It’s been 20 years, and Isiah Thomas has witnessed plenty of basketball. Of all the cheap shots Isiah has felt first-hand, or seen take place in the NBA, he believes that the elbow Karl Malone laid on him during a Pistons/Jazz game back in November of 1991 was the “dirtiest”.
“I think it was the dirtiest play I have experienced in the game of basketball in my life,” Thomas said of the play. “I don’t think I’ve seen anything as vicious and as intentional to a player. I still don’t understand it.”
I suppose to understand the play, you’d have to watch it, and understand that the association was more of a contact sport back in the early 90’s than it is today. You’d also have to understand things that happened leading up to this meeting. Isiah Thomas was famously snubbed from the Dream Team. John Stockton happened to be the point-guard who played on the team, instead of Thomas.
Isiah, being the baller he is, went out, that night, and made it known that he was superior to Stockton. Isiah had put up 44 points on John Stockton, prior to being destroyed by Malone at the rack.
Here is the play in question.
Thomas walked away gushing blood. An injury that required 47 stitches to Thomas’ head.
“My head; it was just ugly,” Thomas said. “When I got home my wife started crying. There was so much swelling on my head.”
It’s still unclear why Malone decided to inflict such brutal tactics against Thomas. Most feel like it was due to the way Isiah was scorching the Jazz (namely Stockton) that night. Others contribute thoughts that it may have been due to the image Isiah carried, or the way those particular Pistons’ teams played. The dirty reputation that was the Bad Boys.
“It was horrific,” Thomas said. “That was the cheapest (bleep) in my mind in the history of the game.”
47 stitches is a lot. Malone was ejected from the game, and the Pistons won 123-115, but Isiah is clearly still haunted by the play, which is completely understandable.