Former Detroit Pistons star Isiah Thomas says he paid a “heavy price” for not shaking hands with Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls following their defeat in the 1991 NBA playoffs.
However, his teammate Bill Laimbeer does not regret the controversial decision.
The Pistons-Bulls rivalry received the spotlight in episode three of “The Last Dance” where the lack of sportsmanship was shown.
Thomas went on to ESPN’s Get Up on Monday morning to discuss his legacy and relationship with MJ.
“We were coming down, Michael Jordan was coming up,” Thomas said.
“And in coming up, you have certain emotions; and in coming down as champions, you have certain emotions. … Looking back, over the years, had we had the opportunity to do it all over again, I think all of us would make a different decision.”
Before their infamous exit in 1991, the Pistons had been the biggest mountain for Jordan and the Bulls to overcome.
In fact, the Pistons eliminated Chicago for three consecutive seasons before being swept in the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals.
With seven seconds remaining in game 4 of that series, Laimbeer suggested to Thomas and his teammates that they should skip the handshake and walk off the floor.
“I’ve paid a heavy price for that decision,” Thomas said.
He went on to say, “we actually gave the world the opportunity to look at us in a way that we never really tried to position ourselves in or project ourselves in that way. So it’s unfortunate that it happened.”
Despite Isiah Thomas feeling remorseful about it all, Laimbeer told Rachel Nichols in an interview that aired on The Jump that he still supports the decision the Pistons made nearly 30 years ago.
Regardless of public perception, Laimbeer made his feelings clear.
“Why would I regret it now today? I don’t care what the media says about me. I never did,” Laimbeer said. “If I did, I’d be a basket case, especially back then.
Thomas also went on to say that he is “personally hurt” by the way he is portrayed in the docuseries and even apologized to the city of Detroit.
He was also asked about his omission from the 1992 Dream Team that went to the Barcelona Olympics and whether his decision to not shake hands ultimately played a role in his absence.
“I thought I should’ve made that Dream Team,” Thomas said. “However, I wasn’t a part of it. That hurt me, and looking back, if I’m not a part of the Dream Team because a lapse in emotion in terms of not shaking someone’s hand — if that’s the reason why I didn’t make the Dream Team, then I am more disappointed today than I was back then when I wasn’t selected.”