We remember gladiators such as Patrick Ewing and the Bad Boys because, quite honestly, this isn’t the same NBA.
These new age fans of the NBA just don’t know what it was like before the 2000s came and the rules of the game had changed. So first let me give a little history to the millennials that think these ticky-tack fouls aren’t ruining the game.
The Boston Celtics and the Detroit Pistons had one of the roughest rivalries in sports history. I’m not saying that it was the best or it was the longest. I’m saying it was one of the roughest. Players would get thrown to the floor and elbows would bang against bodies and there would be no foul called. It was a no blood no foul league. Go to YouTube and check out some of the clips from these games. It was brutal, but it served a purpose: to weed out the weak.
Not just the physically weak, but the weak of heart because you had to be a man’s man to play in those games. Players spilling blood on the proverbial battleground was common place. Crowds cheered and the warriors smiled. You watched the game even if you weren’t a fan of either team, but because you knew both factions were going to leave it all out on the court.
To put these legendary clash of titans in perspective, during the 1987 eastern conference game, Robert “The Chef” Parish once punched Bill Laimbeer in the face and didn’t get kicked out the game. The attack was egregious and obvious and to add insult to injury, Darren Daye got the foul on the play. Parish hit Laimbeer in the face twice. It was a two piece and the commenter even remarks there should have been a “punching foul” called.
What in the world is a “punching foul”?
Boston took the series 4-3.
The aforementioned Detroit pistons were known as “The Bad Boys” for a reason. They were the Oakland Raiders of the NBA. One year they even showcased t-shirts made up to further drill that point home. Steel sharpens steel and a young Michael Jeffery Jordan found that out the hard way when Isaiah Thomas, maybe with some help from Laimbeer, came up with “The Jordan Rules.”
While Michael Jordan had always been the uber-athletic scoring machine that most know and love, he wasn’t always the steel willed unflappable god the reigned in the 90s. To this day, I believe that without the fire that he was made to walk through, which was the lane to the basket that the Pistons guarded, we might have gotten the iteration of Jordan that the average fan boasts of today.
So what are the Jordan rules you ask? The simple answer would be bring the double teams to force the ball out of his hands. If Jordan is on the wing you try to trap … you know, pretty basic basketball. Until you come to the lane, in the lane is where the hurt was. Now, in the 1989 eastern conference finals, Scottie Pippen got hurt in the first minutes of the action. This was “the bad Boys.” Jordan was punished and Doug Collins was replaced the next year by Phil Jackson and the Triangle offense was born.
Pistons take series 4-2
When the Pistons were terrorizing the NBA with physical play, it was entertaining and the stuff of lore. Then came the 90s and (soon to come) the only team on this list without an NBA Championship. His Airness prevented many superstars and hall of famers from achieving the ultimate success but he maybe didn’t stop any player as often as Patrick Ewing. These Knicks were straight up goon. Charles Oakley, Xavier McDaniels, Anthony Mason, John Starks, Greg Anthony and Charlie Ward … just to name several.
This team came to the arena to throw hands and win games, not one or the other, but both. It seemed like the Knicks were fighting every night they played. Ward two-piecing a young Kobe Bryant … come on Charlie you know Kobe didn’t know any better. Derek Harper even got into it with Jo Jo English during a 1994 eastern conference finals, this fight spilled into the stands, right in front of NBA commissioner David Stern. It was so crazy the security staff in the Chicago arena jumped on John Starks.
The Knicks were always fighting. They were the best team to be watching during this era of basketball if you weren’t’ actually a basketball fan. On one occasion, Tim Hardaway of the Miami Heat was shooting free throws and P.J. Brown grabbed Charlie Ward and flipped him through the air. We all know what happened next.
This fight brought about the first wave of change and helped eliminate the Knicks from the playoffs due to all their suspended players during that playoff series. This was the game that they erected the rule behind players not being able to leave the bench during scuffles.
Now, I can go on and on about altercations the Knicks have had with other teams, like the time Starks broke Kenny Anderson wrist, or the time Starks head-butted Reggie Miller. Then there was that time even the Knicks Coach got involved in the Alonzo Mourning/Larry Johnson beef. The then Knicks Coach Jeff Van Gundy ran out on the court after the two gladiators started throwing hands and jumped on the leg of Mourning. The New York Knicks came to the arena to “Get it Poppin,” coach and all.
I say all that to say this: I love the NBA, but the NBA we have now just isn’t the real NBA.
I don’t want to see people get hurt, but I do want to see men be men. Maybe 10 current players, at most, could have played in the physical environment the 90s brought with it.
So please don’t tell me how Kyrie Irving, who is a great player in this era, is better than Allen Iverson. He’s not. Don’t say LeBron James is better than Michael Jordan because he isn’t. When you do that, you do the current players a disservice. They don’t have to play with the understanding a fight might break out at any moment.
Also don’t forget … this was even before “The Malice in the Palace.”