The fact that Isiah Thomas is one of the greatest NBA players of all time is nothing new to Detroit Pistons fans. However, exactly how high he should be ranked, compared to all the other big names in the NBA, is still up for debate. A publication has decided that Thomas is the 26th best player in NBA history.
At a time when the Pistons aren’t making many current highlights, it’s nice to look back and remember the greatest player in franchise history (sorry George Yardley fans).
Judging past players is an inexact science, as the NBA game has changed over the years. There was a time when there was no 24-second clock, and it was decades before the three-point shot was instituted. The best players are the product of their time and the rules.
For many years it was thought that dominant crosses were necessary to win a title, but the current emphasis on three-point shooting has put an end to that. The starting centers for the past two NBA champions were Brooke Lopez and 35-year-old Dwight Howard. No one would call them dominant players at this stage of their career.
A few years ago, Andre Drummond was considered one of the best pivots in the NBA. Where did that get the Pistons?
On the other end, a great shooter like Steph Curry wouldn’t have been such a great star playing for the Warriors in, say, 1952 when there was no three-point line and no shot clock.
Curry would still have been good, but he wouldn’t have had the impact on a game like, say, George Mikan (ranked No. 35), a slow-footed center for the Lakers, but who was highly skilled.
So, comparing players from different eras can be a difficult task, as different things were asked of them.
As the NBA celebrates its 75th anniversary (although some disagree that it really is the 75th), the paid membership site Athleticism asked a panel of 15 basketball writers and editors to list the top 75 players in NBA history.
It was recently revealed that Pistons legend Isiah Thomas is ranked No. 26 (PAID SUBSCRIPTION REQUIRED).
To note: Dennis Rodman was voted No. 62 and Chris Webber was 65th, among former Pistons named so far. (Allen Iverson and Bob McAdoo, who each had brief moments with Detroit, are also in)
‘Zeke’ has many credentials as an all-time great: 12 All-Star appearances, 1990 NBA Finals MVP after averaging 27.6 points, 7.0 assists and 1.6 steals , Sporting News Rookie of the Year in 1982, five-time NBA All-Selection. Thomas, to date is the career leader in 12 categories for the Pistons.
Thomas and Game 6 of the 1988 NBA Finals
His greatest moment has been mentioned prominently. It’s good to remember what Thomas did in Game 6 of the 1988 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Playing on a badly sprained ankle for much of the second period, Thomas scored 25 points in the third period and had a total of 43 points to force a Game 7.
The 6-foot-1 Thomas, the second pick in the 1981 draft, brought a toughness to the Pistons that became the team’s culture as more players of similar talent and temperament were added. The “Bad Boys” played in three NBA Finals and won two titles (1989, 1990).
It was pointed out that Detroit, before Thomas arrived, had been a non-competitor for so long.
Detroit made the playoffs in 1984, Thomas’ third season. It was the first time in seven years that the Pistons even made the playoffs (and making the NBA playoffs isn’t that hard).
Detroit reached the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals, losing to the Larry Bird-led Celtics in seven games (we not touching Thomas’ inbound pass at the end of game five). It was also the first time the Pistons played in a conference final in 25 years.
(And in 1962 it was the Western Finals, falling in six games to the Elgin Baylor/Jerry West Lakers. At that time, Detroit was one of the most Western cities in the NBA).
It should also be pointed out that the Pistons in the Thomas era had to beat legendary players and teams to achieve playoff success. First the Magic Johnson-led Celtics and Lakers, then the Michael Jordan-era Chicago Bulls.
While there were plenty of other great players on those title teams, the Pistons took inspiration from Thomas. It would be 2003 before Detroit made another conference final, using Thomas’ style of play, solid defense and smart aggressive action to achieve a new era of success.
Anyone who was a Pistons fan back then doesn’t have to be told that Isiah Thomas was one of the greatest players of all time. And those who are too young to see him have no doubt heard a lot about him.
Isiah Thomas is one of the greatest players in the NBA, how he is considered something every fan can think of.