Isiah Thomas says he has paid a "heavy price" for declining to shake hands with Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls during the 1991 playoffs, but Bill Laimbeer does not regret the Detroit Pistons' infamous decision.
Thomas discussed his legacy and relationship with Jordan in an interview with ESPN's Get Up on Monday, one day after the Pistons-Bulls rivalry was chronicled in Episode 3 of the docuseries "The Last Dance."
"We were coming down, Michael Jordan was coming up," Thomas said. "And in coming up, you have certain emotions, and in coming down as champions, you have certain emotions. ... Looking back, over the years, had we had the opportunity to do it all over again, I think all of us would make a different decision."
After eliminating the Bulls from three consecutive postseasons and tormenting Jordan along the way, Thomas and the "Bad Boys" Pistons were swept by Chicago in the 1991 Eastern Conference finals.
With 7.9 seconds remaining in the Bulls' 21-point rout to end the series, the Pistons -- at Laimbeer's behest, according to Thomas -- walked off the court without shaking the Bulls players' hands or congratulating them.
"I've paid a heavy price for that decision," Thomas said. "And in paying that price -- I understand this is the sports world and everything else, but at the same time, looking back over it in terms of how we felt at that particular time, our emotional state and how we exited the floor -- we actually gave the world the opportunity to look at us in a way that we never really tried to position ourselves in or project ourselves in that way. So it's unfortunate that it happened."
Laimbeer, however, told Rachel Nichols in an interview that aired Monday on ESPN's The Jump that he still supports the Pistons' decision nearly 30 years later, regardless of public perception.
"Why would I regret it now, today? I don't care what the media says about me. I never did," Laimbeer said. "If I did, I'd be a basket case, especially back then.
"I was about winning basketball games and winning championships and did whatever I had to do to get the most out of my ability and our team -- and we did. At the end of the day, we're called world champions."
Why Bill Laimbeer doesn't regret walking off against Bulls in 1991
Bill Laimbeer explains why he has no regrets about not shaking the Bulls' hands after his Pistons were dethroned by Chicago in the 1991 NBA playoffs.
Thomas took a much more conciliatory tone in his interview Monday, saying that he is "personally hurt" by his portrayal in the docuseries and apologizing to the city of Detroit.
The Hall of Fame guard was asked about his omission from the roster of the 1992 Dream Team for the Barcelona Olympics and whether he believes his refusal to shake Jordan's hand was a factor.
"I thought I should've made that Dream Team," Thomas said. "However, I wasn't a part of it. That hurt me, and looking back, if I'm not a part of the Dream Team because a lapse in emotion in terms of not shaking someone's hand, if that's the reason why I didn't make the Dream Team, then I am more disappointed today than I was back then when I wasn't selected."
Laimbeer remains unapologetic, telling Nichols that Jordan and the Bulls were "whiners."
"They whined and cried for a year and a half about how bad we were for the game, but more importantly, they said we were bad people," Laimbeer said. "We weren't bad people. We were just basketball players winning, and that really stuck with me because they didn't know who we were or what we were about as individuals and our family life.
"But all that whining they did, I didn't want to shake their hand. They were just whiners. They won the series. Give him credit: We got old, they got past us. But OK, move on."