There’s little debate that Isiah Thomas is the greatest player in Detroit Pistons’ history.
But he often gets overlooked historically, reduced to the villain who Michael Jordan had to overcome on his way to greatness, a narrative further established by The Last Dance documentary that featured a not-so-flattering portrayal of Isiah Thomas.
The beef with Jordan was re-ignited and we once again had to hear how the Detroit Pistons were just this dirty team full of brutes led by the angel-faced Thomas.
It’s a narrative that one author is trying to dispel, as he grew up watching Isiah Thomas and knows him as far more than the face of the Bad Boys and the enemy of Michael Jordan.
Detroit Pistons: Author tries to give Isiah Thomas his due
Author Rich Cohen recently published a book called “When the Game Was War: The NBA’s Greatest Season” which documents the 1987-88 season when Magic’s Lakers, Michael’s Bulls, Larry’s Celtics and Isiah’s Pistons battled for NBA supremacy.
Cohen is from Chicago, so grew up watching Isiah Thomas play in high school, where he was the hero of a city desperate for a good basketball team to watch. He wants people to remember that Isiah was more than just Jordan’s foe and foil and should be ranked higher among the all-time greats.
Here is a short excerpt from the book (I can’t wait to read the whole thing, it is en route as we speak):
"“The Athletic’s 2022 list of the NBA’s all-time best has Jordan ranked first, followed by LeBron James and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Magic is five. Bird is seven. Isiah is ranked twenty-sixth, behind Jerry West and John Stockton. I don’t think that’s right. To me, Isiah, based not on numbers but on results, on blood and guts, what he did on the floor for his team, deserves to be much higher.”"
He recounts some of Isiah’s time in high school and playing pick-up on the playgrounds of Chicago against other city legends like former Piston Mark Acguirre, who would later become his teammate in Detroit.
The NBA was a different world back then, as stars usually stayed with their teams and ended up forming rivalries that bordered on pure hatred.
I can’t wait to read this and for Isiah Thomas to be “put back in the pantheon” where he belongs.