Isiah Thomas: I Never Had a Teammate Like Scottie Pippen

Isiah Thomas
Isiah Thomas

The 2020 NBA All-Star Game is in Chicago this year, and thus the First Take set is on-site for the weekend. They brought on Chicago native Isiah Thomas to chat about the league before the conversation inevitably veered towards the fierce Bulls-Pistons rivalry of the late 80s and early 90s. The crew got into a debate about whether the Pistons, who knocked Michael Jordan out of the playoffs three consecutive years as he was reaching the height of his power, were actually better than the Bulls.

Max Kellerman pointed out that when Jordan had an All-Star team on his side in 1989 (when Scottie Pippen was first named to the team), he took the Pistons to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals. Thomas took this time to point out that he never played with a player of Pippen's caliber, but still won two championships and made three straight NBA Finals appearances during that time frame:

Specifically, he pointed to when the NBA community named the 50 best players of all time during the league's 50th anniversary season in 1996, and how everyone on the stage had at least one former teammate there... except him.

Going by that metric, nobody can prove Thomas wrong, and he was indeed the driving force behind those Detroit championship teams. But it does seem like he's underselling his supporting cast a little bit. He played with a young Dennis Rodman and Joe Dumars, two NBA Hall-of-Famers. Neither were quite as good as Pippen, to be sure, but it's not like Thomas did all of this himself. That isn't even to mention high-end supporting cast members Bill Laimbeer or Adrian Dantley.

Thomas, of course, was met with a chorus of boos from the Chicago faithful when he declared Detroit was indeed better than Chicago during those years.