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Isiah Thomas Vehemently Defends Himself from Stephen A. Smith’s ‘Disrespectful’ ‘GOAT Playoff Runs by Small Guards’ List

Jay Mahesh Lokegaonkar

Isiah Thomas Vehemently Defends Himself From Stephen A Smith's 'Disrespectful' GOAT Playoff Runs By Small Guards List

On a recent episode of NBA Countdown, Stephen A. Smith created a list of the top-five playoff runs by undersized guards to essentially honor Jalen Brunson’s incredible performances during these playoffs. The Knicks guard unsurprisingly took the top spot, while Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard, Stephen Curry, and Allen Iverson rounded up the top five. Smith’s list snubbed Isiah Thomas‘ exceptional run with the Detroit Pistons in the 1989 and 1990 playoffs, and the Hall of Famer had plenty to say about that.

In a telephonic conversation with SiriusXM NBA Radio, Thomas made his case for having the best playoff run by an undersized guard. He defended himself from Smith’s snub, saying,

“Whenever they talk about the greatest players to ever the game, they list these four in the top six or seven: [Larry] Bird, Magic [Johnson], [Michael] Jordan, Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar]… Well, my team beat all of them… I don’t know if you can get a better playoff run than beating those four, who arguably, people say, are in the top 10 to ever play. So, I’ll leave it at that.”

While Thomas is factually correct, the purpose of Smith’s list, as per the ESPN analyst, was a bit different from just listing out the best small guards. The analyst compiled a list of the best runs by small guards in a single playoff setting.

The 1989 Pistons upstaged the Larry Bird-less Boston Celtics and Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in the East playoffs, before beating Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals. While Thomas led the team in points and assists, he had ample support in Joe Dumars, who won the Finals MVP.

The following year, the Pistons only faced Jordan and the Bulls among the teams Thomas listed in his justification en route to their second-straight NBA title. While he did win the Finals MVP, Detroit’s run wasn’t as difficult or impressive as the previous season.

Smith based his list solely on individual performances by an undersized guard, rather than how well the team played. That explains why Brunson, who recorded four 40-point performances in an eight-game span, is on the list despite the Knicks losing in the second round.

Thomas was critical in helping the Pistons win back-to-back titles and played exceptionally, but, per Smith’s criterion, his numbers don’t warrant a place in the top five. But that hasn’t stopped him from pleading his case on social media.

Isiah Thomas advocates for his legacy

When Michael Wilbon called out Stephen A. Smith for leaving Isiah Thomas off his list, the latter had claimed that the Pistons icon would understand why he was snubbed. He was wrong.

Thomas is miffed about being left off Smith’s list and is voicing his frustration on social media with posts about his performance in the playoffs. He posted a graphic about his steals record in a single playoff run and captioned it, “Defense wins championships.

However, the Pistons did not win the championship in 1988, when the guard set the record. They lost in the NBA Finals against Magic, Kareem, and the Lakers. Regardless, Thomas feels he should be on the list and is voicing his case anywhere he can. Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that Smith will redact his list and post a new one with the Hall of Famer on it.

Post Edited By:Satagni Sikder

About the author

Jay Mahesh Lokegaonkar

Jay Mahesh Lokegaonkar


Jay Lokegaonkar is a basketball journalist who has been following the sports as a fan 2005. He has worked in a slew of roles covering the NBA, including writer, editor, content manager, social media manager, and head of content since 2018. However, his primary passion is writing about the NBA. Especially throwback stories about the league's iconic players and franchises. Revisiting incredible tales and bringing scarcely believable stories to readers are one his main interests as a writer.

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