Why Isiah Thomas was left off the Dream Team at 1992 Olympics


On Sept. 21, 1991, the first 10 Dream Team players were announced. Isiah Thomas was not one of them. On May 12, 1992, the last two players were announced. Again, no Thomas.

Thomas, who led the Detroit Pistons to NBA titles in 1989 and 1990, who was an NBA All-Star Game starter in February 1992, whose coach, Chuck Daly, was the Barcelona Olympic head coach, was left off the greatest collection of NBA superstars.

Many believed Michael Jordan had something to do with it, given his icy relationship with Thomas. This long-held belief is back in the news after the most recent episodes of “The Last Dance” documentary series on the Chicago Bulls on ESPN.

How big of a deal was the Thomas omission nearly three decades ago?

Well, on the NBC selection show for the first 10, Marv Albert sat down with Jordan after Jordan was announced, perhaps for dramatic effect, as the 10th and final player in the first round of announcements.

Albert asked Jordan three questions. Two were about Thomas’ omission.

“If I had anything to do with the selection, then I would have picked my brother, my sister, my whole family to take to Barcelona,” Jordan said that day. “I didn’t have anything to do with it. Isiah Thomas and my relationship has nothing to do with me being on this team. I think a lot of things are being blown out of proportion because of him not being selected, at this particular time, I think there’s still two spots open and there’s still a possibility that he may be selected. I think it’s being blown out of proportion, and certainly, fingers are being pointed at me because of our relationship and, of course, about the way the end of the game between Detroit and Chicago ended [some Pistons, including Thomas, walking off the court with 7.9 seconds left of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals]. I don’t think it has anything to do with our relationship. That’s something that really bothers me to a certain extent.”

Albert followed up, asking if Jordan issued an ultimatum. Did Jordan say he wouldn’t play if Thomas was on the team? No, Jordan said.

That is what has been disputed.

Longtime Sports Illustrated NBA writer Jack McCallum reported in his 2012 book, “Dream Team,” that Jordan told selection committee member (and the former Chicago Bulls GM who drafted him) Rod Thorn, “I don’t want to play if Isiah Thomas is on the team.”

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On Wednesday, Thorn denied that.

“There was never anything in my conversation with [Jordan] that had to do with Isiah Thomas, period,” Thorn said on ESPN’s Golic & Wingo. “He said, ‘I’ll do it.’ … Isiah’s name never came up during that conversation. He never backtracked and said he didn’t want to do it from that time on, to those of us in the NBA office.”

Jordan, in a 2012 NBA TV documentary, said he received “strong innuendos” coming from “higher places” that didn’t want Thomas on the team.

“That was one of the stipulations put to me prior to me even committing that Isiah wasn’t a part of the team,” he said.

Daly was not part of the selection committee.

“Isiah killed his own chances when it came to the Olympics,” Magic Johnson said in “When the Game was Ours,” a book he wrote with Jackie MacMullan and Larry Bird. “Nobody on the team wanted to play with him.”

It meant plenty that the statement came from Johnson, an openly close friend of Thomas in the 1980s. By the end of 1991, Thomas and the Bad Boy Pistons had alienated some in the NBA, including Jordan, after a series of events.

-The theory that Thomas conspired a freeze-out of Jordan at the 1985 All-Star Game.
-At the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals, Thomas’ involvement after then-teammate Dennis Rodman called Bird “overrated” and that he won three straight MVPs “because he was white.”
-The Pistons’ trademark physical play, notably against the Bulls, and most notably on Jordan.
-The walk-out in the 1991 East Finals, four months before the first 10 Dream Team players were announced.
-For Johnson, that Thomas questioned his sexuality after announcing he was HIV positive in November 1991.

An argument can also be made that Thomas didn’t merit a spot on form at that time, perhaps in comparison to John Stockton as the other point guard after Johnson. Thomas’ last All-NBA selection — for a first, second or third team — was in 1987. Every member of the Dream Team was an All-NBA first- or second-team member in 1991 or 1992, save Duke’s Christian Laettner and Bird.

“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.” Thomas said on ESPN’s “Get Up” on Monday, noting he also missed the 1980 Olympics, having been named to a team after the U.S. boycott was announced. “The only thing that’s missing from my resume is not being on the Dream Team. … I still don’t know who did it or why they say I didn’t make it.”

MORE: Michael Jordan’s note to Bobby Knight before 1984 Olympic final

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Chloe Kim, Elana Meyers Taylor among Olympians to join presidential sports council

Elana Meyers Taylor, President Joe Biden

Chloe Kim and Elana Meyers Taylor are among the Olympic and Paralympic medalists set to join the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, & Nutrition.

President Joe Biden intends to appoint the snowboarder Kim, bobsledder Meyers Taylor, retired Olympic medalists Chaunté Lowe (track and field) and Tamika Catchings (basketball) and Paralympic medalist Melissa Stockwell (triathlon) to the council, among other athletes and people in the health and fitness fields, it was announced Friday.

Stephen and Ayesha Curry are also on the list.

The council “aims to promote healthy, accessible eating and physical activity for all Americans, regardless of background or ability.”

Last year, Biden appointed basketball gold medalist Elena Delle Donne a co-chair of the council.

Kim, the two-time reigning Olympic halfpipe champion, sat out this past season but is expected to return to competition for a third Olympic run in 2026.

Meyers Taylor, the most decorated U.S. Olympic bobsledder in history with medals in all five of her Olympic events, sat out this past season due to pregnancy. She took her first bobsled run in 13 months this past week in Lake Placid, New York.

There is a long history of Olympians and Paralympians serving on the council, which was created in 1956.

In 2017, Barack Obama appointed medalists including gymnast Gabby Douglas, soccer player Carli Lloyd and fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad.

Others to previously be on the council include sprinter Allyson Felix, figure skater Michelle Kwan and swimmer and triathlete Brad Snyder.

Members serve for two years and can be reappointed.

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Kaori Sakamoto wins figure skating worlds; top American places fourth


Kaori Sakamoto overcame a late error in her free skate to become the first Japanese figure skater to win back-to-back world titles and the oldest women’s world champion since 2014.

Sakamoto, 22, totaled 224.61 points on home ice in Saitama to prevail by 3.67 over Lee Hae-In of South Korea in the closest women’s finish at worlds since 2011.

Belgium’s Loena Hendrickx took bronze, edging 16-year-old American Isabeau Levito for a medal by 2.77 points.

Sakamoto is the oldest women’s singles world champion since Mao Asada (2014), who is now the only Japanese skater with more world titles than Sakamoto.

She appeared en route to an easier victory until singling a planned triple flip late in her free skate, which put the gold in doubt. She can be thankful for pulling off the second jump of that planned combination — a triple toe loop — and her 5.62-point lead from Wednesday’s short program.

“I feel so pathetic and thought, what was all that hard work I put into my training?” Sakamoto said of her mistake, according to the International Skating Union (ISU). “But I was able to refocus and do my best till the end.

“Because I have this feeling of regret at the biggest event of the season, I want to make sure I don’t have this feeling next season. So I want to practice even harder, and I want to make sure to do clean, perfect performances at every competition.”

Lee, who had the top free skate, became the second South Korean to win a world medal in any discipline after six-time medalist Yuna Kim.

Hendrickx followed her silver from last year, when she became the first Belgian women’s singles skater to win a world medal.

FIGURE SKATING WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Levito, last year’s world junior champion, had a chance to become the youngest senior world medalist since 2014.

After a solid short program, she fell on her opening triple Lutz in the free skate and left points on the table by performing two jump combinations rather than three. The Lutz was planned to be the first half of a combination with a triple loop.

“I am severely disappointed because I’ve been nailing my Lutz-loop for a really long time, and this is the first time I’ve messed it up in a while, and of course it had to be when it actually counted,” Levito said, according to the ISU. “But I’m pretty happy with myself for just trying to move past it and focusing on making the most out of the rest of the program.”

Levito entered worlds ranked fourth in the field by best score this season. She matched the best finish for a U.S. woman in her senior global championships debut (Olympics and worlds) since Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan took silver and bronze at the 1991 Worlds. Sasha Cohen, to whom Levito is often compared, also placed fourth in her Olympic and world debuts in 2002.

“I feel very proud for myself and grateful for my coaching team for helping me get this far so far in my skating career, and I’m just very proud to be where I am,” Levito said on USA Network.

American Amber Glenn was 12th in her world debut. Two-time U.S. champion Bradie Tennell was 15th. They had been 10th and eighth, respectively, in the short program.

The U.S. qualified two women’s spots for next year’s worlds rather than the maximum three because the top two Americans’ results added up to more than 13 (Levito’s fourth plus Glenn’s 12th equaled 16). The U.S. was in position to qualify three spots after the short program.

Glenn said after the short program that she had a very difficult two weeks before worlds, including “out-of-nowhere accidents and coincidences that could have prevented me from being here,” and boot problems that affected her triple Axel. She attempted a triple Axel in the free skate, spinning out of an under-rotated, two-footed landing.

Tennell, who went 19 months between competitions due to foot and ankle injuries in 2021 and 2022, had several jumping errors in the free skate.

“This season has been like one thing after another,” said the 25-year-old Tennell, who plans to compete through the 2026 Winter Games. “I’m really excited to get back and work on some stuff for the new season.”

Earlier, Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates topped the rhythm dance, starting their bid for a first world title in their 12th season together and after three prior world silver or bronze medals.

“We skated as best we possibly could today,” Bates said, according to the ISU, after they tallied the world’s top score this season.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White are the lone U.S. ice dancers to win a world title, doing so in 2011 and 2013.

Worlds continue Friday night (U.S. time) with the free dance, followed Saturday morning with the men’s free skate, live on Peacock and USA Network.

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