John Salley reveals what really started the Michael Jordan-Isiah Thomas beef
As part of an appearance on VladTV, former NBA big man John Salley revealed what really started the feud between Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas. Salley played with both Jordan and Thomas, so he knows a bit about the two Hall of Famers.
Through the late ’80s and into the early ’90s, Detroit was a dominant force in the Eastern Conference. In fact, the team won back-to-back NBA championships in 1989 and 1990. However, a young Michael Jordan would lead the Bulls past Isiah in the ’91 Eastern Conference Finals, effectively ending the “Bad Boy” era in Detroit.
It is one of the greatest rivalries in NBA history, with several hard-fought games left in its wake. Things were so heated between the two sides that Detroit declined the traditional handshake after being eliminated in the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals. For Thomas, a native of Chicago, Jordan’s rise to prominence had a different feel.
As Salley recalls in his interview, this legendary NBA beef began when Thomas saw his nephew wearing a Jordan jersey during a trip home to his native Chicago:
“You wanna know what the beef was?” Salley said with a smile during his appearance. “Isiah goes home, and his nephew is wearing a Bulls jersey — a Michael Jordan Bulls jersey.
“Isiah was mad at that,” Salley added. “Not to Michael, personally. In his brain, (he thought), ‘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.'”
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
Under the coaching direction of Chuck Daly, John Salley was part of a Pistons era that featured three consecutive NBA Finals appearances. Detroit beat Chicago three straight times in the playoffs before that 1991 series loss. Salley wound up joining the Bulls toward the end of their 1995-96 championship season.