Detroit Pistons: The 5 Baddest Boys of the Bad Boys Era
If you weren’t a Detroit Pistons fan in the late '80s and early '90s then you undoubtedly hated the “Motor City Bad Boys.”
And that’s how we like it.
Led by a physically aggressive, defense-orientated core of players, the Detroit Pistons literally fought their way to back-to-back NBA championships in ’89 and ’90.
And when it came to defending the “Bad Boys” moniker, no player was safe.
Not Barkley, not Bird and especially not Michael Jordan.
Detroit’s initial inability to successfully defend “His Airness” led to Pistons head coach Chuck Daly instituting the “Jordan Rules.”
Daly vowed that Jordan himself would never defeat the Pistons again.
Essentially the “Jordan Rules” indicated that No. 23 was to be stopped by any means necessary.
Ultimately, it was this mentality to win by any means necessary that allowed the Detroit Pistons to steamroll opponents.
The 1988-89 and 1989-90 Detroit Pistons teams are considered by most to be some of the greatest in NBA history. The ‘88-'89 Pistons dominated the regular season, finishing with a 63-19 record.
The “Bad Boys” were largely responsible for the demise of the great Lakers and Celtics teams of the '80s.
The Pistons defeated the Los Angeles Lakers for the organization's first championship in 1989. Prior to the ’89 championship, the Lakers and Celtics combined for eight total NBA championships from 1980-1988.
Neither the Los Angeles Lakers nor the Boston Celtics would win an NBA championship again until Shaq and Kobe combined to win the Lakers a championship in 2000.
The world hated the "Bad Boys" and here are five reasons why.
5. John Salley
Pistons Era: 1986-1992
Uniform Number: 22
Position: Center/Power Forward
At a long 6’11", former Pistons first-round draft pick John “Spider” Salley ruled the paint.
Salley was a defensive juggernaut in Detroit, and is among the Pistons' all-time leaders in shots blocked.
No one was safe from the “Spider.”
Though John Salley wasn’t the Laimbeer or Rodman type in regard to ruthless aggressiveness, he made this list because of the specific role he played with the team.
Salley was of sound mind at all times and was heavily relied on to rope in some of the other eccentric personalities that the Pistons boasted in that era.
Salley made this list because back in those days it took a real “Bad Boy” to dominate the paint, and that’s exactly what John Salley did.
4. Isiah Thomas
Pistons Era: 1981-1994
Uniform Number: 11
Position: Point Guard
Don’t let Isiah’s small stature fool you.
In 1996, the NBA selected Isiah Thomas as one of the 50 greatest players ever to play the game.
As Pistons team captain, Thomas was instrumental in Detroit’s back-to-back championships.
At only 6’2", Isiah Thomas played with great intensity, and he refused to be bullied.
Thomas played with a no-fear mentality throughout his career and Detroit, and you could find him at the center of most on-court altercations.
One thing that the “Bad Boys” era taught us is that Isiah Thomas isn’t afraid to throw the first punch.
3. Rick Mahorn
Pistons Era: 1985-1989, 1996-1998
Uniform Number: 44
Position: Center/Power Forward
Rick Mahorn was considered to be one of the baddest boys of them all.
He was never considered a spectacular athlete, but what he lacked in athletic ability he made up for in physical tenacity.
Mahorn was infamous for his ability to wreak havoc both on and off the court.
I think that you can attribute much of Dennis Rodman’s antics later in his career to his time under the tutelage of Rick Mahorn during their time together in Detroit.
Mahorn’s suspensions due to physicality didn’t end with his days as a “Motor City Bad Boy.”
In 2008 Mahorn served as the assistant coach for the WNBA Detroit Shock. During a game against the Los Angeles Sparks, he attempted to break up an on-court altercation between members of the two teams. In doing so, Mahorn yet again receive a league-imposed suspension, as he inadvertently pushed Lisa Leslie to the ground, in an attempt to restrain the Sparks center.
The brawl between the teams is commonly referred to as the “Malice at The Palace II.”
The WNBA suspended Mahorn for two games for “escalating the altercation.”
Mahorn is listed at No. 3 because he was only a member of one of the two back-to-back championships.
2. Dennis Rodman
Pistons Era: 1986-1993
Uniform Number: 10
Position: Power Forward
Dennis Rodman was universally known for his fierce defensive and rebounding abilities.
He was an absolute menace for opposing teams, and completely tenacious in his pursuit of the basketball.
It didn’t take him long to establish himself as a preeminent defensive talent, earning consecutive Defensive Player of the Year awards while playing for the Pistons in '89-’90 and '90-’91.
He played the game with a controlled sense of reckless abandon, night in and night out he put his body on the line.
Rodman played many roles for the Detroit Pistons—instigator, intimidator, rebounder, scorer—it didn’t matter. He did whatever he had to do to help the Pistons win the game.
Rodman’s effort and approach to each game always remained the same, regardless of importance.
He played outside of himself, and welcomed the challenge of defending opposing teams' greatest superstars.
Dennis Rodman was the embodiment of the “Bad Boy” image, and went down as a Detroit Pistons great.
1. Bill Laimbeer
Pistons Era: 1982-1993
Uniform Number: 40
Bill Laimbeer was a man of war. He literally fought tooth and nail during his time with the Detroit Pistons, and was the baddest of the “Bad Boys.”
LeBron James knows no hate like Laimbeer endured during his career. In fact, I would go so far as to say that people outside of Detroit loathed Bill Laimbeer.
He was rough, dirty and everything that we loved and others hated.
No one in the history of the NBA played with more fire and desire than Bill Laimbeer.
His antagonistic demeanor and physical play were the source of countless on-court altercations.
For the most part, it was his contributions defensively that made Laimbeer a four-time NBA All-Star.
But it was his offensive prowess that is often overlooked.
Laimbeer finished his career in Detroit as one of the organization's top five all-time scorers in team history.
Laimbeer is also the Pistons' all-time leading rebounder.