The “Bad Boy” Pistons were the toughest NBA team in their day. Some of the measures they took may have been a bit too drastic, but when you think back, it really was the heyday of the NBA. With brutal players like Rick Mahorn, John Salley, Dennis Rodman, Bill Laimbeer, and more, the Pistons struck fear into the opponent’s eyes as soon as they entered the arena. Whether you love them or hate them, they were undeniably “gamers.”
Not only were the Pistons bolstering with tough enforcers in the paint, but they also had extremely skilled perimeter players. Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars comprised a dominant backcourt, which was one of the best in the league at the time. To show how tough this team really was, just look at how they beat the Bulls. They stopped a player that was supposed to be unstoppable in Michael Jordan. “The Jordan Rules” are what they used to stop him. These rules consisted of double teaming whenever he touched the ball and when he drove to the basket, and to body him up and get rough with him. This created one of the greatest rivalries in sports, with Jordan eventually conquering the Pistons. Nonetheless, the Pistons and the Bulls each had their grips on the NBA, just at separate times.
This list consists of members of the “Bad Boy” Pistons, their head coach and General Manager. Since this era can’t be covered with one single roster for the “Bad Boys”, I will be listing the most important players who once played for the “Bad Boys”, even if they weren’t all on the Pistons simultaneously. I hope you find it interesting learning about the members of this legendary team and where the players are now.
16. General Manager – Jack McCloskey
Jack McCloskey was infamous for his trading thus given his nickname “Trader Jack”. McCloskey was the man behind the wheel who put the Pistons in their perfect position to succeed. He acquired the pieces and the players did the rest.
Jack McCloskey currently lives in Georgia and he has publicly stated that he believes the NBA has an anti-Pistons bias. Here’s what he told Pistons.com:
“I don’t think the NBA embraced the back-to-back champion Pistons the way it did the Lakers, Celtics and Bulls. But there’s a big difference between not embracing the Pistons – which this cardboard slight could be indicative of – and actively shunning them…I know a lot of you are reading this and thinking, “But the NBA REALLY hates the Pistons.” I’m not going to convince you, and that’s okay. Take solace in knowing Detroit’s longtime general manager is a fellow conspiracy theorist.”
He thinks that back-to-back championship teams should get way more love and recognition than the Pistons did. You have to give it up for McCloskey, he’s still a Piston in his heart.
15. Head Coach – Chuck Daly
Daly was the head coach of the Detroit Pistons from 1983-1992. He won two championships with them and .633 winning percentage while coaching them. Daly was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1994 as a coach. Daly was also the coach of the 1992 “Dream Team”. It took a lot from a coach to be able to keep this unique group of players together and Daly did an outstanding job of keeping all his players on the same path. He was able to devise strategies to shut down Michael Jordan and made sure his team was the toughest in the entire league.
Daly left the Pistons in 1992 to take the New Jersey Nets head coaching job. After two years, he retired, but would return to coach the Orlando Magic in the late 90s.
In 2009 Daly passed away from pancreatic cancer. He was 78 years old and he had a great coaching career and life. He is buried in Tequesta, Florida.
14. John Long
The Pistons drafted Long out of the University of Detroit in the second round of the 1978 draft. He was a very good player and he was in the starting lineup before Dumars was drafted. Long played from the age of 22 all the way to 40. In the ’82 season he averaged nearly 22 points per game. He played for the Pistons for a total 10 seasons. He was traded to the Indiana Pacers when Dumars came along but rejoined the Pistons for their championship run in 1989.
Long’s nephew’s Terry Mills and Grant Long also played in the NBA. He has laid pretty low since his career ended but he is currently the radio analyst for the Pistons.
13. Michael Williams
Williams played only the 1988-89 season with the Pistons, his rookie season, but he won a championship with them. He went on to have a successful NBA career even though he didn’t contribute much to the Pistons in the 1989 season. He was traded by the Pistons following their ’89 run and played for several teams through the remainder of his career. He made the all-defensive second team in 1992.
After retiring, Williams had a pretty interesting job. He has worked as a bodyguard for notable stars like Beyonce, and Snoop Dogg. As he was working as a bouncer at a club, one night a couple of idiots with a gunshot Williams eight times. Williams amazingly survived the attack, but not without harsh consequences. After he awoke from his two-month coma, he realized he was paralyzed from the waist down, lost his kidney, part of his liver and part of his jaw. He was forced to move back in with his mother so she could take care of him.
12. William Bedford
Bedford, out of the University of Memphis, was drafted 6th overall by the Suns in the 1986 draft. The 7-footer played for the Pistons from 1987 to 1992. He missed the 1989 season due to rehab for drug abuse, so he only has one ring. He was pretty much a bust, his first season was his best but went downhill from there. His post NBA career saw him get into more trouble with the law and addiction.
William Bedford has spent a part of his life in prison. He has been battling his addiction to drugs for a long time, but he is finally out of prison. Although Bedford’s story is unfortunate, players can learn from him and make sure they don’t follow down the same path. He has, however, tried to turn around his life. As of 2012 he was an assistant coach at U of M.
11. Gerald Henderson
Henderson, whose son currently plays for the Trail Blazers, won a ring with Detroit, as he arrived with them just in time for their 1989-90 championship. He was in the twilight of his career at the time. The Pistons made a solid run during the 1989-90 season as they chased the repeat. He didn’t have much of an impact on the team, as he averaged only 2 points-per-game. The team failed to hit the three-peat the following season and Henderson ended his career with the Houston Rockets following the 1991-92 season.
Following his solid NBA career which ended in 1992 , Henderson and his wife started a real estate business in Blue Bell, PA. Henderson, a VCU product, was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in 2012.
10. James Edwards
Edwards played for nine teams in his 19-year career. While he only spent the 1988-91 seasons with the Pistons, he won two rings with them. He won his third championship while playing for the legendary 1995-’96 Bulls. It’s ironic how some of that Bulls team in 1995-96 were former Pistons and had played a huge part in Chicago not winning titles a lot sooner. In three seasons with the Pistons he averaged 11 points per game. Not bad production from the big man. His absence was certainly felt in the 1990-91 season. The Pistons were gunning for their third straight NBA Championship, but were swept in the Conference Finals by the Bulls.
He had a very productive NBA career overall, finishing it with 14,862 career points and 6,004 career rebounds.
Post NBA, Edwards works a personal basketball trainer for varying skill levels.
9. Mark Aguirre
Mark Aguirre was a two time NBA champion and a three time All Star. In the beginning of his career, he played for the Dallas Mavericks. After eight seasons, he joined the Pistons and in his first season with the team, 1989, they won the championship. Sometimes it pays to put your own interests aside for the good of the team. Aguirre, a prolific scorer, accepted a smaller role with the Pistons and focused on the team rather than himself. Even in that lesser role he averaged 15 points per game during those two championship runs.
Aguirre, a DePaul University legend, made a bid for the school’s head coaching position in 2010 but was denied because he lacked a degree. Instead of moving on, he decided to go back to DePaul get the necessary education for the job. Earlier this year, Aguirre was elected to the College Basketball Hall of Fame.
8. Vinnie Johnson
Vinnie Johnson, AKA “The Microwave,” was the vital 6th-man for the Pistons. When either Joe Dumars or Isiah Thomas needed a break, Johnson was always ready to step up. He often put up big points in a small number of minutes which provided the Pistons with a much-needed boost.
For a short time, Johnson was a radio announcer for the Pistons, but he wanted to do something more than that. In 1995, Johnson founded the Piston Automotive Group, a supplier for major international auto companies. Today he is the Chairman & CEO of this thriving company. He’s a fine example of post-career success. When asked why he started the business, he said: “I really wanted to get into business and create some jobs and opportunities. I wanted to do something different outside of basketball, but the main thing was giving back to the city of Detroit for all the support they have given me.”
7. Rick Mahorn
Rick Mahorn was an enforcer. Nobody wanted to mess with Mahorn. Elbows were always flying when you were around him. Mahorn gained his reputation for throwing around his big body to clear space on defense and on the boards. Unfortunately for Mahorn, he was only on one of the team’s two championship seasons.
Today, Mahorn is a radio analyst for the Pistons. That’s not to say he hasn’t had his share of problems since hanging up his sneaks. The $6 million-plus that Mahorn made during his career is gone thanks to bad investments and poor money management. In 2010, he was even forced to file for bankruptcy and sell his championship ring. Mahorn was one of several Detroit area athletes who filed for bankruptcy at around the same time, which included Luther Ellis, Derrick Coleman and Thomas Hearns.
6. Adrian Dantley
Dantley, out of Notre Dame, was only on the Pistons for three seasons, but he made them count. Unfortunately, he was unable to win a ring in the 1988-89 season, as he was traded to the Mavericks for Mark Aguirre. Dantley could flat-out score. Earlier, during his tenure with the Utah Jazz, he scored 30-plus points per game for four consecutive seasons. Those are some gaudy numbers.
Dantley’s life after basketball is completely different than the norm. Not only does he work as a school crossing guard (not because he’s down on his luck, but for the health insurance). Apparently, as much as Dantley made in his career, players did not get health insurance in retirement. he also referees rec league and middle school basketball. This is a guy who appreciates the little things in life. How refreshing.
5. John Salley
Salley, out of Georgia Tech, was a solid all-around player during the Pistons championship runs. A formidable shot-blocker and post presence, Salley could do a bit of everything, a crucial role on all great teams. He credits former teammate Adrian Dantley with teaching him good nutrition and how to conduct himself off the court. Salley, who has four rings, also won with the 1995-96 Bulls and with the 2000 Lakers.
Okay, if you haven’t seen Salley on TV, you haven’t been paying attention. Even during his career, Salley was starting to dip his toes into acting and that success has continued today. This guy is a busy actor and a talk show host, and a darn good one at that. He has also gone vegan and become a wellness advocate, trying to help others improve their lives. I guess you can be a bad boy and still go vegan at the same time. Bon appetit.
4. Dennis Rodman
Dennis Rodman, who was one of the best defenders and rebounders of all time, fittingly played for the “Bad Boys.” It was Rodman’s tenacity that made him such a great player. He wasn’t bigger, stronger, or more skilled than the other players, he just wanted it more. Rodman was a madman and much like the other members of the team, would do just about anything for the “W.”
Rodman’s retirement has been full of outrageous and erratic behavior. Makes you wonder if he’s got a few “screws loose” or he just enjoys messing with us. When he published his first autobiography, he stated that he was bisexual and showed up to his book-signing in a wedding dress, stating he was marrying himself. In 2005, Rodman was named Commissioner of the Lingerie Football League. Okay, I’ll buy that. At the book-signing for his second autobiography, named, “I Should Be Dead By Now” he arrived in a coffin to “get in the spirit.” And who could forget the truly bizarre meetings with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un? Jeez, by now, that hair-dying phase seems so normal!
3. Bill Laimbeer
Bill Laimbeer was the main reason the Pistons were known as the “Bad Boys.” He played his heart out on the court with fire in his eyes. He earned his reputation as an extremely hated player. In all fairness to his detractors, the guy was dirty and he wasn’t ashamed to admit it. Getting under his opponent’s skin and into his head was part of his job. Laimbeer was a stud on offense and defense. Also, Laimbeer is far and away the all-time leading rebounder in Pistons history.
For many years after his playing career, Laimbeer was vyed for many head coaching jobs. Although he never accomplished his goal of coaching an NBA team, he was the coach and GM of the WNBA’s Detroit Shock from 2002-2009, which included three league titles. Since 2013, Laimbeer has coached the New York Liberty, hired by his old pal Isiah Thomas.
2. Joe Dumars
Joe Dumars was the second leading scorer on the team, but he didn’t really fit in the “Bad Boy” aspect of the Pistons. Contrary to his teammates’ reputations, Dumars won the NBA’s sportsmanship award in 1996. Dumars was a true two-way player, being a dominant offensive threat, and lockdown defender. Dumars has been recognized for his efforts on the court by being named to numerous all-defensive teams, winning a Finals MVP, and being inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame in 2006.
Dumars was the Pistons President of basketball operations for 13 seasons before he stepped down in 2014. He built the Pistons championship team of 2004, so he has been a part of all three Pistons championships. Although he stepped down, he said he will still be advising the team. Recently, there have been rumors that Dumars would be hired by the Pelicans, so we’ll see how that goes.
1. Isiah Thomas
“Zeke” was the leader of the troops. He was the engine that made this team go and played with a serious attitude. Not only could he score, but he also efficiently set up his teammates. In the 1984-85 season he averaged 21 points and 14 assists per game. Thomas played his entire career with the Pistons and led them to two championships. He was the finals MVP in 1990, a 12 time All-Star, two time All Star game MVP, and is the all-time leading scorer in Pistons history, among many other categories. Even with all of his NBA accomplishments, Thomas still has the reputation as the mouthy little kid hiding behind the big guys. I think it’s safe to say that he was not a well liked player.
After Isiah Thomas retired he started a new chapter in his career, coaching and business. Even though Zeke was a great player, he couldn’t find that same magic as a coach. He has been a TV commentator, team executive, and head coach of the Pacers and Knicks. Today, Thomas is the president for the WNBA’s New York Liberty and the CEO of Isiah International, a group of businesses based in Chicago.
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