Former NBA player and one of the most underrated guards from the ’80s and 90’s Joe Dumars made a guest appearance on Fox Sports Radio where he talked about the famous rivalry between the Detroit Pistons and the Chicago Bulls. He spoke about the moment during the 1991 ECF when the Pistons walked out of game four a few seconds before the end without shaking the Bulls’ hands. This incident received a lot of bad publicity for the Pistons, especially Isiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer, who initiated such behavior that is completely unprofessional and uncalled for if you are a professional athlete.
Dumars and John Salley were the only players from that Pistons squad that shook the Bulls players’ hands on their way out. He elaborated that he never intended not to show respect for a team that beat them because Jordan was professional and congratulated every time the Pistons beat him and the Bulls in the playoffs.
I’m not sure how it came about. When we were walking by, it never went through my head not to shake their hands. In the previous three years, we’ve beaten them and ended their season, and I can tell you that every single time we eliminated them, Mike found me and shook my hand and told me good luck in the finals. So when we were walking off, I stopped said the exact same thing to him, and that was it.Joe Dumars, via Fox Sports Radio
That basketball era was much different from the one today, and Dumars explains how not shaking other teams’ hands happened quite often. Some members on that Pistons squad made a conscious decision that day not to shake the Bulls’ hands, and Dumars did the opposite because of sheer respect for Jordan.
At that time, it wasn’t a big deal to just walking, stopping, and shaking their hands. Some guys don’t shake hands, and that is each person’s decision. I wasn’t beefing with him with that, and I had nothing but respect.Joe Dumars, via Fox Sports Radio
Even today, almost 30 years after the incident, many fans feel resentment towards Isiah Thomas because of his actions following the loss against the Bulls. Dumars understands Thomas’s decision because of the narrative that was pushed and everything that was going on with the rivalry between them. He also admits nobody on the Pistons squad had a problem with him after he shook their hands and congratulated them on a win.
I had no issue with Isiah and whoever else who wasn’t going to shake hands, and I understood that. I understood where they were coming from. No one ever said a word to me, though, on why I stopped and shook their hands.Joe Dumars, via Fox Sports Radio
The Last Dance documentary, which covered the games between the Pistons and Bulls, covered this event, but it never showed players like Dumars and Salley who congratulated their Bulls on their win. This way, Dumars had the opportunity to clear the air a bit and showcase that he respected the Bulls and Jordan and showed why he is still one of the most respected players in the NBA. Good sportsmanship goes a long way, and Dumars embodies everything that word stands for.