On the 20th anniversary of the Dream Team, a documentary has re-ignited the debate over Isiah Thomas' exclusion from the roster.
“First of all guys, you know, it wasn’t my job to pick the team. OK,” Malone said. “It didn’t matter who was out there, they are part of our team. I didn’t have that kind of [influence] and I would like to think that nobody else did. There were a lot of great athletes left off that team.”
One of the NBA’s best all-time point guards, Thomas led the Detroit Pistons “Bad Boys” to two NBA titles in 1989 and 1990. When Jordan and the Bulls defeated the Pistons in the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals, Thomas walked off the court with time remaining, failing to congratulate the winners in part of a feud that seemingly continues to this day.
When the 1992 Olympic Team, which for the first time could include NBA players, was built, Magic Johnson and Stockton were the point guards chosen by USA Basketball, leading to rumors that Jordan had “blackballed” Thomas from the team. Even when Stockton injured his leg in a pre-Olympic tournament, USA Basketball stuck with him instead of adding Thomas or another point guard.
“John Stockton got hurt and I tell you straight up, right off the bat, just because a guy got hurt he should not be replaced on an Olympic Team,” Malone said. “Unless it’s going to cost you a potential medal, gold medal, whatever, I just don’t agree with that. It could have been anybody.
“I never had any issue with Isiah. I think guys realized that it didn’t matter who was on the team. I know I could have cared less. It didn’t matter to me who was on that team. I was a part of something great.”
The Dream Team rolled to the gold medal, defeating their eight opponents by an average of 44 points, capped by a win over Croatia in the title game. Pistons coach Chuck Daly coached the squad.