Back in the late 80s, the Detroit Pistons were one of the most feared teams in the league. Not just for their basketball ability, but also for their rough play. This earned them the nickname Bad Boy Pistons. But this ‘most feared’ tag went for a toss when the team first met Mike Tyson.
At that time, Tyson was a world champion. Pistons center John Salley was his childhood friend, and he talked about the time when Tyson scared the hell out of the Pistons team.
“We’re both from Brooklyn, he would come to my neighborhood,” Salley said. “He saw me on TV, coz he didn’t really watch basketball. He saw that I was playing against the Knicks, so he just got into his car and came to the Garden. When he pulled up, he’s Mike Tyson, there are no tickets. He walked in and comes right behind and says, ‘Sal, Sal’ I’m like ‘What’s up Mike?’
Adrian Dantley, Bill Laimbeer is not saying anything, Chuck Daly is just staring at him, Isiah Thomas is (staring). No one said, ‘Sal, get your head in the game.’ We lose the game, and he comes into the locker room. No one knows what to say. I said, ‘Mike, none of these cats think I know you’ He replies, ‘No that’s my man, we grew up together.’
Tyson later asked Isiah Thomas for his sneakers, and the Hall of Famer gave it away with no hesitation. Salley said, “People were afraid of Mike, but he was the nicest cat in the world. And I looked back at it now, because I was all so ‘I told y’all I knew the champ’ that was more important to me.”
These players, who were feared by their colleagues, were stunned into silence upon seeing Tyson. They couldn’t dare say anything.
From 1987 to 1991, the Pistons made five consecutive appearances in the Eastern Conference Finals. They went to the Finals thrice, when they beat Larry Bird’s Celtics and Michael Jordan’s Bulls. They won the title twice, winning it back to back in 1989 and 1990, cementing their place as one of the best teams of the 80s and 90s.
The Bad Boy Pistons were probably the most disliked team since they beat everyone’s favorite teams. Whether it was the Celtics, Bulls, or the Lakers, no one was spared when they entered The Palace. Winning those two rings when Jordan and Magic were in their prime was a huge achievement, and often they don’t get the credit they deserve for it.
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