Even though over 30 years have passed since the infamous incident in which the Detroit Pistons walked off the court in game 4 of the 1991 ECF against the Bulls, there is still some resentment towards them because of that decision. That has fueled a long-time animosity between Isiah Thomas and Michael Jordan that apparently lasts still to this day, and their rivalry on the court diminished any normal relationship they could’ve had off the court.
In one of the interviews, when asked about that situation, Thomas said that he is surprised by the negative criticism he and the rest of the Pistons teammates received. He argued that was a somewhat normal practice back in the day, especially if you are competing against a fierce rival team. Isiah talked about the 1988 ECF when the Pistons beat the Celtics, and the Celtics players walked off the court without shaking their hands. Apparently, they never received the same type of hate from the media and the fans despite doing the same thing.
Kevin McHale, who was the starting power forward for the Celtics, recently talked about that game and why they never shake the Pistons’ hands as they were walking off the court. He argues that they were told by someone to walk off the court earlier because it was a long way to the locker room, and fans started storming the court to celebrate the Pistons win.
“Someone told us to get out of there before they stormed the court. You had a really long walk to get out of there. It wasn’t like the Garden or other places. You had a hundred yards probably before you got to the entry way to the locker rooms.”Kevin McHale, via Boston Harold
McHale and Thomas have a long history that dates way back to the beginning of their HOF careers. Unlike other Celtics players, McHale actually shared a few words with Thomas at the end of that game, giving him advice on what it’s going to be like when they make it to the finals.
I knew Isiah from the Pan-Am Games, and Zeke and I have always been friends- He said something to me, and I said, ‘Hey, man, look, it feels just as bad to lose in The Finals as it does to lose in the Eastern Conference finals.’ I said, ‘This (expletive) ‘s not over with. You guys got another series to play, so don’t celebrate too much.’ I said that then I walked off. That was just my advice to him as a friend.Kevin McHale, via Boston Harold
Even though we see double standards in all aspects of life, the NBA is no different. The Pistons and predominantly Isiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer are the ones who received major backlash from the fans for their decision not properly to congratulate the Bulls on their win. The majority of fans don’t even know about the Celtics and their early exit from the court without properly congratulating the Pistons. However, that move never received a similar type of judgment from others.