Isiah Thomas did it again! Another subtle shot fired at his arch-nemesis in Michael Jordan. Another criterion suiting to squeeze MJ out from getting the recognition he deserves. And like so many times, this one was also done under the pretext of “wrongfully” set parameters. But like so many times, this also must’ve been done on purpose.
Isiah was asked to list the five toughest players he ever had to face. Average Joe’s first instinct would’ve been to do it based on their individual greatness. But that wasn’t Isiah’s guiding light.
You can just go by winning record, right? Magic, Kareem, Bird, Dr.J., and then I would say Jordan.Isiah Thomas, Club Shay Shay
This was Isiah’s attempt of rationalizing his decision. ‘Your genetic gifts, I’m going to eliminate all of that. Now we’re going to play basketball, and it’s going to be about our mental stamina. Because I can’t jump higher than some, I can’t out height some; I can’t outweight some. But I can out think a lot.‘ The way I see it, this is nothing but Zeke’s escape route from actually having to explain putting Jordan fifth on this list.
He talked a lot of sense when he said he and the Pistons dominated the Bulls during his prime years in the ’80s. That was a team-centered argument. But he can’t say that he dominated Michael as an individual, nor can he diminish the level of competition he faced when going up against No.23. And putting him fifth on the list of toughest players he went up against is doing just that.
Especially since Isiah hadn’t played through Kareem’s prime years, nor did he play when Julius Erving was at the peak of his powers. For eight years both Thomas and Jabbar were in the NBA, Kareem averaged 19.4/6.8/2.5. For six years Isiah’s and Erving’s paths crossed, The Doctor was putting up 20.7/5.9/3.5. Just for comparison, during the stretch both Zeke and MJ were in the NBA, Jordan averaged 32.3/6.3/5.9. He was also the league’s MVP two times and has led the NBA in scoring for seven straight seasons.
So if the argument of who was Isiah’s toughest player to face is about their winning records as a part of a collective, it’s the wrong premise to start with. It should be about them as individual performers, and then, there’s no way of putting MJ fifth on that list. The only logical explanation for it is that once again, Isiah Thomas is being salty.