“Vince Carter Had Earned the Starting Spot”: Isiah Thomas Recalls How He Favored Michael Jordan Without Knowing True Intentions

“Vince Carter Had Earned the Starting Spot”: Isiah Thomas Recalls How He Favored Michael Jordan Without Knowing True Intentions

Vince Carter, Isiah Thomas and Michael Jordan. Credits: USA TODAY Sports

Isiah Thomas appeared on Draymond Green’s The Volume-powered podcast and revealed that he favored Michael Jordan to start over Vince Carter in the 2003 All-Star game but now regrets this decision. IT was the head coach for the Eastern Conference All-Star Team and 2003 was MJ’s last season. Meanwhile, in 2003, Vince Carter was selected to his fourth All-Star team and was the rightful starter.

However, considering MJ’s farewell season, Thomas preferred starting the 6x NBA Finals MVP. In retrospect, Thomas regrets the choice because he didn’t know how MJ felt about him until he learned Jordan’s negative perceptions about IT, during the 2020 docuseries “The Last Dance”. On ‘The Draymond Green show’, Thomas disclosed how he would not have started MJ had he known his true intentions. He said,

Michael Jordan’s last All-Star Game, I coached his last All-Star game. Vince Carter had won the starting spot. I took Vince Carter aside and I convinced him to give his spot to Michael Jordan. I never knew this dude felt the way he felt until ‘The Last Dance’. I’m like all these years, you been standing behind a tree throwing stones and let somebody else take the fall for it. Had I known you felt that way, I definitely would have treated you differently,”

Then IT delved into the infamous handshake incident after they were swept in the 1991 ECF. Except for Joe Dumars, Vinnie Johnson, and John Salley, the rest of the Pistons left the court without shaking the Bulls’ athletes’ hands. For Thomas, this gripe about them not shaking hands with the Bulls makes no sense because such practice is standard for the reigning champions.

The handshake incident that continues to be discussed

As the Bulls were on the cusp of winning the Eastern Conference title in 1991, Isiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer, and various other Pistons players headed for the locker room with 7.9 seconds to go in the game. They refused to acknowledge the Bulls squad and walked to the locker room in a sulking fashion. Word spread that the “Bad Boys” have disrespected the game of basketball.

Credits: Imago

In the initial stages of the 1991-92 season, Zeke regretted his decision to not shake hands. During the November 12, 1991, Regular Season match-up against the Bulls, IT admitted that their conduct was “unsportsmanlike” and that it was the wrong thing to do. However, he didn’t explicitly apologize for their actions.

Meanwhile, Bill Laimbeer remains adamant that they were right about not shaking hands. He called MJ and his Bulls “whiners” and didn’t like the way their refusal to shake hands was portrayed by the squad. During an ESPN on Monday appearance in 2020, Laimbeer showed no regrets for the decision.

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,” Laimber expressed.

This incident has divided opinions for more than three decades. It wasn’t the first time that an outgoing champion has refused to shake hands with a bitter rival that unseated them in the Playoffs. However, it has drawn a lot of traction because of the lengthy rivalry that shaped the Bulls-Pisons match-up.