Isiah Thomas is one of the best point guards in NBA history, known as the leader of the infamous Detroit Pistons "Bad Boys." Thomas proved people wrong throughout his illustrious career numerous times, showing that size doesn't matter if you play big and with a lot of heart. But that gritty style of play led the "Bad Boys" to be portrayed as one of the most hated teams in the history of the NBA. Sure, that style won them championships, but it didn't buy them any friends around the league.
Thomas and Jordan have a long history of animosity
So even though Isiah was a loveable guy, being the leader of the most hated team in the whole NBA shined over that, getting him into rivalries with numerous players - most notably Michael Jordan. The MJ rivalry was so notorious and significant that the pair of superstars clashed multiple times in the playoffs in the late '80s. The Pistons were the team to beat, and the Bulls didn't have enough firepower to get past them at the time.
When the Bulls finally managed to beat them in 1991, on the way to their first championship, the rivalry reached its peak when the Pistons walked off without shaking hands. That move would stir some controversy and play a considerable part in Isiah being left off the Dream Team, apparently to Jordan's request.
So it is no surprise that the two never clicked even after retiring, as both never shy away from calling each other out in interviews, refusing to share too much praise between them. So when Isiah was asked who his GOAT is in an interview with Rex Chapman, it was no surprise Kareem was his pick over Michael. Isiah shared share his reasoning behind the choice.
"When you talk about the greatest for me, and so I wanted to back it up with stats, analytics, careers...There is no one who has had a better basketball playing career than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. To me, he was my GOAT...Not only do the numbers back it up, but the winning backs it up. And then what he did socially for us as a community off the floor, he was the Muhammad Ali, he was the GOAT of our sport."
Kareem is still underappreciated as a potential GOAT
To be fair, even though MJ is the consensus GOAT for most of the NBA world, Isiah presented a good case for Kareem. Jabbar's career is really underappreciated, as his pure numbers and accolades speak for themselves. Most points in NBA history, 19x All-Star nods, 6x Championships, 6x MVP awards, and the most unstoppable move in NBA history with that beautiful sky hook.
But as Thomas pointed out, Kareem's presence went besides basketball, fighting for his community and social justice while risking his own status. The activism mixed with his impeccable basketball career makes an excellent case for Kareem being considered the GOAT for more people than you would think.