Skip to content

Isiah Thomas on Karl Malone’s elbow: ‘That was the cheapest (bleep) in my mind in the history of the game’

Mar 21, 2014, 9:15 AM EDT

Isiah Thomas, as the story goes, was extremely upset John Stockton was selected to the Dream Team over him prior to the 1991-92 season. So, when the Pistons and Jazz met in November of 1991, Thomas took over, torching Stockton for 44 points.

Though he never disparaged Stockton publicly, Thomas made his point during gameplay – exactly where he should have made it.

Karl Malone, though, rebutted during the Pistons-Jazz rematch the following month with an extremely violent cheat shot.

To this day, Thomas is still bitter.

Thomas, via Terry Foster of The Detroit News:

“I think it was the dirtiest play I have experienced in the game of basketball in my life,” Thomas said of the play, which happened on a Pistons pick-and-roll with Malone rotating to cover the middle. “I don’t think I’ve seen anything as vicious and as intentional to a player. I still don’t understand it.”

“It was horrific,” Thomas said. “That was the cheapest (bleep) in my mind in the history of the game.”

Announcement: Pro Basketball Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $95,000 Fantasy Basketball league for Friday night’s games. It’s $25 to join and first prize is $10,000. Starts at 7pm ET on Friday. Here’s the FanDuel link.

There is nothing wrong with Thomas’ claims. Malone absolutely and drastically went outside the bounds of fair play. He deserves much more criticism for the incident than he’s gotten (and it’s not as if this has been ignored).

Plus, Thomas’ beef was with Stockton’s Dream Team inclusion, anyway. It had nothing to do with the much-larger Malone, a muscular power forward picking on a small point guard.

But how many times did Thomas have Bill Laimbeer or Rick Mahorn serve as enforcer for him? Sometimes, what goes around comes around.

Still, Thomas never did anything to surrender his right not to get elbowed in the face like that. Never anything close.

Twenty-three years later, Thomas clearly still resents how Malone handled the situation. Thomas can keep resenting it until the end of time. I’ll be right there with him on that.

  1. philliesblow - Mar 21, 2014 at 9:29 AM

    Kermit Washington punching Rudy Tomjanovich was probably worse, but Zeke isn’t far off.

    • spthegr8 - Mar 21, 2014 at 12:07 PM

      Well, what goes around, comes around. He was the leader of the Bad Boy’s and had the big’s (Laimbeer, Mahorn and Rodman ) do his dirty work for him. Karma can BEYOTCH!!!!

      • kb2408 - Mar 21, 2014 at 2:58 PM

        Man, you’re an idiot.

      • spthegr8 - Mar 21, 2014 at 3:03 PM

        @Kb
        Who is an idiot.??

  2. tomtravis76 - Mar 21, 2014 at 10:05 AM

    Isiah was a great player, a competitor , but the stories from too many guys around the league about him not only being a dirty player but encouraging his teammates to injure other guys tarnishes his shine a tad.

    I have my little guys basketball teams do the isiah drill to build their ball handling fundamentals. He had amazing handles.

  3. dewangibson - Mar 21, 2014 at 10:25 AM

    Regarding the lack of criticism Malone has received for the play: He’s Teflon. Ex: I still don’t understand how such a well-known player can get a teenager pregnant, not take care of the baby, and still maintain a folksy image–in Utah of all places.

    • progress2011 - Mar 21, 2014 at 4:25 PM

      What do you mean…..in Utah of all places!

      Do some research…..if the allegation is true, he can retain his “folksy image” because it’s in Utah!

  4. chunkala - Mar 21, 2014 at 10:33 AM

    Thomas was super dirty, so I’m not crying for him here. But I have one issue with this article:

    “But how many times did Thomas have Bill Laimbeer or Rick Mahorn serve as enforcer for him?”

    Why are you posing this question here? Do some research and we can see if Malone’s elbow to Thomas was actually warranted. Check game clips, etc. I’m definitely interested in the answer as i’m sure others are too.

    • bigmeechy74 - Mar 21, 2014 at 10:42 AM

      what

    • paleihe - Mar 21, 2014 at 1:05 PM

      Dude, it’s a rhetorical question.

  5. footballgod87 - Mar 21, 2014 at 11:12 AM

    Much worse than the Andrew Bynum elbow on Barea, which was cheap as well, but Malone seems to be Teflon man when it comes to the bad things he’s done

  6. chitownmatt - Mar 21, 2014 at 11:22 AM

    I remember a Bulls Magic game from the 09 season (I think) where Howard pretty much caught Rose midair with a clothesline style arm and then threw him back about 5 feet across the floor. Rose just bounced right up, so they never made a big deal out of it, but it stands out in my mind as one of the ugliest big-guy vs little-guy things I’ve ever seen.

  7. nflcrimerankingscom - Mar 21, 2014 at 11:29 AM

    Who came flying in off the sidelines (Piston)?

    • kb2408 - Mar 21, 2014 at 2:55 PM

      Dude, thanks for taking the words right out of my mouth!! I’ve been thinking the same thing for years. I was totally disgusted that Isiah’s teammates let Malone get away with that. If there was ever a time to see a full scale NBA brawl that was it. I detest Malone to this day for that dirty play. The Bad Boys played a tough, hard-nosed brand of basketball that was allowed back then. But Malone’s “play” was completely dirty. He should’ve been suspended for multiple games. Isiah could’ve been seriously injured.

  8. philtration - Mar 21, 2014 at 11:49 AM

    Says a member of one of the dirtiest teams of all time.

    Saying that Larry Bird would be considered just another average player if he were not white was a classless cheap move to Isiah.

  9. 00maltliquor - Mar 21, 2014 at 12:32 PM

    Who didn’t, as a kid playing bball in the front yard, ever use the Karl Malone flying kneecap layup with the elbow jab to the defender while saying “Mailman!” ?
    (Probably only applies roughly to people born from ’78-’86ish)

  10. azarkhan - Mar 21, 2014 at 1:01 PM

    Stockton is in the Hall of Fame with over 15,000 assists, so he clearly deserved to be on the Dream Team. So did Isiah Thomas. But the reason Thomas wasn’t on the Dream Team had nothing to do with Stockton and everything to do with Michael Jordan.

  11. 2bemoore43 - Mar 21, 2014 at 1:37 PM

    1) Kermit Washington v. Rudy Tomjonavich
    2) Shaq v. Greg Ostertag
    3) Karl Malone v. David Robinson
    Besides when you’re leader of the Bad Boys, & instigator of the Jordan-rules you kind of forfeit your right to complain about cheap shots.

  12. Maconpaaapasun - Mar 21, 2014 at 2:32 PM

    Was the cheapest shot ever. The whole team should’ve pummeled him for that. I only remember Walker going at him I believe. It was punishable by a lifetime ban. He could’ve killed him. Anything of that force around the nose area. I still can’t believe it when I see it. He was a gigantic man and Zeke was half his size. Worst ever. Never liked his play anyways but as a person I definitely didnt like him. For that and also for hitting on Kobe Bryant’s wife. He’s a classless hick.

  13. savoirlaire - Mar 21, 2014 at 2:51 PM

    I remember this, completely cheap and classless, but I am also remember of the words of the late, great, Johnny Most: “they tell me I shouldn’t say bad things about Isiah Thomas, but I don’t know why!”

  14. jayccel - Mar 21, 2014 at 4:55 PM

    A hard foul is one thing, but leaving someone (Isiah) with a bloody face is another.

    Malone was a b*tch and I’m glad his azz never won a ring. He whined as much as anyone and he was the biggest mofo out there, flopping left and right. The only thing he walked away with was an MVP one year, because the league didn’t want to keep giving it to Jordan (even though he deserved it). But still lost in the Finals.

  15. sabatimus - Mar 21, 2014 at 6:12 PM

    Nice added sound effect.

  16. weaselpuppy - Mar 21, 2014 at 7:35 PM

    So happy that Chauncey and crew could end Malone’s career with no title and lots of karma….big punk.

  17. mikerome64 - Mar 21, 2014 at 7:57 PM

    All I saw was a hard foul, something the Pistons did all the time. He just got popped in the head. Stuff happens sometimes.

  18. unfrozencavemanlawyer2 - Mar 21, 2014 at 11:14 PM

    Horrible cheap shot by Malone, no question. Done to a guy that intentionally tried to injured other players. Thomas and Laimbeer used to stick a foot out under the feet of opposing jump shooters in hopes they would land on that foot and roll an ankle. I respect hard play, but the Pistons crossed the line way too often.

    • kb2408 - Mar 22, 2014 at 12:03 AM

      Dude, please!!

  19. kavika6 - Mar 22, 2014 at 4:29 AM

    Malone was the dirtiest player in NBA history.

  20. nicofthenorthstar - Mar 23, 2014 at 1:59 AM

    “What do you mean…..in Utah of all places!

    Do some research…..if the allegation is true, he can retain his “folksy image” because it’s in Utah!”

    Nailed it!

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

Featured video

What players stood out at World Cup?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. D. Rose (3320)
  2. D. Ferry (3176)
  3. L. James (2659)
  4. J. Valanciunas (2528)
  5. K. Bryant (2347)
  1. K. Irving (2206)
  2. P. George (2017)
  3. G. Monroe (1925)
  4. C. Billups (1764)
  5. C. Anthony (1694)