Monday, April 21, 2014

"Bad Boys" Documentary Should Shock NBA Fans Now

The 1980s-90s Pistons always had a way with
ticking off their opponents
Just got done watching ESPN's 30 for 30 documentary "Bad Boys", which follows the rise of the Detroit Pistons of the 1980s and early 1990s.  This was a particular interesting doc for me due to the fact that this is the era of NBA basketball I grew up in.

I am a Lakers fan and the Detroit Pistons have a big "bad" spot in my heart.  Not only were they the antagonist for the Lakers in probably the best NBA Finals I ever watched in 1988, their quick dismissal of the Lakers in 1989 ended an era that took a decade to reclaim.

I'm not going to go into what the documentary was about word for word, but my feelings of when it happened.  As a Lakers fan, we hated the Celtics.  So watching the Pistons knock off Boston was a sight to behold.  Figuring the Lakers were a star-studded team and the Pistons were pretty much just Isiah Thomas, a just past his prime Adrian Dantley and a bunch of role players no one had ever really heard of, this should be easy.  The Pistons were either an Isiah ankle injury or a tough call away from winning the 1988 title.

The rematch in 1989 was supposed to be just as epic.  The Lakers came into the Finals winning every playoff game in the West (the previous season saw the Lakers go the distance of 7 games in the conference semifinals and finals).  However, Byron Scott's hamstring injury knocked him out of the Finals before it started.  In Game 2, Magic Johnson also suffered a hamstring injury and played just a few more minutes before he shut it down for the series.

That's my memory as a Lakers fan.

As a basketball fan, the Pistons truly were an anomaly.  That era was a Golden Age since it was when Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan all were in the league together.  Three of the greatest players ever winning championships and defining what a champion was.  Beautiful offensive wizardry.  Yet the Pistons had that two year hiccup where a team that just dominated with defense and tough, gritty play snuck in and won some championships.  It was like that during a run when the Lakers, Celtics and Bulls won 14 of 19 championships, the Pistons just didn't belong.

But they did.

The Pistons had three Hall Of Famers on that team with Thomas, Joe Dumars and Dennis Rodman.  Adrian Dantley also is a Hall Of Famer, though he was traded during the Pistons first championship season of 1988-1989.

In hindsight, the Pistons were a stacked team as well, unlike teams we see winning titles today.  Their starting lineup was Thomas, Dumars and Rodman ... all HOFers ... as well as Rick Mahorn and Bill Laimbeer.  Mahorn and Laimbeer were tough as nails and may be the last guys who were that tough and mean in the NBA.  On the bench, they had Mark Aguirre (a former No. 1 overall pick), Vinnie Johnson (the Microwave), John Salley and James Edwards playing huge minutes and none of them were slouches.

As much as I hated them, I don't think they get the credit they deserve.  It's like the Bad Boys image was some gimmick they used to sneak in a few titles while we weren't looking.  I don't see it like that.  They could score and they used defense to win titles.  I don't see the Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl in 2000 as something gimmicky.  They were tough teams that used it to their advantage to win a ring.

What can be debated is how the league has changed since then.  In watching the doc, you are reminded that the NBA was a pretty rough league.  Punches were thrown and there would be nothing more than a foul called.  There were no flagrant fouls until the Pistons title seasons.  Guys in the NBA today couldn't handle that.  I think in the middle.  There is too much soft stuff in the NBA (I saw the officials review a "love tap" from Robin Lopez in the Portland-Houston playoff game to see if it was a flagrant foul.  TNT's Chris Webber even joked that Laimbeer would be falling out of his chair over that.)

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