When we think about all the great teams, there are a few characteristics they all have in common. They have superstars. They have personality. They are loved (or hated depending on who you ask). They are historically significant. They are respected among fans and peers. And of course, they are champions. There is one team in the history of the NBA that embodies these characteristics more than any other we’ve ever seen. They rarely get the respect they deserve. They are often overlooked when talking about the greatest teams ever when in all actuality, they altered the course of history in the NBA and as far as I am concerned, the most important team ever in the league. Who is that team? The Bad Boys. The Detroit Pistons.
During a time when Magic and Bird were ruling the NBA and a young guy named Michael Jordan was terrorizing teams, the Pistons were right there in the thick of things. They beat Bird, Magic and MJ in the playoffs en route to back to back championships. They basically implemented the zone defense (They called it the Jordan Rules) and their tenacious play and physicality forced Mike to evolve as a basketball player in order to beat them. Just think about this group for a second. They revolutionized basketball. The first team to do it strictly their way. And what burned people up the most was that they were successful. They had a cultural impact on the league that hadn’t been felt before and probably never will be felt again.
Let’s think about if the Bad Boys never existed. Magic or Bird would have had at least one more championship, a piece of MJ’s mystique would be lost (the aforementioned implementation of the Jordan Rules), he also probably would have not been pushed that hard by any other team. Those three things there are critical to how we retroactively view those players. I’m not giving them credit for Michael’s greatness but they are a part of the story nonetheless.
Also, the Bad Boys were the first goon team. Before them, teams had one or two players who were enforcers. Their whole team were enforcers. They were bullies. That helped them to be successful. They had that “Mike Tyson” aura about them so to speak. They’d have you thinking about protecting yourself before you thought about attacking them. It was a new brand of basketball. When we played basketball every so often, a buddy of mine would say “Aye, no lay up rule.” and I always knew exactly what he meant lol. The Bad Boys had a perpetual “no lay up rule”. No easy buckets. You had to earn everything the hard way against them. They were the ultimate competitors.
And last but not least, they might have evoked more emotion out of NBA fans than any other team in existence. If you lived in Detroit, you loved them. If you lived anywhere else you hated them lol. A lot of the vitriol and hate towards them was a result of how they tormented the world’s favorite players. Made life extremely hard for Magic, Michael and Bird. The best part about this is they didn’t care. They could never exist in today’s NBA and they are most likely indirectly responsible for the climate of the league today. They started bucking the system and doing their own thing. They didn’t back down from anyone or anything and they wanted to make sure playing against them was the worst experience of your life.
Love them or hate them, you had to respect them. The Bad Boys. The most important team in the history of the NBA.