I got mad at Isiah Thomas because he wasn’t talkative following a 1991 game in Salt Lake City when Utah Jazz forward Karl Malone split Thomas’ head wide open.
I thought Thomas was being an ass by not talking. What I didn’t realize is the man didn’t know where he was. He sort of stared at reporters and didn’t say much. Once I realized he didn’t know his name my anger subsided.
The internet claims that Thomas needed 40 stiches to close the cut. That’s not true. There were about 45 internal stitches and 50 external stitches. That’s nearly 100 stitches. It was that bad. His wife Lynn Thomas said doctors equated the injury to being in a 55 mile an hour car crash where the air bags do not deploy.
We always talk about how the Pistons banged up Michael Jordan on his way to being the greatest player ever. Thomas got hit way more times than Jordan. And harder. The Malone elbow was the most vicious I’ve ever seen in more than 30 years of covering sports.
Thomas was always picking himself off the floor. This time he had to be helped up before being driven to the hospital.
Thomas get leveled by Bill Cartwright, Horace Grant and even by teammates in practice. Remember he got into it with one of his best friends on the team — Bill Laimbeer.
During an early regular season game against the Jazz Thomas had ever intention to light up Jazz point guard John Stockton. I was told to watch out for some fire works from Thomas. There was a history. Stockton was picked for the 1992 United States Olympic Dream Team and Thomas was not.
Thomas was salty over the omission and he wanted to bust Stockton’s ass by out playing him every time they met. Malone knew this and wasn’t going to let his teammate get embarrassed.
So he laid out Thomas early in the game with an elbow and blood splattered all over the court. I was surprised a brawl didn’t break out. But Malone was such a big and powerful man that not even the Bad Boys wanted to mess with him.
Pistons guard Darrell Walker wanted a piece of Malone, but luckily for him officials blocked his path and ushered him to the dressing room. Or there would have been more blood. Walker’s blood.
We didn’t get many comments from Thomas that night. Once I understood why my anger subsided. He kind of sat in front of reporters, shook his head a bit and was led to the team bus.
He was still wobbly from the hit.Find Terry Foster Podcast here: