The Detroit Pistons were dominant for a period of time in the NBA and were tagged the “Bad Boys” due to their style of play and physicality. In the 1987-88 NBA season, they finished the season as Eastern Conference champions, having defeated the Boston Celtics in the EC Finals series (4-2). However, they lost the NBA Finals to the LA Lakers in a 3-4 series defeat.
Their dominance took full effect in the 1988-89 season, where they clinched the championship title after finishing the season with a 63-19 record, the best ever in franchise history. They took the Lakers yet again in an NBA Finals series and claimed victory sweeping the Lakers (4-0), with Joe Dumars winning the NBA Finals MVP Award. This led to the end of the Celtics and Lakers championship title dominance, having won a combined eight titles from 1980-1988.
The Detroit Pistons won the championship title in the 1989-90 season, winning the title twice consecutively, and Isiah Thomas clinching the NBA Finals title.
The three most prominent Detroit Pistons “Bad Boys”
The Detroit Pistons “Bad Boy” team had the likes of Isiah Thomas, Dennis Rodman, Bill Laimbeer, Joe Dumars, John Sally, Adrian Dantley and others. The team played with so much physicality, they were the team no one wanted to play against. Teams were expected to be bullied and most likely have a player or two injured before the end of the game. Below are the three most prominent players in that era in franchise history.
#1 Bill Laimbeer
Bill Laimbeer spent 15 seasons in the NBA, 13 of which he spent with the Detroit Pistons. This formed the basis of his career as he only spent two seasons in his formative basketball years with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Laimbeer was a third-round selection by the Cavaliers and a 65th overall pick in the 1979 NBA draft.
He was one of the core parts that formed the Detroit Pistons’ Bad Boys and arguably the “baddest” of them all. He would literally fight to win a game, he was brutal and the most hated for his aggressive approach to games.
Lambs is the Detroit Pistons’ all-time leader in rebounds and was the 1986 rebound champion in the league. The four-time All-Star is the fifth best all-time points leader in the franchise’s history.
#2 Isiah Thomas
The Baby-Faced Assassin, as he was fondly named, spent 13 seasons in the NBA and the entirety of that was spent with the Detroit Pistons. Isiah Thomas is the most decorated Pistons player with two NBA championship titles, 12-time All-Star, 1985 Assists Champion, three-time MVP (two All-Star Game MVP and one Finals MVP) amongst others.
Thomas was one of the Bad Boys that didn’t mind being the first to throw a punch, as he was always in the middle of every brawl on the court. Regardless of his 6-foot-1 height, he was fierce and very aggressive on the court.
Thomas was key to the Pistons’ back-to-back championship wins as he captained the team, leading the franchise in points in the playoffs for both seasons. He has a career average of 19.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and 9.3 assists and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000.
#3 Dennis Rodman
Dennis Rodman started his NBA career as the Detroit Pistons second round pick in the 1986 NBA draft. He went on to spend 14 seasons in the NBA, seven of which he spent with the Pistons winning his two championship titles in with the franchise.
Rodman was a defensive maestro for the Detroit Pistons, and he would literally do anything for a defensive rebound. He was a fierce defensive player with an amazing talent for reading the game. His tenacious defensive quality earned him the Defensive Player of the Year award in 1989 and 1990 consecutively, and Rodman is known to put his body on the line for the ball.
Despite the controversies surrounding him and his lifestyle choices, The Worm would always give 110% on the floor. He was a five-time NBA champion, seven-time rebound champion, and a two-time All-Star and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011.