Bitter nemesis keeps hitting Michael Jordan where it hurts

As The Last Dance showed us, Michael Jordan is the king of holding a grudge — but two can play at that game.

America is watching as LeBron James leads the Lakers to the verge of a 17th championship, going 3-1 up in the NBA Finals over Miami. Much like Jordan’s must-watch documentary did earlier this year, the Lakers’ run has given basketball fans another excuse — not that they need one — to debate who is the Greatest of All Time (GOAT).

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There’s no doubt in Isiah Thomas’ mind who claims that mantle, the former Detroit Pistons star putting James on the throne.

“The best and most ‘complete’ player I have seen in my lifetime is @KingJames on and off the floor,” Thomas tweeted this morning.

“He passed the eye test and the numbers confirm what my eyes have seen in every statistical category. #Goat let it be known!”

Thomas has voiced this opinion before but felt it necessary to once again sing James’ praises as the rest of the US uses the 35-year-old to chew up the news cycle ahead of Game 5 on Saturday.

It’s no surprise Thomas won’t acknowledge Jordan as the GOAT because the pair’s icy rivalry, born as the Pistons bullied the Bulls during the playoffs in the late 1980s and early 1990s, remains frosty today.

Jordan is still upset by the way Thomas and Co. reacted when the Bulls finally turned the tables and swept Detroit in the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals.

Thomas defended the actions of Pistons players who walked off the court in the final game without shaking any of the Bulls players’ hands, saying that’s just how things were done back in the day. But Jordan, speaking in The Last Dance three decades later, wasn’t willing to forgive and forget.

Isiah Thomas isn’t on Michael Jordan’s Christmas card list.Source:Getty Images

Some will never believe anyone could be better than His Airness.Source:Getty Images

“I know it’s all bulls***,” Jordan said of Thomas’ justification. “Whatever he says now, you know it wasn’t his true actions then.

“He’s had time enough to think about it or the reaction of the public that’s changed his perception of it. You can show me anything you want, there’s no way you can convince me he wasn’t an a**hole.

“Two years in a row, we shook their hands when they beat us. There was a certain respect to the game that we paid to them. That’s sportsmanship, no matter how much it hurts. And believe me, it f***ing hurt.

“But they didn’t have to shake our hands. We knew we whipped their a** already and that to me was in some ways better than winning a championship.”

The Last Dance taught us Jordan desperately wants to be known as the best basketballer the planet has ever seen, and even if Thomas won’t admit to that, the 57-year-old still has plenty of allies.

ESPN sportscaster Stephen A. Smith said James can’t be the GOAT because he’s “playing in the softest era we have ever seen in basketball”. In a piece for Deadspin, Rob Parker revealed James isn’t the huge drawcard you’d expect as TV ratings for the NBA Finals slump to rock bottom.

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What do you mean some people don’t think I’m better than Jordan?Source:AFP

“This isn’t just an explainable ratings dip. The NBA Finals, with James as the headliner, have hit rock bottom,” Parker wrote.

“This year, James, somehow, has starred in three of the lowest-rated Finals in history in the first four games.

“Fans have not embraced James and his quest to be better than Michael Jordan on the all-time scale.”

But many are also willing to stand up for James, like American TV and radio personality Nick Wright.

“If LeBron James’ career started in 2012 — erase the first eight years — if it was from 2012-now, he would still be the greatest player of all time,” Wright told Fox Sports ahead of Game 5.

“What he’s done post-Mavericks is greater than anything anyone else has done in their careers combined.”

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