Shining Light on Isiah Thomas, Detroit Pistons Memorable "Bad Boys" Era

Mike B.Correspondent IJuly 18, 2010

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, I resided in Jackson, Michigan, a town located nearly 80 miles west of Detroit.

Back then, all I would hear about was the Detroit Pistons. Isiah Thomas this. Joe Dumars this. Bill Laimbeer this.

Everybody sported Pistons gear, whether it was the the team's famous colors—blue, red, and white—or "Bad Boy" black.

I fondly remember owning a grey t-shirt which featured a few of the players and Coach Chuck Daly riding on the top of an airplane. I believe the shirt read "Detroit Pistons, Back-to-Back Champs" or something of that nature.

In those days, I had just begun to get into sports so the Pistons became my first favorite team. That's kind of funny since I later became a huge fan of the Chicago Bulls, the Pistons' hated rival.

Oh well.

The Pistons of the late 80s and early 90s, nicknamed the "Bad Boys" because of their physical play on the court, are considered by many to be one of the most unforgettable teams in NBA history.

The famous squad began to be built in 1981, when the Pistons drafted University of Indiana guard Isiah Thomas with the second overall pick.

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

Thomas would go to become the team's undisputed leader and one of the greatest NBA point guards ever. 

Also in '81, the Pistons acquired guard Vinnie Johnson, who would later emerge as the team's main weapon off the bench. He would be nicknamed "The Microwave" by Danny Ainge because he could heat up in a hurry.

The Pistons later picked up Laimbeer in a trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers midway through the 1981-82 campaign. Laimbeer became a Pistons fan favorite, but was hated throughout the league because of his ability to get into opponents' heads.

After the Isiah-led Pistons missed the playoffs two consecutive seasons, the team hired Daley as its head coach in 1983. The Hall of Famer proved to be just what the doctor ordered—guiding the Pistons to the postseason in his first season with the club.

In 1985, Detroit drafted future Hall of Famer and current Pistons' President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars with the 18th overall pick and traded for the "Baddest Bad Boy" Rick Mahorn.

Then-Pistons General Manager Jack McCloskey continued his remarkable team-building skills by drafting both Dennis Rodman and John "Spider" Salley in 1986.

Rodman became known for his rebounding, while Salley was the goggle-wearing shot-blocking specialist.

After being eliminated by the Boston Celtics in the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals, the Pistons reached the NBA Finals in 1988, only to lose to Earvin "Magic" Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers in seven games.  

Detroit, however, would get their revenge against the Lakers.

The Pistons shipped Adrian Dantley to Dallas for Mark Aguirre in February 1989 and went on to sweep the Lakers that year for their first ever NBA title. Dumars was named Finals MVP after averaging 27.3 points per game for the series. 

The Pistons repeated as NBA champs in '90 over the Portland Trail Blazers as Vinnie Johnson knocked down the game-winning 14-foot jumper in Game Five of the series.

Thomas, who averaged 27.6 points, seven assists, and 5.2 rebounds per game, was voted Finals MVP.  

That, however, would be the Bad Boys' last championship.

In 1991, the Pistons were defeated in the Eastern Conference Finals by Michael Jordan's Bulls—the team that just couldn't find a way to get past Detroit the previous three seasons.

Over the next few years, key members of the Bad Boys went their separate ways. Daly left town, Thomas and Laimbeer retired, and Rodman and Salley were both traded.   

Dumars decided to stick around for several more years and eventually teamed with youngsters like Grant Hill, Allan Houston, and Lindsey Hunter before retiring from the game in 1999. 

Dumars, of course, built another great Pistons team in the 2000s led by Ben Wallace, Chauncey Billups, and Rip Hamilton, but that squad never quite compared to the legendary Bad Boys.