One of the many things that ESPN’s “The Last Dance” documentary makes clear is that Michael Jordan absolutely hated losing. The second night of the series’ five-night run made it even more clear that Jordan hated losing to the Pistons.
And above all, he hated Isiah Thomas, in victory and defeat.
The “Bad Boys” Pistons took center stage in episodes 3 and 4 of “The Last Dance,” with players and press remembering the team that stifled Jordan and the Bulls for years. They were tough, they were mean, and in 1989 and 1990, they were champions.
Jordan wasn’t very happy about that.
Michael Jordan on the Pistons: "I hated them. And the hate carries to this day.”— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) April 27, 2020
Through the the Jordan Rules, the Bad Boys had a way of constantly pushing Jordan out of his comfort zone and onto the floor. Of course, those Pistons teams are now remembered as a key component of Jordan’s origin story, with “The Last Dance” showing the superstar’s maniacal offseason workouts to bulk up and physically break through that wall.
Eventually, Jordan and the Bulls not only beat the Pistons in the 1991 Eastern Conference finals, they swept them. The Pistons reacted with a now-infamous walk off the court without shaking hands.
Thomas, the Pistons’ leader, explained the team didn’t think it was a big deal because it was something the great Boston Celtics did when the Pistons beat them.
And then the documentary producers tried to show Jordan a video of Thomas’ rationalization. What followed was some very good television, and also a very good justification for ESPN’s decision to leave in the profanity.
Warning: the following tweet and video contains graphic language.
Michael Jordan reacts to Isiah Thomas talking about the Pistons walking off in 1991.— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) April 27, 2020
"I know it's all bullshit."
"You can show me anything you want, there's no way you can convince me he wasn't an asshole." #TheLastDance pic.twitter.com/XQQq9eGUhM
“Well I know it’s all bulls---,” Jordan said. “Whatever he says now, you know it wasn’t his true actions then. He has time enough to think about it. Or the reaction of the public has kinda changed his perspective of it. You can show me anything you want, there's no way you can convince me he wasn't an a--hole.”
This is nothing new from Jordan. His icing Thomas out of the 1992 Dream Team is well-known evidence that the Bulls-Pistons rivalry was truly personal, and he even used part of his Hall of Fame induction speech to call out Thomas over an alleged freeze-out organized by the Pistons great in the 1985 All-Star Game.
Keep in mind, this is a man who went onto win six championships and become the richest athlete of all time. The man has too many rings to fit on one hand, his own NBA team, an iconic shoe brand and an Olympic gold medal (something he personally prevented Thomas from receiving). He’s doing all this as part of a 10-part ESPN documentary about his life in which he basically has full creative control of the footage.
And here he is, still laying into that player who once stood in his way before finally achieving greatness.
You don’t see much hate like that between players anymore.
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