Isiah Thomas

Kendrick Perkins rips ‘Last Dance,’ says he’s glad Michael Jordan isn’t his GOAT

Kendrick Perkins rips ‘Last Dance,’ says he’s glad Michael Jordan isn’t his GOAT

On the off-chance you haven’t had enough of the 2008 Celtics, Kendrick Perkins is at it again.

The topic: Fresh audio that proved Michael Jordan specifically requested Isiah Thomas be left off the 1992 Dream Team, despite Jordan denying such allegations in ESPN’s “The Last Dance.”

“Free Zeke! What is the problem with Isiah Thomas? Isiah Thomas is a great individual, and to me, you know what it is? They had a problem with Isiah Thomas’ competitive nature. He was the ultimate competitor, that’s the only way I see them keeping him off the Dream Team, saying they didn’t want to play with him,” Perkins said in a recent appearance on ESPN’s First Take.

Of course, the conversation pivoted to a pinch of “The Last Dance” talk. You can guess the direction that went in.

“‘The Last (Dance) documentary was the best sports documentary that I ever saw,” Perkins said, “but one thing I took away from it: it was full of lies, and it was full of snitching. 

“And when we look at Michael Jordan — and I’m glad he’s not my GOAT, LeBron James is my GOAT, but that’s y’all’s GOAT — he lied, he threw everybody under the bus at the end of the day. ‘The Last Dance’ was to make MJ look like a superhero and make everybody else look like a villain…

“... at the end of the day, I’m just happy LeBron James is my GOAT.”

All in a day’s work for Perkins, who hasn’t been shy in criticizing Jordan and the documentary at every turn.

RELATED: How Michael Jordan, Bulls executed impromptu switch from No. 45 to 23 

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Why Bulls-Pistons 1991 playoff walkoff remains iconic in Chicago sports history

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USA Today

Why Bulls-Pistons 1991 playoff walkoff remains iconic in Chicago sports history

“Straight up bitches. That’s what they walked off like.”

Talk about a putback slam.

Horace Grant delivered one of the most powerful quotes of “The Last Dance” documentary.

The former Bulls power forward dunked all over the “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons for walking off the floor in the waning moments of Game 4 of the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals.

Wednesday marks one of the most iconic anniversaries in Chicago sports history. On May 27, 1991, the Bulls beat the Pistons 115-94 en route to an emphatic series sweep. Just over two weeks later, they were NBA champions.

Up until “The Last Dance,” the most memorable takeaway from that Game 4 victory wasn’t necessarily a key play or a postgame quote. It was a number: 7.9.

That’s the amount of seconds that were left on the clock when Isiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer and company ducked past the Bulls bench—without so much as a handshake— and eventually out of sight at the Palace in Auburn Hills.

It is one of the most iconic images in the Chicago sports canon. One could argue it belongs on a Bulls “Mount Rushmore” of images with, perhaps, Michael Jordan’s free throw line dunk in the 1988 Slam Dunk Content Or MJ weeping while holding the Larry O’Brien trophy after the ’91 Finals win over the Lakers. Or his final shot against the Jazz in 1998.

[MORE: Recounting the most memorable quotes from "The Last Dance"]

What transpired in suburban Detroit on that Memorial Day was more than just a victory or even a series sweep. It was a passing of the torch. Or, maybe, the Pistons’ torch was simply doused a’la the Wicked Witch of the West. Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Phil Jackson and company caused the “Bad Boys” to melt under the lights of a national TV broadcast and ensuing media scrutiny. 

Many Chicago fans remember the brutal, sometimes bloody Bulls-Pistons games in the handful of years up until that Monday in Motown. The Bulls lost three consecutive playoff series against the Pistons, two of which came in the conference finals. The victory was not just a flag-planting in the ground. It was a relief.

And with that win, the Bulls took more of the Chicago sports spotlight. The Ditka-era Bears were fading. The Cubs were mediocre at best. The White Sox were on the rise but were still a few years away. The Blackhawks finished first in the Norris Division that year but were bounced quickly in the playoffs. The Bulls were THE story in town.

Imagine if the Pistons had won that ’91 playoff series. That would have made four consecutive playoff headaches courtesy of the Pistons. Do the Bulls rise up again? Do the Bulls even end up getting to the 1992 NBA Finals?

Be thankful for that day in Detroit.

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Michael Jordan: 'I won't play' if Isiah Thomas is on Dream Team in new audio

Michael Jordan: 'I won't play' if Isiah Thomas is on Dream Team in new audio

The plot continues to thicken on the revived Michael Jordan-Isiah Thomas feud that has bubbled during and in the wake of “The Last Dance.” Tuesday, audio surfaced of Jordan admitting that he wouldn’t play for the 1992 Dream Team if Thomas was included on the roster.

The clip comes by way of the Dream Team Tapes podcast with renowned sports journalist Jack McCallum, who authored “Dream Team,” a book that chronicled the construction of the 1992 USA Olympics squad that took the world by storm.

 

Though a bit warbled, Jordan’s ultimatum is clear: "Rod Thorn called me. I said, ‘Rod, I won’t play if Isiah Thomas is on the team.' He assured me. He said, 'You know what? Chuck (Charles Barkley) doesn’t want Isiah. So, Isiah is not going to be part of the team.'"

That audio, according to the podcast, is from an interview McCallum conducted with Jordan for the book in 2011. McCallum reported the fruits of this conversation in “Dream Team,” which came out in 2012:

Rod Thorn, who as general manager of the Bulls in 1984 had drafted Jordan, was assigned the most important task: pulling the prize catch into the boat. Thorn called Jordan directly sometime during the summer, after the Bulls had won their first championship. (In fact, all of the invitations were extended directly to the athletes, not through agents…) So let’s be clear right now about what Jordan said in that first phone call.

‘Rod, I don’t want to play if Isiah Thomas is on the team,’ Jordan said.

I wrote that in Sports Illustrated at the time, not because Jordan confirmed it, which he didn’t, but because at least two reliable sources did. At the time, Jordan more or less denied that he would stand in Isiah’s way.

But he did confirm it to me in the summer of 2011. ‘I told Rod I don’t want to play if Isiah Thomas is on the team.’ That’s what he said.

Still, controversy framed as rumor continued to surround Thomas’ exclusion from the team, including in “The Last Dance.” In a present-day interview in the documentary, Jordan denied requesting Thomas be left on the roster. 

“It was insinuated that I was asking about him. But I never threw his name in there,” Jordan said. “Based on the environment and camaraderie that happened on that team, it was the best harmony. Would Isiah have made a different feeling on that team? Yes. You want to attribute it to me? Go ahead, be my guest. But it wasn’t me.”

In an interview on ESPN’s Golic & Wingo, Thorn, who chaired the USA Basketball Men's National Team Selection Committee in 1992, echoed Jordan’s version of events.

“When I called Jordan, his first inclination was he didn’t know if he wanted to play or not because, as he said, ‘I played on an Olympic team before (in 1988),’” Thorn said. “'It’s for the younger guys as far as I’m concerned.' 

“So we continued the conversation, and at the end of the conversation, he said, ‘You know something, I’ll do it.’ There was never anything in my conversation with him that had to do with Isiah Thomas. Period.”

But now we have audio that directly contradicts those accounts, and corroborates decades-old speculation (and McCallum's reporting) that Jordan played a specific party to Thomas being left off the team. Jordan's invoking Barkley also confirms that there was Dream Team-wide anti-Thomas sentiment. And funny enough, all of this comes from Jordan himself.

Thomas said in “The Last Dance” he didn’t know what went into the decision-making process for the Dream Team, but that he wasn’t selected in spite of, in his estimation, meeting the desired criteria.

If we didn’t know already, we now know for sure what led to his exclusion.

RELATED: David Robinson: Isiah Thomas shouldn’t be surprised about Dream Team snub 

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