Michael Jordan’s claim that he had no part in his rival Isiah Thomas being left off the USA’s Olympic ‘Dream Team’ have been contradicted by a new audio recording.
In the recent ESPN documentary on Jordan’s career, The Last Dance, the six-time NBA champion denied he had lobbied for Thomas to be omitted from the Dream Team, which went on to win gold at the 1992 Olympics.
But on his podcast, The Dream Team Tapes, writer Jack McCallum played an interview from 2011 which contradicted Jordan’s claim.
“[Selection committee member] Rod Thorn called me. I said, ‘Rod, I won’t play if Isiah Thomas is on the team,’” says in the 2011 interview. “He assured me. He said, ‘You know what? [USA coach] Chuck Daly doesn’t want Isiah. So, Isiah is not going to be part of the team.’”
Jordan and Thomas shared an intense rivalry during their careers. In The Last Dance Jordan admitted he still had “hate” for Thomas, stemming from an incident when the Detroit Pistons refused to shake hands with the Bulls after Chicago’s victory in the 1991 Eastern Conference finals.
However, in The Last Dance, Jordan denied he had asked Thomas to be left off the team.
“I respect Isiah Thomas’ talent. To me, the best point guard of all time is Magic Johnson and right behind him is Isiah Thomas,” said Jordan in The Last Dance. “No matter how much I hate him, I respect his game. Now, it was insinuated that I was asking [for Thomas to be left off the team] but I never threw his name in there.”
McCallum wrote a book, The Dream Team, on the 1992 Olympics in which he says Jordan’s opposition to Thomas was crucial to the guard being omitted. “Please, in the year of our Lord 1991, there was no one who was going to pick Isiah Thomas over Michael Jordan. It’s that simple,” McCallum said on his podcast.
While The Last Dance has been wildly popular, it has also been met with some criticism. Many critics have noted than Jordan’s production company was involved in making the show, and many of the Hall of Famer’s faults were glossed over as a result.
Jordan’s former Bulls teammate Scottie Pippen is said to be “livid” with the way he is portrayed in the documentary, while another teammate, Horace Grant, was even more blunt.
“When that so-called documentary is about one person, basically, and he has the last word on what’s going to be put out there … it’s not a documentary,” Grant said. “It’s his narrative of what happens in the last, quote-unquote dance. That’s not a documentary because a whole bunch of things was cut out, edited out. So that’s why I call it a so-called documentary.”