There is no team in NBA history that got more hate, scrutiny, and critique from the NBA world than the Detroit Pistons in the 1980s', nicknamed the "Bad Boys." They were one of the best teams of the golden era of NBA basketball, appearing in the Finals for three consecutive seasons and winning two championships. But the rugged and physical style of play the Pistons displayed didn't win them much love from fans and especially rivals.
Salley defends his team
The core of the team was constant, being led by the legendary Isiah Thomas and a bunch of great players that fit perfectly into the system, like Joe Dumars, Bill Laimbeer, Dennis Rodman, Mark Aguirre, James Edwards, Rick Mahorn, John Salley and more. A great team full of talented players and even better enforcers.
This team was the sole reason Michael Jordan couldn't get to the Finals before 1991, and the constant battles between the Bulls and Pistons would obviously create animosity and rivalry between the players and teams.
Jordan and his coach Phil Jackson weren't shy about calling out the Pistons for their way of playing defense, labeling them dirty. John Salley actually became a good friend of MJ's and later spoke about that in a recent interview calling it propaganda and saying the Celtics were the true 'Bad Boys' of that era.
"It's called propaganda...James Worthy even said: 'Those are not Bad Boys. The Bad Boys are the Celtics'. They know when they put in the bruisers what's about to happen. It was like a hockey game. We didn't do that."
John Salley, djvlad
Bill Laimbeer wasn't dirty?
Salley believed Jordan saying that left a huge influence on everybody else in the NBA world also viewing the Pistons as a dirty team, hurting the image of the team. But then Salley tried to make a pretty crazy point in explaining that Bill Laimbeer, of all people, didn't really foul his opponents.
"Bill Laimbeer really never fouled anybody. If you look at the things, they're calling fouls. He would put his hands up, or he would swipe down at the floor...It was swatting down at the ball or standing straight up leaning against you. Like no one can say he just took somebody out of the air. I was playing with him. If he hit you, if he body checked you coming across the lane - that was legal at one time."
John Salley, djvlad
Try saying that to MJ or Charles Barkley. Hilariously enough, Vlad, who was interviewing Salley, simply laughed and reminded Salley that there was a game called Bill Laimbeer's Combat Basketball for the Super Nintendo back in the day because of how dirty his playstyle was.
This must be the first time somebody said this about Bill Laimbeer, who is to this day considered one of the dirtiest and most hated players the NBA has ever seen. Although he had a very respectable career and game, Laimbeer is known for being the leader of the Pistons' defensive side of the floor and antics, often a cheap-shotting opponent,s getting into altercations and ejected from games.
So for Salley to say Laimbeer was just an innocent victim of propaganda spewed by Jordan is bizarre. For sure, MJ and Phil bashing them probably enhanced their reputation too far, but there is no denying the "Bad Boys" played a different brand of basketball, that definitely wasn't the prettiest.