Former Indiana star Isiah Thomas told ESPN he was just having fun when he held up a Crying Jordan sign in front of the student section at Assembly Hall during the No. 13 Hoosiers' 76-67 win against No. 3 North Carolina on Wednesday night.
"There were two girls sitting behind me, two IU students, and one of them handed it to me," Thomas said. "I knew the crowd would go crazy -- and they did when I held it up."
Thomas and Jordan have had their friction during the course of their NBA careers, but Thomas described their relationship as "friendly."
"I love just being a fan," he added. "It was fun."
Long time Michael Jordan rival Isiah Thomas held up a Crying Jordan head during Indiana's win over North Carolina. pic.twitter.com/zqySNXtJN1— Jordan Heck (@JordanHeckFF) December 1, 2016
Thomas, who was on hand for Indiana's 1981 national championship team that was honored Wednesday, also said he is hopeful that former Hoosiers coach Bob Knight will return to Bloomington at some point.
Knight, 76, did not return for the anniversary of the 1976 team last season and was not in attendance Wednesday when the 1981 group was honored at halftime. Knight was fired after 29 years at the school in 2000 and has declined numerous requests to return to Bloomington.
"I didn't talk to him about coming last night, but I've reached out to him in the past about it," Thomas said. "I think he needs to come back and the reason I say that is because he was always -- and still is big on standing up for yourself and taking responsibility, walking the walk and talking to talk. We all came to IU because of Bob Knight.
"I'm not going to let him run away from this because of personal reasons," Thomas added. "It's gotten to a point where it doesn't make any sense. It's time."
Thomas said that there are a trio of legacy schools with coaches that are a foundation of the programs: John Wooden with UCLA, Dean Smith at North Carolina and Bob Knight at Indiana.
"He's denying us the luxury to talk about him at our school in that manner," Thomas said. "That's not fair to us, it's not fair to the students at IU. He is loved in Indiana; he is loved in Bloomington. No matter where he lives or goes, his home will always be in Bloomington."