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Michael Jordan ranks 4th on Isiah Thomas’ 5 best players he competed against

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Julius Erving

The long-simmering feud between NBA retired greats Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas continued to overflow into the public last Sunday during the latest episode of the 10-part ESPN Films docu-series “The Last Dance” when the former Chicago Bulls six-time champion called out the perceived disrespectful move by Thomas of the Detroit Pistons not shaking hands after the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals.

Following the airing, Thomas, a 58-year-old broadcaster with NBA TV and team president of the WNBA’s New York Liberty, listed the top five players he competed against, with Jordan surprisingly falling to fourth, per CBS Sports’ Bill Reiter.

Considering Michael Jordan is ubiquitously known as the “G.O.A.T.”—not without ongoing debate, of course—it’s very surprising to see Thomas list Jordan so low, even with competition like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Julius Erving among the greats the former Detroit Pistons two-time NBA champion.

Thomas and Jordan’s rivalry spilled over in the early 90s when “His Airness” may have influenced the U.S. men’s national team from preventing Thomas’ inclusion in the “Dream Team”—the legendary gold-medaling squad at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. Thomas’ Pistons were a major roadblock for Jordan’s early Bulls days, going to three straight NBA Finals at the turn of the decade, bridging an Eastern Conference dominance between Bird’s Celtics and Jordan’s Bulls.

As “The Last Dance” illustrated last weekend, defeating the “Bad Boy” Pistons was a major victory for Jordan and the Bulls en route to their first title in 1991 over Johnson and the Lakers, but Thomas’ actions during that time may have permanently stained his image in MJ’s eyes.