Isiah Thomas was a star long before he even stepped foot into an NBA arena. He was the star player for Bob Knight and the Indiana Hoosiers and helped lead them to the 1981 NCAA Championship. Despite his diminutive size, Isiah was a bulldog who never backed down from anybody. He truly epitomized the saying that it is not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog.
Isiah brought his fearless style of play to the NBA when he became the ringleader for the "Bad Boys" Detroit Pistons. The Pistons were not about polish and finesse. They were about the grit and grind. They were the epitome of basketbrawl. Whether it was Bill Laimbeer squaring off with Larry Bird or Dennis Rodman getting it on with Michael Jordan, the Pistons were one of the most hated teams in the league for their rough style of play.
The team served as the bully of the NBA. Among their victims were Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. They tormented Chicago and trounced them from the playoffs year after year. The Detroit Pistons seemed to be the big dog in the NBA yard. Not even the mighty Michael Jordan could stop them.
Not only were the Bulls and Pistons playoff rivals, there had been reports of a freeze-out happening during Jordan's first All-Star game. It has been reported that Thomas instigated the freeze-out since he felt that Jordan was stealing the spotlight from veterans such as him.Though Thomas vehemently denied this, rumors of this persist to this day.
Finally, in the 1990–91 season, the Bulls had a breakthrough. Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant emerged as All-Star-caliber players and the Bulls swept the Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals. There was so much bad blood between the two teams that the Pistons walked out of Game 4 with time remaining in the clock without even congratulating the Bulls.
This would not be the end of it though. Jordan blackballed Isiah from being part of the first Dream Team. He gave the ultimatum that it was either him or Isiah. Of course, as Jordan was the NBA's golden boy, they chose him over the aging Thomas. Jordan would confirm this 20 years after the fact in a documentary done by NBA TV.
Overall, Isiah had a remarkable 13-year career with the Detroit Pistons. He is a two-time NBA champion, one-time NBA Finals MVP, 12-time NBA All-Star, two-time NBA All-Star Game MVP, and three-time All-NBA First Team member.