Isiah Thomas is still angry–and he should be–that he was left off the original Dream Team in 1992. One of the greatest players of all time, Thomas’ absence was so notable that Wikipedia’s Dream Team page has a section about Thomas not being invited. Michael Jordan probably kept Thomas off the team–using his stature as the God-King of Basketball to freeze out Thomas the way Thomas had allegedly frozen out Jordan in the 1985 All-Star Game. But even if Jordan had consented, who would Thomas have replaced? Maybe John Stockton? But Stockton’s Utah teams were on the rise as Thomas’s Pistons were fading. You can’t leave off Clyde Drexler–his aerial display, hallmark of American basketball, was second only to Jordan’s at the time. Chris Mullin had no NBA championships–Thomas had two–but Mullin’s unrivaled marksmanship bought his ticket.
Who then? Ah, what about the token college player they brought along? The much reviled, much admired Christian Laettner–who’d been selected for the Dream Team as a tiny (tiny for 6’11” anyway), meaningless nod to the honorable past when America sent only amateur athletes to compete in the Olympic Games. In a way, the Duke senior was a perfect stand-in for Isiah Thomas–no two excellent players inspired more enmity in their careers than Thomas and Laettner. The hatred for both was often inexplicable, but no less palpable for being tough to articulate. ESPN doesn’t even try, just going with the emotion alone and calling its new movie simply I HATE CHRISTIAN LAETTNER. You can bet Thomas* will be watching, and know the feeling. That guy took his spot on the greatest team ever assembled.
*Isiah Thomas has never said he hates Christian Laettner, but why should we assume he’s in the minority?