In the latest episode of the Bulls Talk Podcast, Turner Sports Analyst and Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas discusses his college recruitment as a prep star coming out of St. Joe's and his notion of student athletes being more than just students.
With the NCAA coming under more scrutiny, Thomas stated the the collegians in the revenue producing sports should be paid, and agreed that there's a racial element to the fact basketball and football players help produce billions of dollars for everyone except for themselves.
"I think it's a good thing for society, a bigger issue that needs to be discussed around sport and entertainment in this country," Thomas said. "The discussion should be able the scholarship, the indentured servant scholarship that the kids have to sign, giving up names, likeness, rights to your personhood that someone controls and you not getting paid for that."
In a wide-ranging interview that covered a lot of subjects, Thomas decried the widespread notion of tanking, where more than a handful of teams are using various methods to obtain a higher draft pick this summer.
"It's one of the cruelest and worst things that has happened to our sport," Thomas said. "When management or people outside of our sport can condone (purposeful losing). That goes against every fiber of athletic competition in sport that we were taught, that we believe in. And to be forced to do that, it's one of the greatest sins you can inflict on an athlete."
Thomas, who led the Detroit Pistons to NBA titles in 1989 and 1990, talked about his great rivalries with the Boston Celtics and the team he grew up loving, the Chicago Bulls. His rivalry with Michael Jordan was legendary on a number of levels, as the Pistons and Bulls met in the playoffs every year from 1988 to 1991.
"My rivalry was with the Chicago Bulls, not necessarily Michael Jordan. You heard me say thousands of times, we admired the way Michael Jordan played. Hands down, great athlete, great talent, the best athlete in our league at that time," Thomas said. "My job was to beat the Chicago Bulls every time I came to town. Make no mistake, his job was to beat the Detroit Pistons every time we played each other. That competition was great but just because I won more than he did doesn't mean I disliked him or he disliked me."
Despite their great rivalry and Thomas being known as a villain of sorts in Chicago, Thomas revealed he always wanted to play for the Bulls as a kid.
"I'm no different than (Detroiters) Jalen Rose or Chris Webber or Steve Smith who grew up wanting to play for the Detroit Pistons but ended up playing for another team," Thomas said. "I wanted to play for the Chicago Bulls. I ended up playing for the Detroit Pistons. But make no mistake about it. When I came back to Chicago. Whoever had Chicago on their jersey, while they represented Chicago, they weren't from Chicago. So I let them know how Chicago basketball players played."