Michael Jordan and LeBron James are two of the greatest players ever. But, the Detroit Pistons have made both of the players the legends that they are. Here’s how.
One of the most discussed basketball topics of the past 5 years has been a very simple but complicated, multifaceted question.
While there is a great discussion to be had about this topic, I’m not here to answer this question or say there is a definite answer. I’m here to show you a similarity between them, that will prove why no matter what happens in NBA from here on out, the Detroit Pistons are one of the most important franchises in the history of the association.
For both Jordan and James, the Pistons of their early careers, the Bad Boys and the Billups-led Pistons respectively, were on top on the league. Both of these teams played a monumental role in the formation of two of the greatest basketball players.
When Jordan entered the League in 1984, the Boston Celtics–Los Angeles Lakers rivalry was in its prime. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were meeting for their second consecutive season in the finals. In the Shadows of the eastern conference, the Pistons led by Isiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer, and Dennis Rodman were looking to take over reign in the NBA
As Jordan got older and the league started to take more notice towards his game, he would find more success in the playoffs with the Chicago Bulls every year. But there was one issue: He could not find a way around the Bad Boys.
To the rest of the league, they were known as The Jordan Rules, but to the Pistons there was never a name for it. As Thomas and Rodman put it in the 30 for 30 Bad Boys, the Jordan Rules were “to play him tough, to physically challenge him and to vary its defenses so as to try to throw him off balance”.
Only after being pulled apart mentally and physically by the Bad Boys for three straight years did Michael Jordan get over the final obstacle between him and NBA Greatness.
Twenty years later, the NBA would watch The Chosen One take over the NBA and be the king for the last fifteen years. But, James was not always the one in the throne.
When he first entered the league, the Detroit Pistons were coming off their first (and only) NBA championship since the Bad Boys era. Even with the soon-to-be historic bust Darko Milicic on their roster, Chauncey Billups, Richard “Rip” Hamilton, and Rasheed Wallace and company had the Pistons playing on an elite level.
In their first meeting in the playoffs, the Pistons defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in 7 games. James was pushed to the limit by the Pistons team that looked like a reincarnation of the Bad Boys with Ben Wallace leading the way defensively. But, the next year, the Cavs took out the Pistons in 6 games and went to the finals.
Despite the fact that each of the generational players took a different amount of time to dethrone the Pistons (Jordan in three years and James in one), what happened next in their careers is what is paramount.
Michael Jordan would go on to win three straight championships with the help of teammate Scottie Pippen by his side. And after a two-year hiatus, he would add another three rings to his trophy case, with Pippen and, former Bad Boy, Dennis Rodman.
Nowadays, even twelve years after taking care of the Pistons, James still reigns in the NBA. For EIGHT STRAIGHT YEARS, James has played on the biggest basketball stage on the planet, winning three titles during that time.
You can say what you want: Jordan has more rings, he is undefeated in the finals. James is one of the greatest scorers of all-time. James will probably have more career starts in most major stats than Jordan. Even though it is well expected to end this year, James has made the finals for eight straight years, which is just crazy in the era.
But at the end of the day, none of this success would have been possible without both of the greats mentally and physically, fighting against the Detroit Pistons.
Neither of them has admitted it, but they don’t need to. Because deep down for both of them, they know this: the Detroit Pistons helped make them who they are.