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Back During the Pistons | The Triangle
Mark and Jair Explain Sports

Back During the Pistons

Mark and Jair Explain the Second Episode of the Last Dance with a Special Guest, the NFL draft, and the upcoming Baseball season

Photograph courtesy of Armon Owlia for The Triangle

Listen to this episode of “Mark and Jair Explain Sports” online!

Dennis Rodman is not your ordinary NBA player. Originally, Rodman did seem pretty average. He was a young and athletic forward who came off the bench for the Pistons, a team that won two championships during his tenure there. Rodman would bring intense defense and rebounding off the bench for the Pistons and did a great job containing Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.

After a seven-year tenure with the Pistons, Rodman was traded (at his request) to the San Antonio Spurs. Once Rodman was on the Spurs, he turned into a player that was considered “extraordinary” or “odd.” While his playing style remained the same, his personality changed. Rodman gained celebrity status for changing his hair color and getting piercings around his face, to go along with his tattoos. His tenure on the Spurs lasted two years after clashes with the front office and suspensions for his on-court antics. The Chicago Bulls decided to trade for Rodman and bring him to help fill the void left by Horace Grant’s departure. The Bulls took a chance on Rodman, and despite the occasional hiccups (for example, the “Vegas trip”), the gamble resulted in the Bulls winning three titles. This past weekend’s episodes of “The Last Dance” gave an inside look on Rodman’s tenure with the Bulls and talked about how the team worked with him through his occasional “hiccups.”

The Bad Boy Pistons were the villains of the NBA between the mid-to-late 1980s and the earlier part of the 1990s. They were led by future NBA Hall of Famer and Chicago native Isiah Thomas. As Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls were ascending in a league whose Mount Rushmore at the time was mainly Larry Bird and Earvin “Magic” Johnson, the Pistons were in heavy contention. They beat the Bulls in the playoffs between 1988 and 1990. Thomas led the Pistons in implementing the “Jordan Rules,” a defense that forced Michael Jordan into physical torment and forced them to succumb to losses for many years.

Thomas and the Pistons didn’t just have their enemies on the Chicago Bulls, but also in Boston. In 1987, Thomas reiterated a comment from Dennis Rodman on Larry Bird, saying that if Bird were African American, “he’d be just another good guy.” The Pistons and Celtics had their share of battles in the playoffs. Even the Lakers and the Pistons had clashes in the 1988 and 1989 NBA Finals, with the Lakers winning the first go-around and the Pistons winning the second. That’s where the relationship between Magic and Isiah started to deteriorate. In a book that featured Johnson and Bird, Johnson stated that he felt Thomas spread rumors about his sexuality.

When the Dream Team was being selected between 1991 and 1992, Jordan, Johnson and Bird were the team’s Big Three. Johnson and Bird were getting ready for retirement, and getting ready to pass on the torch of the NBA to Jordan. The team’s Head Coach was Piston coach Chuck Daly, whom many describe as flashy and classy with his style.

Many talk negatively about Jordan not being willing to take Thomas on the team. Personally, I disagree with them. It wasn’t JUST Jordan; there was Scottie Pippen who also suffered at the hands of the Pistons. I’m sure that deep down, Bird didn’t want him along with Magic. I’m sure several others on that team didn’t want Thomas, and I’m sure Chuck Daly understood from a certain perspective.

I think Jordan may have had a point to feel the way he felt about Thomas. Should he still hold resentment today? I don’t know. Would you hold a grudge? Would you have wanted Thomas on the team? Ask yourself those questions.