In an interview with FoxSports Bill Reiter, Isiah Thomas spoke about how his game compared to those of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. His comments are surprising, to say the least.
“I have no problem saying this at all,” he says. “[Magic Johnson and Larry Bird are] all 6-(feet)-9 and Jordan was 6-6 and a half. If they were all 6-1, it wouldn’t even be a question. They wouldn’t even f—ing rate. If they were all my size, s—, they wouldn’t even be talked about.
“I beat the s— out of them when they were that big. If we were all the same size, f—.” He stops to laugh good-naturedly. “Make them 6-1 and let’s go on the court.”
In basketball, there’s an obvious advantage to being tall, but if it were the only (or even driving) quality necessary to be great, Gheorghe Mureşan would have been a Hall of Famer.
Little guys have an advantage in quickness and bigger guys are closer to the rim. Isiah used his quickness to get by bigger defenders, while Jordan, Magic and Bird used their size to dominate smaller players.
Had MJ, Magic or Bird been 6-1 or 6-2, they still would have been great players. They wouldn’t have been as big, but that wouldn’t affect their ability to shoot the ball or find the open man. Isiah complaining about their height no different than if they complained about Isiah’s quickness. If you’re in the NBA, you’re gifted one way or another.
Thomas says in the piece that he’s terrible at public relations, and this is another example. But the guy can evaluate talent. The Knicks drafted pretty well under his tenure — David Lee, Wilson Chandler, Trevor Ariza, Channing Frye — and he helped the Raptors settle on Marcus Camby, Damon Stoudemire and Tracy McGrady. I doubt he would accept such a role, but Thomas would make a great VP of player personnel.
The article is really about Isiah’s exile, and Reiter mentions Thomas’ abilities in the area of player evaluation as a possible way back into the league:
In 2009, ESPN used the Estimated Wins Added stat, developed by respected basketball mind John Hollinger, to judge 20 years worth of general managers. Isiah was ranked the second-best evaluator of talent…
It will be interesting to see what the future holds for Isiah, who can’t seem to stay out of his own way, PR-wise. He has talents that could be useful to NBA teams, but there is so much baggage and ego that goes along with him that it just makes it easier for teams to go another direction. However, Knicks owner James Dolan does like him, so there’s always a chance that he could end up in New York again.
Just don’t let him participate in any trade discussions.