The Detroit Pistons are NBA champions! ... on this date, June 15, 2004. The Pistons beat the star-studded Los Angeles Lakers in what George Blaha affectionately (and oftenly) refers to as a “five-game sweep.”
While much of the NBA world was shocked that a team led by Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Gary Payton and Karl Malone could fall to a team without a “star,” Pistons fans have always known better.
In truth, Ben Wallace was a star — a four-time defensive player of the year who completely changed the game on one end of the floor in ways that are hard to measure now and were nearly impossible to quantify then — though scores ending in the 70s was a decent indicator.
Detroit also had Chauncey Billups, one of the greatest free agency signings in NBA history and a star in his own right. During his era the only point guard who could boast better numbers than Billups is Steve Nash.
Both Wallace and Billups belong in the basketball Hall of Fame. but I digress.
There is plenty to remember about that magical run to the NBA Finals, including “the block,” but honestly I can’t remember too many specifics about the finals against the Lakers. Of course, that is mostly because it was pure domination on the Pistons’ part. In a low-scoring era Detroit’s margins of victory were 12, 20, 8 and 13. I do remember watching game 2 with my then-girlfriend (now wife) and getting so frustrated that Detroit was letting the game slip away that I hurled the remote as hard as I could directly into the couch.
I’d like to think the horrified look I got allowed me to put sports into a little better perspective from that moment on.
I also remember, actually, that when the Pistons won game five and the clock struck zero both my girlfriend (now wife) and I just kind of looked at each other awkwardly and sort of whispered “yay.” It was just so inevitable that there was little drama in the series.
The fun was in the national media’s narrative falling apart and watching the internal dysfunction within the Lakers burst out in the open for all to see.