Salley: Magic, not Jordan, got Isiah off the Dream Team

It’s one of the biggest roster travesties in basketball history. Isiah Thomas, two time NBA champion, NBA Finals MVP, 3 times All-NBA First Team, 2 times All-NBA Second Team, didn’t go to Barcelona with the Dream Team. Yes, that team was loaded; yes, Magic and Stockton were enough at point guard; but still, there should’ve been room for Isiah Thomas. 

This wasn’t about Isiah’s playing ability. If you ask an average basketball fan, they’ll tell you everyone knows why Thomas wasn’t on the team – Jordan didn’t want him on the team. The Pistons and Bulls had a lot of showdowns in the 80s, and Jordan didn’t appreciate their game – he considered it dirty. In his book Dream Team, author Jack McCallum quotes Jordan as saying to Team USA selection committee member Rod Thorn: “Rod, I don’t want to play if Isiah Thomas is on the team.” The real story seems to be different. Here’s what Magic Johnson wrote about Isiah not playing in ’92.

“Isiah killed his own chances when it came to the Olympics. Nobody on that team wanted to play with him.”

Magic Johnson

John Salley won two rings with Thomas and the Pistons and one with Jordan and the Bulls. As an objective observer, as you can find, Salley has a different explanation. According to Salley, all there was to any Jordan – Thomas issue came from Isiah. More specifically, his nephew was a Jordan/Bulls fan, and Thomas took to himself to prove his family member wrong, so he played the Bulls with a certain edge. That’s about it. Well, what about the Dream Team?

“That was the craziest thing. When you hear the story, in Magic’s words, Magic says on his doccumentary that he’s the reason Isiah didn’t get on the squad. Magic said he blocked it.” 

John Salley, Vlad TV

Magic’s quote from the book is diplomatic. It was Magic who didn’t want Isiah on the team. After announcing that he was HIV positive in 1991, Magic suspected Thomas of spreading rumors about his sexuality. Their relationship deteriorated from that moment on. Luckily, decades later, we saw the power of forgiveness in one of the most moving conversations between two NBA legends ever.


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