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The Detroit Pistons of the late 1980s and early 1990s were known as the “Bad Boys.” Led by Isiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer, Dennis Rodman, John Salley, and Rick Mahorn, the Pistons bullied their way to championships in 1989 and 1990.

The Pistons certainly had the talent, but their physical style of play set them apart. They were intimidating, often bordering on dirty play. But just how “bad” were these Bad Boys? Salley, a proud member, gave a behind-the-scenes look.

John Salley won two championships with the Bad Boys

John Salley of the Detroit Pistons looks on as he waits for play during a game in the 1987-1988 NBA season. | Rick Stewart/Getty Images.

The Pistons selected Salley with the 11th overall pick in the 1986 NBA Draft. He spent the first six years of his 11-year NBA career with the Pistons, winning back-to-back championships in 1989 and 1990. He was the first player in NBA history to win championships with three different teams.

Salley won four titles in all. After his two championships with the Pistons, he won another with the Chicago Bulls in 1996 and added his fourth in 2000 with the Los Angeles Lakers.

He played for five different teams in his 11 years, also suiting up for the Miami Heat and the Toronto Raptors. He made the biggest presence with the Pistons, averaging 7.5 points and 4.6 rebounds in his six years with the team.

The Pistons dethroned the Boston Celtics in 1988, ending Boston’s run of four straight Finals appearances. The Pistons nearly took out the Celtics in the ’87 conference finals, but Boston outlasted Detroit in seven games before falling to the Lakers in the championship round.

In 1988, the Pistons battered and bruised the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, eliminating them in six games. The Bad Boys finally got over the hump and secured their spit in the NBA Finals for the next three years.

Salley said the Pistons were just as physical in-house as they were on the court


Rick Mahorn Was Much More Than Detroit’s Baddest of Bad Boys Who Got Fined $5K for ‘Love Taps’

Salley was a recent guest on Shannon Sharpe’s Club Shay Shay podcast and spoke about his playing days. Sharpe asked him if those Bad Boys fought among themselves. Salley gave Sharpe the are-you-kidding-me glance before answering.

“Nobody is going to beat you up worse than Rick Mahorn,” Salley said. “I remember Isiah got into a fight with Tony Campbell. They were throwing, and Tony threw one at his head. Isiah ducked and said, ‘Don’t hit me in the face. This is a body fight.’

Salley said when basketball players fight, they fight while backing up. There’s a lot of talking but not much action.

“Mark Aguirre don’t fight like that,” Salley said. “Mark was in there like Joe Frazier in that joint, and I was like don’t mess with him. Bill Laimbeer did me dirty. He grabbed my jersey like I was in hockey. He pulled that jersey over my head.”

Salley admitted that, even though they fought amongst themselves when they stepped on the court, nobody was messing with them.

“Nobody was messing with us,” he said. “When you put on the jersey, you got the feeling. My boy Darrell Walker, when Karl Malone clocked Isiah in the head, Darrell Walker ran from the far bench all the way down and hit Karl. All the way from the bench, on the court, full speed, like I’m from this side of Chicago, and hit him.”

Salley recalled trying to break up a fight between Mahorn and teammate Sidney Green.

“Rick Mahorn, when I was a rookie, Mahorn and Sidney Green got into a fight,” he said. “I’m like, ‘You’re teammates,’ and he hit me in the jaw, kicked me in the knee, looking down at me like, ‘We’re grown folks fighting. You just be quiet.'”

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