Thomas played collegiately for the Indiana Hoosiers, leading them to the 1981 NCAA championship as a sophomore and declaring for the NBA draft. He was taken as the second overall pick by the Pistons in the 1981 NBA draft, and played for them his entire career, while leading the "Bad Boys" to the 1988–89 and 1989–90 NBA championships.
After his playing career, he was an executive with the Toronto Raptors, a television commentator, an executive with the Continental Basketball Association, head coach of the Indiana Pacers, and an executive and head coach for the New York Knicks. He was later the men's basketball coach for the Florida International University (FIU) Golden Panthers for three seasons from 2009 to 2012. In early May 2015, amidst controversy, Thomas was named president and part owner of the Knicks' WNBA sister team, the New York Liberty, subsequent to the re-hiring of Thomas's former Pistons teammate, Bill Laimbeer, as the team's coach.
Thomas was born on April 30, 1961, in Chicago, Illinois, the youngest of nine children. Each morning in high school he rose at 5:00 am for the 90 minute commute from Chicago's West Side North Lawndale neighborhood to play high school basketball at the private St. Joseph High School in Westchester, Illinois for coach Gene Pingatore. During his junior year, he led St. Joseph to the State Finals and was considered one of the top college prospects in the country.
Thomas was recruited to play college basketball for Bob Knight and the Indiana Hoosiers. Although he received mail saying Knight tied up his players and beat them, he did not believe the rumors. When Knight visited the Thomas home, one of Isiah's brothers, who wanted him to attend DePaul, embarrassed him by insulting the Indiana coach and engaging him in a shouting match. Nevertheless, Thomas chose Knight and Indiana because he felt that getting away to Bloomington would be good for him, as would be Knight's discipline.
Thomas quickly had to adjust to Knight's disciplinarian style. At the 1979 Pan American Games in Puerto Rico Knight got so mad at Thomas he threatened to put him on a plane home. Knight recalled yelling at the freshman-to-be, "You ought to go to DePaul, Isiah, because you sure as hell aren't going to be an Indiana player playing like that." Prior to the start of his freshman year, the 1979–80 season, Knight became so upset with Thomas that he kicked him out of a practice. According to Thomas, Knight was making a point that no player, no "matter how talented, is bigger than Knight's philosophy."
However, Thomas quickly proved his skills as a player and became a favorite with both Knight and Indiana fans. His superior abilities eventually would cause Knight to adjust his coaching style. Fans would display bed sheets with quotations from the Book of Isaiah ("And a little child shall lead them") and nicknamed him "Mr. Wonderful." Because of Thomas' relatively short stature at 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m), coach Knight would call Thomas "Pee Wee". Thomas and Mike Woodson led the Hoosiers to the Big Ten championship and advanced to the 1980 Sweet Sixteen.
The following year, the 1980–81 season, Knight made Thomas the captain and told him to run the show on the floor. Thomas responded so positively that, as the season unfolded, Knight and Thomas grew as friends. When a Purdue player took a cheap shot at Isiah in a game at Bloomington, Knight called a press conference to defend his star. And 19 days later, when Thomas hit an Iowa player and was ejected from a game, Knight refused to criticize Thomas.
That year Thomas and the Hoosiers once again won a conference title and won the 1981 NCAA tournament, the school's fourth national title. The sophomore earned the tournament's Most Outstanding Player award, and made himself eligible for the upcoming NBA draft.
In the 1981 NBA draft, the Detroit Pistons chose Thomas with the No. 2 pick and signed him to a four-year $1.6 million contract. Thomas made the All-Rookie team and started for the Eastern Conference in the 1982 All-Star Game.
In the opening round of the 1984 NBA Playoffs, Thomas and the Pistons faced off against Bernard King and the New York Knicks. In the pivotal fifth game, Thomas was having a subpar performance, while Bernard King was having an excellent game. Thomas scored 16 points in the last 94 seconds to force the game into overtime. Isiah then fouled out in overtime, however, and the Knicks held on to win.
In the 1985 NBA Playoffs, Thomas and his team went to the conference semi-finals against the 15-time NBA champion Boston Celtics led by future basketball Hall of Famers Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, and Dennis Johnson. Detroit couldn't shake the Celtics in their six-game series, eventually losing.
In the 1987 NBA Playoffs, Thomas and the Pistons went to the Eastern Conference Finals and faced the Boston Celtics. It was the furthest the team had advanced since moving from Fort Wayne when they were the Zollner-Pistons. Detroit was able to tie the Celtics at two games apiece, but its hope of winning Game 5 at the Boston Garden was dashed by Larry Bird with just seconds remaining: Thomas attempted to quickly inbound the ball, Bird stole the pass and hit Dennis Johnson for the game-winning layup.
In 1988, the Pistons' first trip to the Finals saw them face the Los Angeles Lakers, who were led by Magic Johnson, James Worthy, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Before the series, Thomas and Johnson would exchange a courtside kiss on the cheek prior to tip-off as a sign of their deep friendship. After taking a 3–2 series lead back to Los Angeles, Detroit appeared poised to win their first NBA title in Game 6.
One of Thomas' most inspiring and self-defining moments came in Game 6. Although he had severely sprained his ankle late in the game, Thomas continued to play. While hobbling and in obvious pain, Thomas scored 25 points in a single quarter of the game, an NBA Finals record. However, the Lakers won the game 103–102 on a pair of last-minute free throws by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar following a controversial foul called on Bill Laimbeer. With Thomas unable to compete at full strength the Lakers were able to take advantage and clinched their second consecutive title in Game 7, 108–105.
In the 1988–89 season, Thomas, along with teammates Joe Dumars, Rick Mahorn, Vinnie Johnson, Dennis Rodman, James Edwards, John Salley, Bill Laimbeer, and Mark Aguirre, guided his team to a 63–19 win–loss record. Detroit played a brash and dominating brand of basketball through the playoffs that led to their nickname "Bad Boys". First they defeated Boston, which had been suffering persistent injuries. Michael Jordan and the up-and-coming Chicago Bulls fell next in the Conference Finals, setting up an NBA Finals rematch with the Lakers. This time the Pistons were dominating, sweeping the Lakers in 4 games to win their first of back-to-back championships. The following year, Thomas was voted NBA Finals Most Valuable Player of the 1990 NBA Finals after averaging 27.6 points per game, 7.0 assists per game, and 5.2 rebounds per game in Detroit's victory over Clyde Drexler's Portland Trail Blazers. The Pistons continued to play well between 1991 and 1993 but found their road back to the NBA Finals blocked by the emerging Chicago Bulls dynasty. An aging and ailing Thomas decided to end his career following the 1994 season, but a torn Achilles' tendon in April forced him off the court for good a month early.
As a point guard, Thomas was a dangerous scorer and effective leader. He was known for his dribbling ability, prowess driving to the basket, and often spectacular passing. Thomas was named to the All-NBA First team three times and is the Pistons' all-time leader in points, steals, games played and assists. He ranks seventh in NBA history in assists (9,061, 9.3 apg) and ranks fifteenth in steals (1,861). His No. 11 was retired by the Detroit Pistons.
Thomas was selected to the 1980 Olympic team, but like all American athletes he was not able to play in Moscow due to the Olympics boycott. The boycotting countries instead participated in the "Gold Medal Series", a series of games against NBA teams, a French team and the 1976 Olympic gold medal team in various U.S. cities, recording a 5–1 record (losing only to the Seattle SuperSonics). Thomas shot 22–55 from the field and 14–17 from the line. He led the U.S. in assists with 37 (the next highest total on the team was 17) and averaged 9.7 points per game. In 2007 Thomas received one of 461 Congressional Gold Medals created especially for the spurned athletes.
Despite his talent, Thomas was left off the original Olympic Dream Team, possibly as a result of an alleged feud with Michael Jordan. In the book When the Game Was Ours, Magic Johnson relates that he, Jordan and other players conspired to keep Thomas off the Dream Team.
After Tim Hardaway left the team due to injury, Thomas was named to Dream Team II for the 1994 World Championship of Basketball, but did not play due to his Achilles tendon injury that eventually led to his retirement. He was replaced by Kevin Johnson.
Isiah Thomas is the founding Chairman and CEO of Isiah International LLC, a holding company with a diverse portfolio of business ventures and investments. Gre3n Waste Removal, Re3 Recycling, and Eleven Capital Group are three of the primary businesses in the Isiah International family of companies. The mission of Isiah International is to become a business incubator for the minority community.
In addition to these business ventures, Thomas is involved in real estate projects in Chicago and the surrounding region as the owner of Isiah Real Estate. Thomas said he is putting money in distressed areas and reinvesting, "I'm hoping I can be a catalyst for change in those areas, to get the population back into those communities and be a catalyst to make a difference." Thomas is also involved in a $300 million development deal for a mixed-use complex at the Illinois Medical District Commission. Isiah Real Estate partnered with Higgins Development Partners, Thomas Samuels Enterprises, and East Lake Management & Development to develop 9.5 acres of land that would include retail space, a hotel, apartments and parking areas.
Thomas' business career began during his career with the Pistons. Planning for life after the NBA, Thomas invested in a host of ventures through his private investment company out of Michigan, Isiah Investments, LLC. His primary investment was a large chain of printing franchises, American Speedy Printing Centers Inc. Thomas took a very hands-on approach at American Speedy. He helped lead the company out of bankruptcy to become profitable and one of the largest printing franchises in the world.
He was also one of the founding members of the advisory board for Marquis Jet Partners and a partner of Dale and Thomas Popcorn.
Isiah Thomas was elected to be the first African American to sit on the Board of Governors of the Chicago Stock Exchange in April 1999 and served until 2002.
Thomas often speaks to students and professionals around the country about his business experiences.
After retiring, Thomas became part owner and Executive Vice President for the expansion Toronto Raptors in 1994. In 1998, he left the organization after a dispute with new management over the franchise's direction and his future responsibilities. During his four-year tenure with the team, the Raptors drafted Damon Stoudamire, Marcus Camby, and high schooler Tracy McGrady.
After leaving the Raptors, Thomas became a television commentator (first as the lead game analyst with play-by-play man Bob Costas and then as part of the studio team) for the NBA on NBC. Thomas also worked a three-man booth with Costas and Doug Collins.
Thomas became the owner of the Continental Basketball Association (CBA) from 1998 to 2000. An innovator and entrepreneur, Thomas founded Enlighten Sports Inc, a full-service web development group specializing in sports marketing in 1999.
When at the Continental Basketball Association, Thomas launched partnerships with Enlighten Sports and the University of Colorado and the CBA. The new websites allowed fans to watch live game webcasts, use live shot charts, chat with players and more. Thomas said the internet was "and integral part of [the CBA's] strategy to provide engaging and entertaining content for fans." Also, while Thomas was with the Continental Basketball Association he launched a partnership with SEASONTICKET.com to bring personalized video highlights and scores to fans across the country as well as be a portal for All-Star League voting. With Thomas' foresight, he realized that streaming video would be the future of news and entertainment.
In 1998, Thomas founded Isiah.com, a company serving consumers, retailers, and corporations with online gift certificates and other i-commerce products. Isiah.com's first venture was i-gift, a one-stop, online shopping service center for gift certificates. i-gift was praised for being unique because it could drive e-commerce while supporting and expanding brick-and-mortar merchants. He brought the next generation of gift certificates to The Somerset Collection in Michigan, which houses exclusive department stores and retailers. Isiah.com's mission was to "harness internet technologies and leverage business transformation processes to create new business ventures that both produce profits and benefit under-served sectors of the community." Isiah.com also had a partnership with the NBA store.
Thomas purchased the CBA for $10 million, and in 2001 the league was forced into bankruptcy and folded, shortly after NBA Commissioner David Stern decided to create his own development league, the NBDL, to replace the CBA.
From 2000 to 2003, Thomas coached the Indiana Pacers, succeeding Larry Bird, who previously coached the Pacers to the Eastern Conference title. Thomas attempted to bring up young talents such as Jermaine O'Neal, Jamaal Tinsley, Al Harrington, and Jeff Foster. However, under Thomas the Pacers were not able to stay at the elite level as they went through the transition from a veteran-dominated, playoff-experienced team to a younger, less experienced team. In Thomas's first two seasons with the Pacers, the team was eliminated in the first round by the Philadelphia 76ers and the New Jersey Nets, both of whom eventually made the NBA Finals.
In his last year with the Pacers, Thomas guided the Pacers to a 48–34 record in the regular season and coached the Eastern Conference team at the 2003 NBA All-Star Game. As the third seed, the Pacers were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the sixth-seeded Boston Celtics. With blossoming talents such as Jermaine O'Neal, Brad Miller, Ron Artest, Al Harrington and Jamaal Tinsley, along with the veteran leadership of Reggie Miller, the perception existed that the Pacers' unfulfilled potential stemmed from Thomas' inexperience as a coach. In the offseason, Larry Bird returned to the Pacers as President of Basketball Operations, and his first act was to replace Thomas with Rick Carlisle.
In 2000, Thomas was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.
On December 22, 2003, the New York Knicks hired Thomas as President of Basketball Operations. Thomas was ultimately unsuccessful with the Knicks roster and fanbase. At the end of the 2005–06 season, the Knicks had the highest payroll in the league and the second-worst record. He traded away several future draft picks to Chicago in a deal for Eddy Curry including what turned out to be two lottery picks in talent-rich drafts, which were LaMarcus Aldridge, and Joakim Noah.
On June 22, 2006, the Knicks fired coach Larry Brown, and owner James Dolan replaced him with Thomas under the condition that he show "evident progress" or be fired.
During the following season the Knicks became embroiled in a brawl with the Denver Nuggets, which Thomas allegedly instigated by ordering his players to commit a hard foul in the paint. However, he was not fined or suspended. NBA Commissioner David Stern said that he only relied on "definitive information" when handing out punishments. Later in the season, nine months after James Dolan demanded "evident progress", the Knicks re-signed Thomas to an undisclosed "multi-year" contract. After Thomas was granted the extension, the Knicks abruptly fell from playoff contention with a dismal finish to the season.
During the 2007 Draft, Thomas made another trade by acquiring Zach Randolph, Fred Jones, and Dan Dickau from the Portland Trail Blazers for Steve Francis and Channing Frye.
Thomas also compounded the Knicks' salary cap problems by signing fringe players such as Jerome James and Jared Jeffries to full mid-level exception contracts. Neither player saw any significant playing time and both were often injured and highly ineffective when able to play.
Despite the constant criticism that he received from Knicks fans, Thomas maintained that he had no intention of leaving until he turned the team around and he predicted that he would lead the Knicks to a championship, stating that his goal was to leave behind a "championship legacy" with the Knicks, just as he had done for the Detroit Pistons. This prediction was met with widespread skepticism.
On April 2, 2008, Donnie Walsh was introduced to replace Thomas as President of Basketball Operations for the Knicks. Walsh would not comment definitively on whether or not Thomas would be retained in any capacity at the time of his hiring.
One night after the Knicks tied a franchise record of 59 losses and ended their season, news broke that in talks with Walsh the week before, Thomas had been told he would not return as Knicks head coach the following season. He was officially "reassigned" on April 18 "after a season of listless and dreadful basketball, a tawdry lawsuit and unending chants from fans demanding his dismissal." Thomas posted an overall winning percentage of .341 as head coach of the Knicks, fifth lowest in team history. As part of the reassignment agreement, Thomas was to serve as a consultant to the team, reporting directly to Walsh. However, he was banned from having contact with any Knicks' players under the rationale that he could willingly or unwillingly undermine the new head coach.
On April 14, 2009, Thomas accepted an offer to become the head basketball coach of FIU, replacing Sergio Rouco after five losing seasons. Thomas announced that he would donate his first year's salary back to the school. Thomas was quoted as saying, "I did not come here for the money."
After posting a 7–25 record in his first season at FIU, on August 6, 2010, Thomas announced that he was taking a job as consultant to the New York Knicks, while keeping his position as head coach at FIU. According to the New York Daily News, "nearly every major media outlet panned the announcement of Thomas' hire", and it led to a "public outcry" among fans. In a reversal on August 11, Thomas announced that he would not be working with the Knicks because holding both jobs violated NBA by-laws.
Thomas finished his second season at FIU with an 11–19 record (5–11 in conference games). On April 6, 2012, Thomas was fired at FIU, after he went 26–65 in three seasons. Under Thomas, FIU never won more than 11 games in a season.
On December 19, 2012, NBA TV announced that Thomas would begin work on December 21, 2012 as a member of the studio analyst panel. It was also announced that Thomas would become a regular contributor for NBA.com.
On May 5, 2015, the WNBA New York Liberty hired Thomas as Team President overseeing all business and basketball operations of the franchise.
On June 22, 2015, the Liberty and the WNBA agreed to suspend consideration of Isiah Thomas' ownership application; however, Isiah will remain President of the team overseeing all basketball and business operations of the franchise.
Under Thomas' leadership as team president and the skilled coaching staff led by Bill Laimbeer as head coach, the Liberty finished first in the Eastern Conference during the 2015 season.
On August 2, 2015, during halftime at the game against the Seattle Storm, the New York Liberty inducted WNBA legend Becky Hammon into the Liberty's Ring of Honor. Thomas presented Hammon with her ring during the induction ceremony at Madison Square Garden. Hammon, a former New York Liberty point guard is currently an NBA assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs.
In 2016, Thomas announced that he was the exclusive United States importer of the Cheurlin Champagne brand through, ISIAH Imports, a subsidiary of ISIAH International, LLC. Cheurlin Champagne made its debut in the United States at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, PA. Other activations have included a private luncheon honoring former President Bill Clinton, and Cheurlin recently debuted at The Palace of Auburn Hills for the final season of the Detroit Pistons at the historic arena. Cheurlin produces two champagne categories: Cheurlin's Brut Speciale and Rose de Saignee; and Cheurlin Thomas' "Celebrite" Blanc de Blanc, and "Le Champion" Blanc de Noir.
Thomas finished his college degree at Indiana University during the Pistons' off seasons and received his Master's in Education from the University of California at Berkeley in 2013. At UC Berkeley, Thomas studied the connection between education and sports, specifically how American society makes education accessible (or inaccessible) to black male college athletes.
During his playing career, Thomas paid college tuition for more than 75 youngsters. When he was a Piston, in 1987 Thomas organized the "No Crime Day" in Detroit. He even had the help of Detroit Mayor Coleman Young to call for a moratorium on crime in the summer of 1986.
Also in 1987 Thomas posed for a poster sponsored by the American Library Association with the caption "READ: Isiah Thomas for America's Libraries". Thomas is shown dressed in a Sam Spade type outfit while reading a detective novel.
Thomas founded Mary's Court, a foundation that supports economically disadvantaged parents and children in the communities of Garfield Park and Lawndale on the West Side of Chicago. The charity is named for Thomas's mother, who he credits with instilling in him the importance of hard work and giving back to the community. Mary's Court has teamed up with another Chicago-based charity, Kids off the Block, to serve meals to Chicago children and families during Thanksgiving.
While at FIU, Thomas and Mary's Court donated $50,000 to FIU's First Generation Scholarship and organized a sell-out charity game during the NBA lockout featuring NBA stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, with proceeds benefiting Mary's Court. A street on Chicago's West Side was named in honor of his mother.
The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boys & Girls Club of Chicago recognized Thomas's philanthropic work in March 2012 and honored him with the organization's King Legacy Award at their 24th Annual King Legacy Awards Gala. The award is given annually to individuals who have fostered the principles of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through their community contributions.
In July 2012, Thomas joined The Black Men's Roundtable in Florida along with other national and local black leaders to discuss issues that directly affect black males.
The Peace League is an annual community basketball league that brings together young men and women from surrounding communities within the Chicago area and provides a safe haven growth and development; it was established by Thomas and Father Pfleger in 2011. In September 2012, Thomas co-hosted the Ballin' for Peace Tournament at St. Sabina Church in Chicago. He joined with Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Quentin Richardson, Zach Randolph, the Chicago Bears' J'Marcus Webb, pastor Father Michael Pfleger, and others to produce this event, in order to reduce gang violence through communication and basketball. Thomas also stressed the value of education for those in poverty.
The Peace League initiative has expanded into a program which now offers GED classes, employment training, and internship opportunities. The surrounding Auburn-Gresham neighborhood has seen a drastic drop in violence since the league began.
Most recently, the Peace League Tournament was expanded to New York City during the 2015 NBA All-Star Weekend. The New York City Peace Game featured over 50 players from across all five Boroughs that competed in a tournament as well as a brief speaking program with some special guests, supporters and participating organizations at the Harlem PAL that included Harry Belafonte of Sankofa.org, Help USA, Cure Violence, and Connor Sports.
In March 2013, Children Uniting Nations, an organization that focuses on advocacy/awareness and provides academic and community-based programs for at-risk and foster youth, presented Thomas and Mary's Court with the Lifetime Achievement Award for his passion and commitment to improving the lives of children.
In partnership with the Marillac Social Center, Thomas and Mary's Court hosted its Third Annual Holiday Toy Giveaway. Each year Mary's Court provides gifts, clothing and educational items to hundreds of children in Chicago at this signature event.
On February 13, 2017, Thomas was presented the AT&T Humanity of Connection Award during its annual Black History Month celebration in honor of Lewis H. Latimer at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. He was honored for his historic achievements in sports and his countless contributions to the African American community as a leader in the sports, business and philanthropic industries.
Isiah Lord Thomas III was the son of Isiah II and Mary Thomas and the youngest of seven boys and two girls of the couple. Isiah's father was an army veteran wounded in the Battle of Saipan. He later attended trade school, eventually becoming the first black supervisor at International Harvester in Chicago. When the plant closed, the only work he could find was as a janitor and the family fell into hardship and Isiah II left when Isiah was a young child. Thomas grew up in the heart of Chicago's West Side ghetto. After their parents' separation, he lived with his mother Mary. Born a Baptist, Mary turned the family toward Catholicism.
Thomas was a basketball prodigy from age three and was tutored by his older brothers, some of whom were good basketball players in their own right. Although most coaches in the Chicago area considered him too small to have any significant impact on a basketball program, Thomas's brothers persuaded coach Gene Pingatore of St. Joseph High School to arrange a sports scholarship for Isiah.
Thomas met his future wife Lynn Kendall, the daughter of a Secret Service agent and a nurse, in the early 1980s while they were both attending Indiana University. The couple married in 1985.
Thomas graduated from Indiana University with a B.A. in 1987. Isiah Thomas and Lynn Kendall had a son Joshua born in 1988 and a daughter Lauren born in 1991. Thomas allegedly has a third son from an earlier liaison, Marc Dones born in 1986.
Joshua "Zeke" Thomas is openly gay. He came out to his parents in 2008 when he was 20 years old. Josh said in an exclusive interview with ABC's show Good Morning America he was raped in 2000 when he was just 12 years old. He also talked about a later rape case in a separate incident in 2016. He said he decided to go public about the cases in an effort to help others and appeared in a new PSA released by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) for "Sexual Assault Awareness Month". Thomas is an ambassador for the NSVRC. Although Josh was a good basketball and football player, he preferred to launch a career in music. Known as DJ Zeke Thomas, he released his debut single "Regret" in 2014.
Isiah Thomas founded Isiah International LLC, an investment holdings company, with Thomas as Chairman and CEO. It runs five companies: Isiah Real Estate, a development firm specializing in commercial properties; TAND Properties, a property management firm, private equity and asset management firm; Isiah Marketing, Advertising and Public Relations; and GRE3N Waste Removal. Thomas also co-owns the waste removal's sister company, RE3 Recycling, with his daughter, Lauren Thomas.
Isiah Thomas was involved in allegations about gambling, an accusation outlined in the 1997 book Money Players.
Two months before Thomas' marriage to Lynn Kendall in 1985, Jenni Dones, a woman from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan filed a paternity lawsuit against Thomas claiming that she was pregnant after having had three- or four-month "intimate, exclusive, ongoing relationship" with him. A child, Marc E.T. Dones was born in 1986. After a long-running legal dispute, Thomas agreed to pay a settlement of about $52,000, provide a monthly payment of $2,765 a month until Marc Dones reached 18, with Marc getting a final lump-sum amount of $100,000 at 18 years. In a later case filed by Dones in 1995, she was able to get an additional financial support for her son and his college education. Marc E.T. Dones is an aspiring writer and poet who has been described by the online literary site, thedetroiter.com, as "a talented writer and poet", a talent he apparently shares with Thomas who loves poetry.
In the 1985 NBA All-Star Game, Thomas was joined on the Eastern Conference squad by star rookie Michael Jordan. Jordan wound up attempting nine shots, relatively few for a starting player. Afterward, Thomas and his fellow veteran East players were accused of having planned to "freeze out" Jordan from their offense by not passing him the ball, supposedly out of spite over the attention Jordan was receiving. No player involved has ever confirmed that the freeze-out occurred, but the story has long been reported and has never been refuted by Jordan. Thomas has ridiculed the idea of him being the mastermind behind a supposed freeze-out as "ludicrous", pointing out that he was a relatively young player on a team that included Larry Bird, Julius Erving and Moses Malone. During Michael Jordan's Hall of Fame induction, in which Thomas introduced John Stockton, who was also being inducted, Jordan dismissed the claims about a freeze-out having taken place, saying "I was just happy to be there, being the young guy surrounded by all these greats, I just wanted to prove myself and I hope that I did prove myself to you guys."
In 1987, Thomas was asked if he agreed with Dennis Rodman's comments on Larry Bird, and reinforced that if Bird were black he "would be just another good guy" instead of being portrayed as the league's best player. Thomas later said he was joking and just supporting his teammate.
In the Eastern Conference Finals of the 1991 NBA Playoffs, the two-time defending champion Detroit Pistons faced the Jordan-led Chicago Bulls in the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. The Pistons had defeated the Bulls in each of the first three meetings, but this time they suffered a four-game sweep at the hands of the Bulls (who would win the first of three consecutive, and six overall, NBA championships between 1991 and 1998). The series was marked by a number of verbal, physical, and match-up problems. With 7.9 seconds remaining in the fourth game, Laimbeer organized the walk-out and Thomas and all of his teammates—except Joe Dumars and John Salley—walked off the court, refusing to shake hands with the members of the Bulls. In 1992, Thomas was passed over for the Dream Team apparently because of his strained relationship with Jordan.
In September 2009, during Michael Jordan's Hall of Fame acceptance speech, Jordan thanked Thomas and others for giving him the motivation he needed to compete in the NBA.
In January 2006, a former female executive filed an employment and harassment lawsuit against The Madison Square Garden Company. The case was then settled for $11.5 million.
On October 24, 2008, Thomas was taken to White Plains Hospital Center near his New York City area home after accidentally taking an overdose of Lunesta, a form of sleep medication. He was released from the hospital later that day.
According to Thomas in an interview with ESPN, he explained that he was so quiet about his hospitalization because he was focused on his family at the time.