The ’80s were about the Lakers vs. the Celtics. The ’90s were about Michael Jordan’s Bulls. Somewhere in between was all about the Bad Boy Pistons. The back-to-back champions marked the transition between one of the greatest rivalries ever and one of the greatest dynasties ever. But somehow, they don’t get the recognition they deserve.
It almost seems like the NBA buried that part of history. And even if some things get unburied, they’re talked about with a negative connotation. Why is that? The obvious reason is their playstyle, which tended to leave the sphere of sportsmanlike conduct. But playing in the brutal landscape that was the ’80s NBA basketball, their physical and dirty play wasn’t the thing that stuck out. Speaking out was.
We stepped out of the sports arena and started critiquing society from a race, class, gender, sport.Isiah Thomas, Club Shay Shay
Fighting against social inequality and using the championship platform to be the voice for the voiceless rubbed the league the wrong way. Talking about the NBA implementing more racial heterogeneity in terms of officials and coaches at the time was seen as controversial. Also, their critique on the NBA media, and the lack of females in the industry which directly impacted the way players were covered. The uniformity of the machinery led to stuff like this being written about them.
I grew up in the West Side of Chicago, and the first time I was called a ‘thug’ was when I was in the NBA playing for the Detroit Pistons by a white caucasian male who described me and my play as a thug and thuggish.Isiah Thomas, Club Shay Shay
Isiah and the Pistons wanting the NBA and all the related industries being more diverse initiated a backlash by the league and all the parties involved. Zeke believes this was the reason why so many disliked the Pistons. He sees it as the narrative that was perpetuated to get them off the championship platform.
Because social activism back then wasn’t as welcomed as it is today. At least the social activism Bad Boy Pistons’ name on it. That, combined with the off-putting on-court displays, and the collection of characters in that group, made them one of the most neglected championship rosters the NBA has ever seen, and it continues to be the case in today’s day and age.