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During the 1980s, the Detroit Pistons were known as the Bad Boys. The nickname was a result of their physical and intimidating style of play. John Salley, a member of those Pistons teams recalled a time when the tables were turned. He remembered when it was those Bad Boys who were intimidated when boxing champion Mike Tyson came into their locker room.

Mike Tyson was the most intimidating boxer of his day

During the mid-to-late 1980s, Mike Tyson ruled the boxing world. He was the most feared boxer and he hardly lost. Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion of the world at the age of 20. He did it with power and intimidation.

Tyson won the first 37 fights of his professional career. He won them in dominating fashion. The first 19 of his fights were won by knockout. Twelve of those knockouts came in the first round.

Tyson went on to have 56 professional fights. He went 50-6. Of his 50 victories, 44 came via knockout. His boxing career was marred by a three-year prison sentence, and when he returned to the ring after his release, he wasn’t the same. Five of his six losses came during the final 10 fights of his career.

The Detroit Pistons were also intimidating in the 1980s

In the 1986 NBA draft, the Detroit Pistons selected John Salley in the first round and then took Dennis Rodman in the second. The team took on a more physical style of play and also became more of a defense-first squad. The physical play, led by center Bill Laimbeer, led to the team being knowns as the Bad Boys.

Some players referred to the Pistons as physical, while others labeled them dirty. Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics often referred to Laimbeer as a dirty player. The hatred between the Celtics and the Pistons made for a great NBA rivalry.

Not only were the Pistons physical and intimidating, they were good. With all-star Isiah Thomas running the point, the team was a mix of stars and overachievers. The Pistons won the NBA title in 1989 and 1990 and were always in the mix, battling the Celtics in the late 80s.

Tyson intimidates the Bad Boys

Detroit Pistons center John Salley was a friend of Mike Tyson’s from their time growing up in Brooklyn, New York. “We’re both from Brooklyn,” Sally said in an interview with Vlad TV. “I had been around Mike. He’d come to my neighborhood. I had John Salley Day in my project and Mike rolled up. People didn’t know what to do. They just stared there and looked at him.

“He saw me on TV. He didn’t watch much basketball, but he saw me on TV against the Knicks and he just got in his car and came to the Garden. When he pulled up – he’s Mike Tyson, there’s no tickets. He walked in and comes right behind the bench. He’s like ‘Sal, Sal.’ The game was going on. It was a Sunday afternoon game. Adrian Dantley, Bill Laimbeer’s not saying anything. Chuck Daly’s just staring at him.

“We lose the game. He comes into the locker room and no one knows what to say. I said, ‘Mike, none of these cats think I know you and he’s like, ‘this is my man, we grew up together.’ And they were just staring at him. He’s like, ‘Isiah, can I have your sneakers?’ Isiah was like, ‘yeah you can have my sneakers.’ People were afraid of Mike. He was the nicest cat in the world. I look back at it now and I was like, ‘I told y’all I knew the champ.’ That was more important to me.”

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