Last night I watched a preview copy of the NBA Dream Team documentary that airs on NBA TV Wednesday, highlighting the 20th anniversary of the original (and greatest) Dream Team and their run up to and through the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
Watch it. It is fantastic stuff. Great stories, a reminder of how huge this was and how it changed international basketball, and just a fun trip down memory lane.
But one thing that stuck out — everyone confirmed the long-time rumor that Pistons guard Isiah Thomas was blackballed from the team. It started with the Bulls Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, although Jordan hints there were people up the USA Basketball ladder that were more than happy to do that, and NBA exec Russ Granik basically confirmed that.
Jordan and Pippen pulled no punches.
“That was one of the stipulations put to me (on the team) that Isiah wasn’t part of the team,’’ Jordan said.
“Isiah was the general (of the Bad Boy Pistons),’’ Pippen said. “He was the guy who would yap at his teammates and say ‘Kick them on their ass. Do whatever you have to do.’ No, I didn’t want him on the Dream Team.’’
Granik pointed to an incident at the end of the Bulls/Pistons playoff series that year where Thomas led his teammates off the court before the final buzzer even sounded. That kind of sportsmanship and image was not what the NBA wanted to project to the world.
So Thomas was out in 1992. He would not be part of this documentary, either.
Seriously, watch the entire documentary. You’ll learn a lot more than this. But this part may be one of the most gripping.