Tip-Off Timer: '89 Detroit Pistons
Tip-Off Timer counts down the days until the first game of the 2009-10 season. On Thursday, there were exactly 89 days left.
The Detroit Pistons won their first NBA championship in 1989, sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers to avenge a devastating Game 7 loss in the Finals the year before. A lot of people say the rough and tumble Detroit Bad Boys were a black stain on the NBA, ending the fan-friendly reign of Magic and Kareem's Showtime Lakers while opening the door for the slow-down and slug-it-out style of play that plagued the league for much of the next decade.
And, OK, sure, a lot of people are probably right.
But to dismiss the Pistons of the late 80s and early 90s as just a bunch of thugs is to overlook some of the greatest players and minds this game has ever seen. Four members of that organization eventually made their way to the Basketball Hall of Fame, including the starting backcourt of Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars as well as head coach Chuck Daly, recently dubbed by Sporting News as one of the 50 greatest coaches in the history of sports, and owner Bill Davidson.
And while those four are enshrined in Springfield, Ma. forever, the rest of the team was incredibly deep, as well. Bill Laimbeer, a four-time All-Star, is still one of the most hated men in the NBA, and Rick Mahorn, his big-bootied partner in crime, was just as ready to mix things up. Vinnie Johnson was a dynamic sixth-man who could have started elsewhere but valued winning more than minutes.
We can't forget the young John Salley or the pre-crazy Dennis Rodman, either, nor Mark Aguirre or James "Buddha" Edwards. And when it comes to trivia-question bench warmers, can it get any better than Fennis Dembo and Darryl "Chocolate Thunder" Dawkins?
Even if the '89 Pistons played at the slowest pace in the league, they could still score with the best of them when needed -- they ranked seventh in the league in offensive efficiency while putting up 106.6 points a night with five players* averaging at least 13 points a game. Put that in your revisionist history pipe and smoke it.
* Well, technically six, but Adrian Dantley (18.4 points per game) and Mark Aguirre (15.5) were traded for each other midseason, so I'm counting them as one.
Maybe they didn't sell as many sneakers as that bald-headed fellow in Chicago, maybe their shiny new arena (the Palace of Auburn Hills debuted in 1989) lacked the mystique of the old Boston Garden and perhaps their fans weren't as glamorous as the star-studded crowds in Los Angeles.
But you have to respect how the 1989 Pistons clawed their way to the mountaintop, paying their dues by losing a seven-game series to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals in 1987 and another seven-game series in the NBA Finals in 1988 before finally tasting the champagne and cradling the Larry O'Brien.
Love them or hate them, they earned every moment of glory they attained.