the 2-time NBA Champion’s career when he got his wrist injury in January 1991. He was forced to get surgery and missed 32 regular games. That marked his downfall and the regaining of grounds for Michael Jordan, who then became unstoppable.
In the same interview, he added, “My focus was Bird, Magic, Dr. J, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Those were the guys. I don’t care what anybody says. You can go back and look at the history. Those were the guys. Moses Malone, Larry Bird… those were the guys.”
That’s true, because Isiah had an opportunity to face many legends early in his 13-year career. So he considered the Celtics, the Lakers and the 76ers as a tougher competition than the Bulls. Even the records suggest the same, as the Bulls mostly dominated the ‘90s and never really the ’80s.
The ‘Bad Boys’ of basketball, the Detroit Pistons, were a pain-point for the Chicago-based franchise until they finally got white-washed in the 1991 NBA EC Finals. So what is your take? Was Isiah really better than Michael Jordan?
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