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NBA Player Heated Rivalries: Michael Jordan vs Isiah Thomas

One of the most influential player who threatened to take Jordan’s place on the leaderboard was Isiah Thomas. This is a look into the rivalry between the two players, and the impact that it has had on the NBA as a whole.

Ankit Kanaujia
Last updated: 04.08.2022
NBA Player Heated Rivalries Michael Jordan vs Isiah Thomas

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The NBA has had very high standards in terms of players’ athletic abilities for the longest time. This makes the championship stand out among other basketball competitions on a global scale. Because of this, some of the most high achieving players have been selected to represent their team from their performance on the court in college. 


Michael Jordan is an icon within the NBA. His reputation speaks for itself, although it did not come without a range of rivals. One of the most influential player who threatened to take Jordan’s place on the leaderboard was Isiah Thomas, who would regularly alter Jordan’s NBA Championship Odds. This is a look into the rivalry between the two players, and the impact that it has had on the NBA as a whole. 


Michael Jordan

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Firstly, what made Michael Jordan so influential? Many have named him the greatest basketball player of all time, and he certainly played a role in making the NBA so popular during the eighties. Despite entering the Chicago Bulls as the third overall choice during the 1984 drafts, Jordan stood out for an impressive leaping ability. 


Not only that, but the defensive player gained a reputation for entertaining crowds when he was playing. This was a result of slam dunks from the free throw line, and setting NBA records for scoring. 


Jordan soon gained the nickname ‘Air Jordan’, which became the name of his range of sneakers. He was able to create a commercial name for himself, and combined his performance on the basketball court with marketing to become one of the most iconic players of his time.  


Isiah Thomas


Another high achieving member of the NBA at that time was Isiah Thomas, who was drafted to the Detroit Pistons in 1981. Despite being a less popular player within the NBA than Jordan, Thomas stood out for his elite determination and drive which allowed him to lead the Pistons to success during his career. 


One of Thomas’ defining moments was when he scored 25 points during the third quarter of a game with a severely sprained ankle. Even though he was in visible pain, Thomas did not let this deter him from securing a win for the Pistons. Despite losing this particular game to the Lakers, Thomas gained a considerable amount of respect from other players and the crowd. 


1985 All Star Game


One of the first examples of the rivalry between Jordan and Thomas happened during the 1985 All Star game. Jordan was a rookie player at the time, but that did not stop Thomas from attempting to boycott the young player. Jordan was already showing signs of a future superstar player, and was on track to become the most popular player in the NBA. 


Rumors from the time have said that Thomas did not like the presence of a rookie player during the All Star game, and he allegedly led a conspiracy among other players. This is believed to be an attempt to get Jordan removed from the game. 


1991 Eastern Conference Finals


There was certainly hostility between the two players, which worsened over the years. Another example of the rivalry could be seen during the end of the 1991 Eastern Conference finals. 


When the Bulls were playing well on the court, and were showing their true ability to become NBA champions, the Pistons refused to congratulate them. There have even been reports that they left before the final buzzer. 


Isiah Thomas Is Jordan’s Only ‘True’ Rival


One of the most frequent claims is that two NBA players can only be classified as rivals if each side has had their own victory in the past. Because of this, many have named Thomas as Jordan’s only ‘true’ rival. Each of the players had their share of success within their respective teams. 


However, it is known within the NBA that out of all of Jordan’s rivals, nobody got under his skin as much as Thomas. By creating a hostile environment on and off the court, the two certainly butted heads consistently. Many have said that this led to Thomas not getting into the 1992 Olympics Team. 


Summary


Throughout the years, there have been many rumors regarding the rivalry between Jordan and Thomas. Ultimately, nobody will truly understand what was said and done apart from the two people involved. 


However, it cannot be denied that each of them achieved their share of success within the NBA. This helped bring attention to the NBA, and allowed more people to enjoy the sport as a result. 

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