I finished watching ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary on the Bad Boys era Detroit Pistons with several emotions:
- I was nostalgic and mesmerized, reminded that the 1987-90 Pistons came along at the height of my sports hero-worship, ages 7 through 10.
- Realizing that folks under 30 years old never knew this NBA era and therefore, don’t really know basketball.
- Grateful that young folks had a chance to see this, to be educated to who Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars were before they were NBA executives, to the greatness of this backcourt, to see highlights of Thomas’ 25-point third quarter on a freshly sprained ankle in Game 6 of the 1988 NBA finals.
- Certain this documentary ought to be required in history classes, and for anyone under 30 who wants to talk basketball ever again.
- And then, realizing Isiah Thomas, for me, is was the equivalent of Jim Brown for my father.
Growing up in this state, in the Bad Boys era, I also naturally thought Barry Sanders was the greatest running back ever to live, just as I think Thomas is the greatest basketball player under 6-foot-5 ever to play.
I’m probably right about both. But I remember my father trying to explain to me Jim Brown, and how dominant he was in his era (in any era, actually). I listened, shrugged and kept watching Barry (who was a first-name athlete, just like Michael).
A few years before the late 80s Pistons, the 1983 Philadelphia 76ers were a collection of incredible talents – Julius Erving (Dr. J to 20 somethings), center Moses Malone (one of the original high school-to-the-pros stars), point guard Mo Cheeks (yes, that Mo Cheeks). I have zero recollection of that team, considered one of the best NBA teams ever. There are 40-year-olds on the East Coast who probably think that makes me an ignorant NBA fan.
Every age group has their team. Think about it: College students in Michigan State’s Izzone section at Breslin Center don’t remember Mateen Cleaves at Michigan State. In some ways, that makes them unqualified for the Izzone.
Someone has always done it just as well earlier. Sometimes better. Remember that.
I’m grateful I became a cognizant sports fan just as the Bad Boys came to be. And happy, on this front, that I’m not a few years younger.