Which is the best Detroit Piston team of all time? I have pondered this question deeply and have engaged in many a bar stool debate. As a lifelong sports fan and hoops junkie, I find asking which the best team is in the history of a storied franchise like the Detroit Pistons is big part of what makes sports fun. For the purposes of this particular debate, there are really only two options by anyone's standards: the championship Detroit Piston teams of the mid to late 80's and the more recent teams of 2004 and 2005 who went to two finals series and won a championship.
The arguments for the Detroit Piston teams of the late 80's are certainly easy to make. Those "Bad Boys" teams were trend setters. The 80's were a time of high scoring offenses and soft defenses.
Scores routinely made it into triple digits as teams like the Lakers, Celtics, Rockets, and Sixers ruled the league. Then the Detroit Pistons came along with their tough, hard nosed, no easy baskets style of defense. They gave way to teams like the Bulls and Knicks who adopted similar defensive philosophies. Setting such a trend in a league like the NBA is certainly cause for consideration of greatness.
The Bad Boys Piston teams also had names and recognizable talent that the later championship teams would lack. Names like Isaiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, and Bill Laimbeer are still known throughout the league.
They are the greats of Detroit Piston basketball and to some degree of the NBA. Not only were these names recognizable and historic in league and team history, but also they were names of winners. Obviously the more recent teams are winners, but they have yet to combine the historical names, the winning, and the stamp on history that comes along with setting a trend.
There is, however, an argument to be made for the Detroit Piston teams of the early 2000's. Those teams have represented that city of Detroit with their blue collar methods. The collection of cast-offs from around the NBA shows that a true team can be the personification of the idea that the whole can be more than the sum of its parts.
You could also make the argument that when it is all said and done, the names Billups, Wallace, Wallace, and Prince will be just as well known as those of the Bad Boys. With one championship ring, another appearance in the finals, and a quick start to the 2005-2006 season, the modern Detroit Piston team may even end up with more championships to their credit. And in the end, isn't it all about rings when it comes to the legacy of any great team?
When it comes to great basketball franchises, the Detroit Pistons may not be the first name to roll of the tongue, but they certainly will come in at some point. With at least two great runs in the history of the franchise, the argument over who is the best Detroit Piston team is one that may end in a draw. However, it is those great debates that will help both Detroit Piston teams to maintain their place in the mindset of Piston fans as well as basketball fans for years to come.
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