The Miami Heat first stepped on the NBA court for a regular-season game 30 years ago on Nov. 5, 1988 with an opening night line-up of Rony Seikaly, Kevin Edwards, Billy Thompson, Rory Sparrow, Pat Cummins, and promptly lost their first 17 games, before finally defeating the same Los Angeles Clippers for their first win on Dec.14, 1988.
Meanwhile in Motor City, the Detroit Pistons‘ “Bad Boys” began their march to the NBA titile with Isiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer, Adrian Dantley (later traded for Mark Aguirre), Joe Dumars, Rick Mahorn starting and Dennis Rodman coming off the bench.
Having lost to Pat Riley’s Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals the previous season, the Pistons didn’t fail this time, as they overcame Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls, Larry Bird’s Boston Celtics, and Magic Johnson’s Los Angeles Lakers to win the NBA Finals in a 4-game sweep.
The Pistons caught a break with an untimely injury to Magic Johnson in the second game of the series, which were the last games for Pat Riley as the Lakers’ head coach.
“The Lakers had everything going for them. They were undefeated in the playoffs, having swept the Blazers, Sonics, and Suns. They had won back-to-back titles. They were coached by the man [Pat Riley] with the highest winning percentage of any coach in league history for both the regular and post seasons. They had Magic, Kareem, and James Worthy. Who they didn’t have was point guard Byron Scott who tore his hamstring in practice and was lost for the entire series. The Pistons took advantage and won Game One 109-97. With the Lakers in control of Game Two, the reigning champs suddenly lost their magic…literally. Late in the third quarter while trailing a Pistons’ fast break, Lakers guard Magic Johnson pulled up lame with a hamstring injury.”
So how did Detroit manage to win it all? They refused to lose because they had a common goal: a championship.
”When you say ‘Bad Boys,’ you think of bad things, and basically they’re going to show all the physical play,” Mahorn said. “We had role players who were very skilled. Everybody committed. You commit to one common goal, which was to win a championship, and the one common goal was to win. We played the game like the game was supposed to be played. We used our tools.”
Can Hassan Whiteside and Josh Richardson match the fierce intensity of James Johnson, Justise Winslow, Dion Waiters, Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade (if he plays) in today’s 30th Anniversary edition of the Miami Heat?
Or will Tyler Johnson, Derrick Jones Jr., Kelly Olynyk, Rodney McGruder, Bam Adebayo or Wayne Ellington get physical enough so teams fear them before even stepping onto the same court?
Today the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers have more talent than Miami, but 30 years ago the Bulls and Lakers were “better” than the Pistons in 1988, yet fell by the wayside to a determined team.
Being hated didn’t bother them: being liked or accepted on the court wasn’t their purpose as they enforced the “Jordan Rules” of doing whatever it took to win a contest.
“Essentially the ‘Jordan Rules’ indicated that No. 23 was to be stopped by any means necessary.
“Ultimately, it was this mentality to win by any means necessary that allowed the Detroit Pistons to steamroll opponents.”