Bad boys, bad boys ,Whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do, When they come for you.
Yes, we’re not talking about Will Smith or Martin Lawerences, this is not the story of those bad boys. This is the story of the baddest of the bad of the NBA. Through the 1980s and into the early 1990s, the Detroit Pistons were the Bad Boys of the league. They won games…and championships. But Who were the Detroit Piston Bad Boys?
Who were the Detriot Piston Bad Boys? The Detroit Piston Bad Boys consisted of Isiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer, Dennis Rodman, Rick Mahorn and John Salley. The coach of the bad boys was Chuck Daly.
These players took a struggling organisation to NBA Champions and defined an era of basketball.
Who were the Bad Boys?
After decades of struggling, the Detroit Pistons’ fortune began to change with the drafting of Isaiah Thomas in 1981. That same year, Detroit would acquire Vinnie Johnson and a year later the Pistons would trade for the baddest of all Bad Boys, Bill Laimbeer.
The architect of the Bad Boys was hired in 1983 – head coach Chuck Daly. Detroit would continue to build a roster that would eventually dominate opposition in the NBA. Guard Joe Dumars was selected in the 1985 draft. Rick Mahorn was acquired via trade that same year.
Prior to the 1986-87 season, Detroit would draft two players synonymous with the term “bad boys.” John Salley and Dennis Rodman were added to the roster and Daly’s emphasis on tough, physical defense and rebounding helped the Pistons win.
In ’87, the Pistons would reach the Eastern Conference finals, but lost to the Boston Celtics. A year later, Detroit would finally reach the NBA Finals for the first time since the franchise moved to the city in 1957.
How did the Pistons earn the nickname ‘Bad Boys’?
With Daly in place as the Pistons head coach, Detroit adopted a style of play that was aggressive on both ends of the floor. Thomas was one of the NBA’s premier point guards and with guys like Laimbeer, Mahorn, and Salley up front the basic pick-and-roll offense attacked the basket on offense.
On defense, Detroit was physical and dominating. Opponents found it extremely difficult to score over 100 points against the Pistons. When teams managed to get a shot off, the likelihood of getting a second one was not very good. Detroit rebounded with reckless abandon.
Because of their aggressive, physical style of play; the Pistons earned the nickname ‘Bad Boys.” Laimbeer, Rodman, and others routinely earned technical fouls because of their style of play. The name fit the Pistons perfectly, and Detroit played to their moniker night-in and night-out. The team’s reward was a first-ever NBA championship in 1989.
The Bad Boys Era
The 1979-80 NBA season was a low point for the Pistons franchise. After a dismal ninth place finish (30-52) in 1978-79, Detroit followed that up with an atrocious 16-66 campaign. The 21-61 mark the following year wasn’t much better, but the Pistons did get the second overall pick in the 1981 NBA draft. They used it on a player that would symbolize the Bad Boy era – Isaiah Thomas.
With the selection of Thomas, the Pistons began an overhaul of the roster. Johnson was acquired via trade in 1981 as was Laimbeer in ’82. Detroit made the playoffs in 1984 losing in the first round to the New York Knicks.
The Pistons got a step further in 1984-85 losing in the conference semifinals. More key pieces of the Bad Boy puzzle were added before the ’85-’86 season with the drafting of Dumars and the trade for Mahorn.
The eventual additions of Salley, Rodman, Adrian Dantley and others completed the Bad Boys lineup. Daly’s physical approach to the game would pay off as Detroit would make its first NBA Finals at the end of the 1987-88 season.
After consecutive NBA titles in 1989 and ’90, the Pistons roster slowly began to turn over. Thomas retired in 1994. Laimbeer was done a year earlier. Detroit failed to make the playoffs after the 1992-93 season which would begin a three-year postseason drought.
Who were the most iconic Bad Boys?
The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers dominated the NBA during the 1980s. Their collective demise was brought about by Detroit’s Bad Boys. No player was safe from the physical pounding that the Pistons put on teams.
No one embodied the spirit of the Bad Boys more than Laimbeer. He was 6-feet-11-inches of toughness, grit, and determination. He played dirty and played to win. Surprisingly, his offensive prowess was often overlooked. It was one of the reasons why Laimbeer was a four-time NBA All-Star.
Rodman built his entire NBA career around rebounding and defensive play. He won consecutive Defensive Player of the Year awards in 1990 and 1991 and was hated by most everyone in the league. That was the true embodiment of what the Bad Boys were about.
Mahorn, Salley, and Thomas were other Pistons who represented the true Bad Boy. Despite being 6-1, Thomas would not be bullied by anyone. Mahorn threw his big 6-10 body around with anyone and Salley was one of the best post defenders of the era and is among Detroit’s all-time leading shot blockers.
Bad Boys Episodes
Incidents involving the Bad Boys were many, but the 1987 playoffs witnessed one of the most iconic Bad Boys moments ever. Laimbeer was able to get inside the head of Celtic great Larry Bird. Laimbeer ended up fouling Bird hard. Bird threw punches at Laimbeer then later threw a ball at Laimbeer’s head. Rodman then stepped in to smack Bird on the back of the head.
In April of 1990, the Pistons and 76ers met in Detroit. Mahorn had since been acquired by Philadelphia. During the game, Thomas was ejected for throwing a punch at Mahorn. Later, Mahorn drove to the basket to be fouled by Rodman. What ensued was a brawl featuring Philadelphia’s Charles Barkley and Laimbeer. The fight lasted nearly five minutes as both benches cleared. The Sixers did win the game to clinch an Atlantic Division title.
Bad Boys Come to an End
In 1991, Detroit traded James Edwards and waived Johnson. The ’91-’92 season ended after a first-round playoff loss to the Knicks. Daly would resign as the Pistons coach after the season. After Daly left, the Pistons roster began to change as key players were either traded – like Salley and Rodman – or simply retired like Thomas and Laimbeer.
By the beginning of the 1994 season, the Bad Boys era was over.