NEW YORK – Ironic how last Thursday was Flag Day and here we are, draped in drool over the 20th anniversary of the narcissistic 1992 Dream Team.
Like loyal reader Lawrence Bentley of Plano, Texas, I am proud to say I have never seen that supercilious squadron play a single minute. That goes for the four following deified delegations as well.
Twice, I declined plum assignments to cover Dream Teams; the first while working for USA Today — though shamelessly tempted by a week or more in Monaco where Chuck Daly’s team trained rigorously for the likes of Angola; the second for NBC in Sydney (2000), which cost me a $25,000 bonus plus a first-class, round trip ticket for my wife.
Once Olympic basketball switched from amateur to pro, I tuned out completely. What’s more, I have no intention to watch NBA-TV’s currently airing 90-minute documentary that glorifies the grandeur of the Dream Team.
Now that I’ve read some of what was said by deputized inmate Michael Jordan and authorities responsible for the selection of USA Basketball’s representative, I wish I had smacked around The Farcelona 12 an eternity ago.
The hypocrisy of so many people involved in its assembly and, more to the cutthroat point, the ostracizing of Isiah Thomas, is both wretched and retching.
This may be the dirtiest a sports figure has ever been treated.
Let us count the outrages:
The most egregious is committee members with sway giving Jordan the right to banish Thomas from the team.
The two had a long-standing beef that covered a multitude of real and imagined transgressions. So, when Jordan let it be known through agent David Falk he refused to be teammates with Thomas, the powers that be folded along the dotted lines.
It was inconsequential that Thomas and Jordan both owned two championship rings.
The NBA was in the early stages of a 3M (money, marketing . . . and money) global initiative. Hence, Russ Granik, at the time deputy commissioner and liaison to USA Basketball, and Rod Thorn, who drafted His Airness as Bulls GM, who has been a league fixture in one capacity or another now for 50 years, weren’t about to tell Jordan to stay home.
From what I’ve read, Granik and Thorn were quoted in the documentary saying Thomas’ bad sportsmanship — walking off the court to the dressing room seconds before the Bulls’ sweep of the Pistons in the 1991 Eastern Conference finals was official — influenced their (leveraged) decision.
Scottie Pippen also had complained about Thomas’ inciting the Bad Boys to rough up Michael & The Jordanaires.
Yeah, I do believe that was called “The Jordan Rules,” which may have been written by Sam Smith, but was authored by Daly, coach of the Pistons and the Dream Team.
How come Jordan and Pippen didn’t mind playing for the architect and later with Bad Boy Dennis Rodman?
What’s particularly fascinating about the players joining forces is that Pippen and Horace Grant allegedly caused Thomas, Bill Laimbeer and other Pistons to exit stage left before the game had ended. Thomas once told me that throughout the series the Bulls’ forwards made comments to Rodman about his wife, Annie, sleeping around.
If true, surely Daly knew about it.
How come he never notified Granik and Thorn that Thomas had good reason to snub the Bulls?
Wonder if Granik or Thorn ever asked Thomas why he bolted?
At the same time, why didn’t Daddy Rich intercede on Thomas’ behalf?
Because he pulled a Pontius Pilate; washed his hands of the matter.
What’s almost amusing is, by keeping someone so ruthless and detestable as Thomas off the team, it implies the rest of the regimen was comprised of solid citizens
Let’s look at some of the past performances (to that point) of choir boys who did represent Uncle Sam.
Pippen (pre-sitting down in a huff for the closing seconds of a 1994 playoff game vs. the Knicks because Phil Jackson had designed the last successful play for Toni Kukoc . . . and being arrested in ’94 for having a gun in his car’s glove compartment).
Charles Barkley: Spit on a young girl in New Jersey in ’91. His immaturity forced Billy Cunningham and Julius Erving into early retirement.
He became so tough to handle the 76ers gave him away to the Suns for Jeff Hornacek, Tim Perry and Andrew Lang. Throwing a guy through a plate-glass window, the out-of-control gambling, the drunk driving arrest and the hookers came later.
Patrick Ewing: Two words, Gold Club. In testimony in July 2001, he told about favors at an Atlanta strip joint.
Karl Malone: I guess the selection committee felt it was OK for The Mailman to bow Thomas intentionally and send him to the hospital for 40 stitches in retaliation for Isiah torching John Stockton for 40-something in their previous meeting. Adding injury to injury, Stockton was given Thomas’ slot.
Magic: A certified coach-killer (Paul Westhead) by that time. He claims he “forced” Thomas off the Olympic team because Isiah supposedly spread a rumor he got infected with the HIV virus from gay activity.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I recall The Farcelona 12 being presented in tuxes during the summer of ’91, before the HIV news conference and retirement!
Peter Vescey covers the NBA for the New York Post.