Sunday’s episodes of “The Last Dance” covered a lot of ground about the Bulls, but most of the focus was on the several Chicago-Detroit series of the late ’80s. The teams’ 1991 meeting in the Eastern Conference Finals saw Detroit coming off three straight trips to the NBA Finals, with two straight titles, before the Bulls swept them and began their own dynasty.
That rivalry was exemplified in the documentary in several key moments between Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas. The two were key players for their respective teams, and the biggest moment featured the Pistons walking off the court without shaking hands after the sweep by Chicago. Thomas tried to explain and rationalize the move in the documentary, but Jordan was having none of it.
“You can show me anything you want. There’s no way you’re gonna convince me he wasn’t an a—hole,” Jordan said.
So the two won’t be on friendly terms anytime soon. But apparently, the real beef started way before they set foot on the court. Per former Pistons player John Salley, Thomas’ whole issue with Jordan started when Thomas’ nephew, who’s from Chicago, wore a Michael Jordan Bulls jersey around him:
John Salley says the Isiah Thomas/Michael Jordan beef started when Isiah went back to his hometown of Chicago and saw his nephew wearing a Michael Jordan jersey
(🎥 VladTV) pic.twitter.com/IISL5V7laS
— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) April 27, 2020
“Isiah goes home, and his nephew is wearing a Bulls jersey, a Michael Jordan Bulls jersey. He said, ‘Hey, what you doing?’ ‘We in Chicago. That’s my team.’ It’s his nephew. He was not really understanding that the great Isiah Thomas plays for Detroit, we don’t wear that. We wear this. ‘But I’m from Chicago. I’m down with the Bull movement.’ Isiah was mad at that. Not to Michael, personally. In his brain, ‘Every time I play against this dude, I’m gonna try to go off so my nephew sees this is the jersey you should wear.’ Never at Michael.”
This whole feud started over … a jersey?
Nevermind that these were two of the greatest players and teams of the time. It all comes down to a good old-fashioned family rivalry.
Family: Can’t live with them, can’t play your greatest rival without your nephew wearing their jersey.