Rivalries in NBA narratives are often aided by player beef. But arguably there was none as bitter as the rivalry that formed between two all-time greats during the late 1980s – Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas.
Their beef had layers too. It wasn’t anywhere near as simple as a mere rivalry. The duo appears to have hated each other, with the “Bad Boys” rivalry with the Bulls in the East merely the foil for the drama.
Also read: “No, it made me want to beat you more”: Isiah Thomas, former Knicks GM, Talked about Destroying Michael Jordan and the NBA
Isiah’s exclusion from the “Dream Team” added further fuel to the burning fire. Thomas and Jordan were two of the premier stars of the NBA and for a while, it seemed like they hated each other.
However, as things turn out often, beyond the line of fire, there appears to have been mutual respect. And Isiah’s perspective at least was presented to the wider audience during the 1993 NBA Finals.
How did Isiah Thomas describe Michael Jordan during the 1993 NBA Finals?
Zeke and his Bad Boy Pistons were two-time NBA Champions in the 1980s. They proved to be quite the unpopular roadblock to stars like Magic, Bird, and Jordan. Notoriety surrounded the franchise and extended to its leader, Isiah.
Injuries slowed Thomas’ career, however. And the early 90s marked the last legs of a glorious career. By 1993, Zeke was reduced to a respected veteran and his Pistons weren’t contenders anymore. It was at this point that Zeke, along with a similarly placed Magic, appeared as pundits during the NBA Finals.
Michael Jordan was on the verge of completing his first three-peat with the Chicago Bulls. It was only ironic that the last two stars who *almost* won a three-peat were present as pundits at Jordan’s “coronation”.
During halftime of the 1993 Finals between the Chicago Bulls and the Phoenix Suns, Bob Costas talks to Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas about the Bulls’ and Michael Jordan’s place in history#NBA #BullsNation pic.twitter.com/JLrjGtxon9
— The Jordan Rules (@Rules23Jordan) December 30, 2022
Naturally, questions flew the way of Thomas and Magic, regarding Jordan’s inevitable elevation to a status they failed to attain. Comparisons to their teams of old were thrown at them.
It was at this stage that something rare took place. Isiah Thomas, arguably Michael Jordan’s biggest rival, described him as unstoppable. Zeke had admitted how neither he nor his Pistons had an answer to His Airness.
“When you’re talking about this Bulls team, we really only talk about Michael Jordan. And, you can’t really say that our team would beat them or the Lakers team would beat them. Because nobody has really found a way to stop this guy!” described Thomas about his opinion on the Bulls and Michael Jordan.
A tall order indeed, coming from one’s own biggest rival.
What did Magic Johnson have to say about MJ and the Bulls during the 1993 NBA Finals?
Magic dismissed the Bulls team from having a chance against his Lakers of the mid-1980s. In Johnson’s eyes, the Lakers just had more weapons in the form of Kareem, Worthy, and the like as opposed to the Bulls.
However, Johnson was also in awe of his Dream Team teammate. A la Isiah, Magic was also waxing lyrical about his illustrious colleague.
“No question that Michael would have scored 50 on us or 50 on anybody else. Because he is just a great basketball player!” described Magic of his contemporary who was at the foothill of a peak he just couldn’t scale.
Jordan went on to live up to the praise from his rivals and completed his first three-peat in 1993. And then, he went and did it again.
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