‘The Mailman doesn’t deliver on Sundays.’ Well, neither did he on Tuesday in mid-December of ’91. Due to a suspension by his employer, The Mailman got a day off. The reason for it – the infamous 40 stitches incident.
I think it was the dirtiest play I have experienced in the game of basketball in my life. I don’t think I’ve seen anything as vicious and as intentional to a player. I still don’t understand it.Isiah Thomas, Yahoo Sports
Perhaps that was Malone’s revenge act for Isiah’s 44-point performance on the Jazz at the start of the season when Zeke led the Pistons to an 8-point victory, destroying John Stockton in the process. It was a statement game by Thomas, as that was their first matchup after the ’92 Dream Team was announced. Stock made the team, Isiah didn’t, and the Pistons’ guard wasted no time sending the message.
So the next time two teams faced each other, The Mailman decided to send a message of his own. And his one was brutal.
Malone’s flagrant foul caused a 40-stitch slash above Thomas’ eye, as he received a one-game suspension and a $10,000 fine by the NBA. And although Karl disputed the whole thing being intentional, there’s no denying that Malone went into the tinier Thomas with an intent to maim.
My head; it was just ugly. When I got home my wife started crying. There was so much swelling on my head. It was horrific. That was the cheapest sh*t in my mind in the history of the game.Isiah Thomas, Yahoo Sports
The incident caused Isiah to miss three games, as he made a comeback against the Magic on December 26. Thomas picked up where he left off, putting up 22 points in a 112-110 victory over Orlando. So long term wise, The Mailman’s “message” didn’t do any significant harm. But it doesn’t take away from the brutality of his act. And however he wants to rationalize it; that wasn’t a basketball play. That was cheap, reckless, wrong, or simply put, one of the dirtiest plays in NBA history.