Mike Rizzo will succinctly summarize.
“Everyone hated the Pistons,” Rizzo told NBC Sports Washington of Chicago Bulls fans. “They were probably the most-hated opposing team I’ve ever had, including baseball, football and basketball.”
Rizzo played high school, college and minor-league baseball. He worked for the Chicago White Sox, Boston Red Sox, Arizona Diamondbacks and Washington Nationals.
And yet, the Pistons.
“There was that run there of -- they were our neighbors in the Midwest, they were in our division,” Rizzo said. “We played them, it seemed like, a million times. Their style of play was something that wasn’t a pretty ballet type of NBA. Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, it was nasty cutthroat physical basketball. Often times, the most talented teams and the most athletic teams didn’t win. They really capitalized on that period of time in the NBA. But those guys -- [Bill] Laimbeer going back to his Notre Dame days. He was known in the Midwest as playing that style of basketball. So, nobody wrapped their arms around the Pistons, man, unless you live in Detroit probably.”
The Pistons wrapped their arms -- and elbows and chests and feet -- around Michael Jordan in an effort to suppress him. His former enemy-turned-teammate Dennis Rodman explained The Jordan Rules as invoked by Detroit in episode three of “The Last Dance” documentary.
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"Chuck Daly said, This is the Jordan rule: Every time he goes to the [expletive] basket, put him on the ground,'" Rodman said. "When he comes to the basket, he ain't gonna dunk. We're going to hit you and you're going to be in the ground. We tried to physically hurt Michael."
The Pistons rode their “Bad Boys” style to two titles. Eventually, Jordan and the Bulls dispatched them in a sweep during the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals. Highlighted in the documentary -- and well before -- was the Pistons’ decision to walk off the court without shaking hands with the Bulls players. Detroit’s path to the back took the players right in front of the Bulls’ bench. It still rankles Jordan and others.
“I think it was something like how they sulked away and kind of like hid as they walked past the bench was something that made us Chicago people salty,” Rizzo said. “And kind of ducked and hid as they walked by.”
Of course at the center of the departure was Laimbeer and Isiah Thomas, the latter of which is the same age as Rizzo. They were 1-2 on Rizzo’s list of disliked Pistons players.
“The Isiah thing was always something,” Rizzo said. “A Chicago guy, he was in my conference in high school in basketball. He went to St. Joe’s, I went to Holy Cross. We had a little rivalry there high school-wise. He’s always the poster child of the Pistons. To me, he was their leader and their best player. And an extremely talented player at that. He being a Chicagoan acting that way against a Chicago -- you kind of expected it from Laimbeer and [Rick] Mahorn and those guys. But Isiah was kind of the guy who rubbed everybody the wrong way the most.”
So, this is easy in Rizzo’s view. There was no team less likable than the Pistons and no player who drew his ire more than Thomas. The end.
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