NBA Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas did several interviews for the highly anticipated ESPN documentary “The Last Dance,” which focuses on Michael Jordan and the 1997-98 Bulls. Thomas, a Chicago-native, was the leader of the “Bad Boys” Pistons squad that was the ultimate litmus test for the Bulls in the late ’80s. The Bulls famously got past the Pistons in the 1990-91 in the Eastern Conference finals in an extremely physical four-game series. After the decisive defeat in Game 4, Thomas and the Pistons infamously refused to shake hands with the Bulls.
Thomas has always maintained that he regrets that decision, and in an interview with The Detroit News, he discussed how he hopes his admiration for Jordan shines through:
I hope the full content of what I was trying to express in the admiration we all had for him as a player is shown from my comments. All of us who talked about him talked about how we admired how great a player he was, and we couldn’t stop him other than to double or triple-team him.
Though Thomas and Jordan were fierce rivals, the Chicago native made it clear that he has always had an immense amount of respect for MJ, and that he never personally heard Jordan say anything about keeping him off of the “Dream Team,” an oft-discussed controversy in NBA history. The infamous non-handshake has been thought of as a primary reason why Thomas didn’t feel completely accepted by his city during Jordan’s tenure and also a possible reason for the Dream Team snub.
Thomas stated that while the handshake situation was unfortunate, the narrative surrounding the situation got out of hand. “When we beat Boston, (Larry) Bird didn’t shake none of our hands… I find it interesting the target shifts and the narrative changes.”
‘The Last Dance’ premieres April 19, 2020, on ESPN.
Everyone knows the legacy Michael Jordan and the Bulls built during their six championship seasons. Once Jordan and the Bulls broke through for their first NBA championship in 1991 there was no stopping them– at least when MJ was with the team.
But what’s often forgotten are the guys who missed out on winning titles because they couldn’t make it past MJ, Scottie Pippen and company.
Steve Kerr was a key bench player during the Bulls’ second three-peat, but has emerged as a more prominent figure in the NBA after his days with the Bulls.
For one, Kerr won two more rings as a player with the San Antonio Spurs before retiring. He also had a three-year run as the general manager of the Phoenix Suns as well as two stints as a broadcaster on TNT. Now, Kerr is famous for guiding the Golden State Warriors to three titles as coach.
In an interview on SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt on Sunday after the first two episodes of “The Last Dance,” Kerr said he owes all of it to the fact that he was on the dynasty Bulls.
“If I hadn’t been on those Bulls teams none of the rest of my career would have happened,” Kerr said. “I mean that. I wouldn’t have become the coach of the Golden State Warriors if I hadn’t had that experience with the Bulls.”
There’s nothing surprising about that quote, but given the increased relevance of the 90s Bulls with the release of the documentary series, it is timely to reflect on it. Kerr has lived a charmed professional life, winning multiple titles with three different franchises and he says he owes it all to being a part of the famous Jordan Bulls.
“I feel like every time I see Michael Jordan or Scottie Pippen or Phil Jackson I think back to that experience and it kind of paved the way for the rest of my career, both as a player and a broadcaster and as a coach,” Kerr said. “I know how fortunate I was to be a part of that whole run, just like all of us do. It was a great group of guys, a very mature group and we all knew exactly how lucky we were and we made the most of it.”