I don’t know if there’s been a franchise that had a team of an era that better represented the city they represented than the Bad Boys Detroit Pistons of the late 1980s early 1990s. Detroit is the ultimate blue-collar big city that is the second biggest city of the Midwest only smaller than Chicago. That is as working class and blue-collar as any big city can be. That has every single challenge and resource that a big city could have. And that is exactly what their Pistons of this era had as well.
The Bad Boys Pistons of course had very good players and in Isiah Thomas’s case a great player a franchise player one of the top five point guards of all time and in the Hall of Fame. But they didn’t beat you because they had overwhelming talent or just by showing up and beating you. The Pistons were a defense first, rebounding second basketball team that scored all of their points off of their defense and ability to get second chance scoring opportunities off of their defense and offensive rebounding. And then teamwork and always getting the ball to the guy with the best chance of scoring.
Other than Isiah the Pistons of this era didn’t have that great offensive creator who could create points for himself and his teammates. They didn’t have that great post player who could dominate the post and create great mismatches in the post. What they had were guys who moved very well without the ball. Guys who could pass and find the open man. And with center Bill Laimbeer and power forward Rick Mahorn guys who set great screens freeing up their great outside shooters. Which they did have with Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars and Vinnie Johnson and even center Bill Laimbeer.
The Detroit Pistons were the ultimate team and knew themselves very well and knew the way they had to win was by being a better team and playing better as a team than their opponents. Especially having to play teams that were simply better than them when it came to talent like the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers. And the way they did was knowing they simply couldn’t outscore their opponents. That they had to do a great job of stopping them from scoring and executing their motion team offense and taking advantage of whatever scoring opportunities that they had.
The legacy of the Detroit Pistons is that they were the ultimate team. Not a collection of stars but a collection of great team players who were all very unselfish who all had one goal in mind. Which was to win championships and many as possible and prove to the world that the Pistons can play basketball and that they didn’t represent losers and that Detroit was more than just a big city with every urban problem a big city can have. That they not only represented Detroit but a lot of America as well. People who aren’t given anything and work very hard for everything that they achieve.