There is a good reason the '80s are called the golden era of NBA basketball. There were so many great teams and players that built historic rivalries that it's impossible to look past that time. From Bird's Celtics, Magic's Lakers, Isiah's Pistons to the rising Bulls with MJ, the NBA didn't lack star power. We often hear stories about the trio of MJ, Larry, and Magic as possibly the best three players ever. Still, one guy that usually gets unfairly left out is the Pistons point guard Isiah Thomas. And he recently made a point to remind everyone how he fared against the best players in the toughest era ever.
Zeke and the Bad Boys
Isiah Thomas and Detroit Pistons are one of the best teams in NBA history, but you can't say the same for their reputation. The nickname "Bad Boys" was rightfully earned, as their rugged, psychical, and defensive-minded style of play frustrated opponents all over the league. Of course, the occasional cheap shot from bruisers like Laimbeer, Mahorn, or Rodman didn't help either.
But you had to give it to them. Near the end of the '80s, those Pistons teams entered their prime and dominated the NBA, bouncing out Jordan's Bulls numerous times and even Bird's Celtics. After a dramatic seven-game loss in the 1988 Finals to Magic's Lakers, the Pistons would come back with a vengeance, sweeping them the following year.
Also, the year after that, in 1990, they would dominate the Blazers and win their second one. If not for that dramatic loss to the Lakers that was majorly influenced by Isiah's ankle injury, the Pistons would have three-peated. At the end of 1991, Jordan and Pippen finally overcame the Pistons and became the king of the East, as the Bad Boys slowly faded away to history.
The core of Bill Laimbeer, Joe Dumars, Dennis Rodman, Mark Aguirre, John Salley, and the rest led by Isiah Thomas got remembered in history as one of the most unique and fun teams in history, but everyone mainly remembered them for their defense and hacking style of play. But this team was much more than that. On the other side of the floor, they could light you up if needed, proven by the fact the Pistons from 1983 still hold the record for most points scored in a game with 186.
Recently Isiah Thomas talked with Channing Frye and explained to people how good he and his Pistons teams were by simply reminding him how he beat everyone's favorite players in the '80s:
"All them people that they say are the best to ever do it, my teams beat all them. We probably was the best defensive team to ever play in the NBA...but when you go back and watch the Pistons play, all the coaches tried to emulate the way we play defense... The highest-scoring game in the NBA is held by who? The Detroit Pistons.
Isiah Thomas, Bleacher Report
Isiah is right on point. When people talk about the Detroit Pistons' "Bad Boys," they usually put them in a box and only mention how dirty, rugged and defensive they were. But they were so much more than that. Sure, the defense was their forte, but the Pistons wouldn't have been so good for years if they didn't have a talented complete team. So that's why when you talk about the 80's Pistons and Isiah Thomas, you have to take a deeper look at their legacy and give them respect.