Nobody was really sure where Ernie Johnson was going, least of all Isiah Thomas, when he asked, “I feel like we can probably ask anything we want here, right?”
Thomas sounded understandably tentative when Johnson posed that question to him on an episode of NBA TV’s Open Court. Thomas had to wonder if Johnson would tell him that he ruined the Knicks. Or that he ruined Florida International. Or that he ruined the Continental Basketball Association.
Really, the possibilities were endless.
Johnson instead floated a relative softball by asking Thomas if he regretted not shaking hands with Michael Jordan and the Bulls following the Pistons’ loss in the 1991 Eastern Conference finals. The two-time defending champion Pistons were unceremoniously swept by the Bulls, who they had owned in the postseason up to that point, and Thomas’ crew walked off the court at the end of Game 4 without acknowledging the victorious Bulls.
“Absolutely,” Thomas said. “Now, and the reason why I would is, looking back, in terms of what has happened, had I taken the chance, we all should have. We should have taken the high road. I would say we resisted, and even myself I resisted, for a good six to eight months. We had dethroned the Celtics. We had dethroned the Lakers. And we thought we deserved a little bit of respect as a champion.”
Thomas’ Pistons basically invented the “Jordan rules,” wherein opponents would slam Jordan to the floor whenever he drove down the lane and slapped and tugged at the Bulls star away from the ball in an effort to get him frustrated. They demanded respect, but did not always offer it back.
If only Johnson could have hung up on Thomas, the moment would have been golden.
Check out Thomas’ full comments in the video below.