NBA legend and Hall of Famer Isiah “Zeke” Thomas is still beefing with the GOAT Michael Jordan, and Zeke doesn’t appear to be willing to let it rest. The two-time champion with the Detroit Pistons was a recent guest on “The Pivot” and had a lot to say about Jordan and their beef. The crux of the issue for Zeke is what he considers to be lies told about and misrepresentations of him specifically and the Pistons more broadly; and he believes Jordan is at the heart of that, despite the two having a good relationship in the beginning.
“Now, this is real talk; go back and document it. You can go back on the west side of Chicago; I ain’t talking bout Michigan Avenue, where they used to kick me off for shining shoes. They kicked me outta there. On the west side of Chicago, that’s where I’m from, OK? … When Michael Jordan got to Chicago, I made it real easy for him to walk those streets on the west side of Chicago. My family took care of him. My sister and his brother hung out as friends. My little nephew lived with Michael Jordan. I’m being extremely good to this dude. I’m calling his house during this period of time. So all this ‘Isiah was an assh–e.’ No, no, no, dude, I was looking out for you.”
Zeke is a proud native son of the city of Chicago and views it as his city. He has deep roots and family ties there and, if true, his helping to ease the transition to Chicago for a young MJ would have been a big deal. Now we’re talking almost 40 years ago, so if MJ hasn’t acknowledged Zeke’s kindness or said thank you, it’s likely never going to happen.
While that may be what started the feud, so many accelerants have caused it to rage on decades later.
In the 1985 All-Star game, there was the alleged “freeze out” of Jordan by Zeke and the other All-Stars on offense. Zeke denied that was the case.
The Pistons were sandwiched in between two dynastic teams in the Eastern Conference: The Boston Celtics of the early-mid 1980s and the Chicago Bulls of the 1990s.
Zeke and the “Bad Boy” Pistons finally slayed Goliath and beat the Celtics to advance to the NBA Finals, and held off the young and upcoming Bulls en route to winning back-to-back titles in 1989 and 1990.
The Bulls finally defeated the Pistons in a sweep of the Eastern Conference Finals in 1991 and Zeke and his teammates left the court as time was expiring, refusing to shake hands with MJ and the Bulls.
MJ famously said the Pistons were bad for basketball and “undeserving champions.”
MJ called the @DetroitPistons undeserving champions”, & @isiahthomas took that personally. @OfficialCrowder felt a little something in the Hall of Famer’s response. Turns out that there was “lot of mother f*cking something.”!
— Ryan Clark (@Realrclark25) December 21, 2022
Then came the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona and the “Dream Team.” It made for the first time the U.S. would send pro players to the games and it was, arguably, the greatest team ever assembled. Zeke by merit should have been a part of that team.
By this time Jordan was a two-time champion, multiple-time MVP, best player in the world and face of the NBA. He allegedly didn’t want Zeke on the team, and wasn’t going to play if Zeke was a member.
Over the years the beef has continued, mostly from Zeke’s side. That’s primarily because he gives more interviews and is a much more public-facing figure. MJ is, of course, more famous but rarely gives public comments or interviews.
What shouldn’t overshadow things is how excellent both players were on the court. We know about MJ’s exploits and he’s the GOAT in many people’s minds.
But don’t sleep on Zeke: a two-time champ, Finals MVP, 12-time All-Star and five-time All-NBA.
Zeke and MJ are two of the fiercest competitors in the history of the game, and old habits die hard.