Does anyone remember how the NBA changed the rules of the game after the Pistons won their second straight championship in 1990? How the original Bad Boys' physical style of play was squelched by David Stern so that his shining star, Michael Jordan, could start actually winning titles (rather than getting smacked around by the Pistons)?
Anyone recall how Isiah Thomas--one of the iconic players of the 1980s--was left off of the 1992 Dream Team for John Stockton--purportedly at the behest of Jordan? Stockton--a great (and irritating) player in his own right--was coming off his fourth All-Star appearance in '91-92, and had established himself as one of the best point guards in the game. But Zeke was coming off his ninth All-Star season in the previous ten and had established himself as one of the great PGs of all time. The Olympics were a swan song for Magic and Bird who were responsible for pushing the NBA into the pantheon of professional sports leagues (joining the MLB and NFL) before Jordan took it to yet another level. And they should have been a celebration of Isiah's contributions as well. But apparently Jordan's disdain for Zeke was enough to eclipse Isiah's role in the league's ascent.
Healthy or not, for the premature ending he caused the Bad Boys, I still hold a special place for Jordan amongst the likes of Ron Artest, Claude Lemieux, and the Ohio State Buckeyes.
So when I stumbled across Chris Tomasson's article in today's Rocky Mountain News about how former players from the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls are nervously eyeing the Pistons as they approach the regular season record of 72-10, it gave me a long-dormant pleasure. A sampling:
"I was talking to Jud Buechler," Steve Kerr said of a recent conversation with his San Diego neighbor and former teammate on the 1995-96 Bulls. "He said, 'Steve, I'm getting nervous.' "
"I'm not going to lie," Kerr said. "I love having that record. I'd like to be part of that forever."
I'm glad to see that years of "Jordan, Pippen, and the seven dwarves" jokes haven't diminished the spirits of Jud Buechler and Steve Kerr. I'm fairly certain that Darko could have started on that '95-96 Bulls team. (Toni Kukoc? Luc Longley? Bill Wennington? Jason Caffey?) But I'm digressing here--the point is, if Kerr and Buechler are fidgeting, don't you think Michael Jordan--the supreme ego of all egos--is probably mumbling and rocking himself to sleep at night as the Pistons move closer to another of his resume bullets?
Well I think so--and it gives me peace.
As an aside, check out these comments by Piston assistant coach Ron Harper, a member of that '95-96 Bulls team, in the same Tomasson article:
Harper, though, isn't making any wagers with former Chicago teammates about Detroit breaking the mark, calling the Bulls the "more focused team" for such a task.
And he didn't hesitate to pick a winner in the event the teams could be matched up.
"The Bulls would win it in five," Harper said of a seven-game series. "That team was just so strong. . . . We had more guys and we had M.J."
Ron Harper is insane. You "had more guys"? Are you kidding me? Players like Buechler and Wennington and Randy Brown and Dicky Simpkins saw minutes on that team! Luc Longley was your starting center! What's wrong with you?
I'm starting to think that if the Pistons do make a run at 72 wins, the guys might want to be a little leery of Ron springing out from behind a corner and clubbing them in the knee.
Tomasson: Old Bulls warily eyeing Pistons [Rocky Mountain News]