The Bad Boys had finally broken through and won an NBA championship.
In 1988-89, the Detroit Pistons finally were the best team in the world, no more Celtics, no more Lakers.
Detroit fans remember the Bad Boys winning again the very next year. After all, going back-to-back was something the Celtics of that era didn’t accomplish.
Just as when the Pistons won with a trade for Rasheed Wallace that gave the Pistons a spark fifteen years later, the original Bad Boys had a similar situation.
In the middle of the 1988-89 season, after making it to the NBA Finals the previous year, the Pistons were in a bit of a chemistry battle as internal rifts were starting to show.
Two-time NBA scoring champion Adrian Dantley was in the middle of it, wanting to be the go-to player on a team full of great players, most notably Isiah Thomas.
But this was Isiah’s team and when the animosity reached a boiling point in the locker room, Pistons’ general manager Jack McCloskey made a surprising move. On February 15, 1989, he sent the two-tome NBA scoring champion and future Hall of Famer, along with a first-round draft pick, to the Dallas Mavericks for Mark Aguirre.
Aguirre had been the No. 1 overall pick in 1981, picked one ahead of Thomas. Both were friends from Chicago that were reunited.
“I’m excited, I’m gone to join Isiah,” Aguirre told the Associated Press. “We’ve dreamed of being on the same team since we were in grade school. Finally it comes to pass. I’m going to get out of here as soon as I can. I’m gone.”
And just like that, Dantley, who scored 23,177 points in his career, averaging 24.3 per game — twice scoring 2,400 in a season — was off to finish his career in relative obscurity in Dallas. He averaged 20.3 points the rest of the season with the Mavericks, then played one more season in Dallas, averaging 14.7 points. In 1990-91, Dantley played his final NBA season as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks, appearing in just 10 games.
Dantley was a strong veteran presence in the clubhouse, and he didn’t mesh with the iron-willed Isiah, and reportedly had some run-ins with head coach Chuck Daly.
“I can’t talk right now, but I will later,” Dantley said as he packed his belongings. “I told you (the trade) was just going to be a matter of time. It has nothing to do with basketball.”
Meanwhile, Aguirre, who was already a veteran of nearly a decade in the NBA, gave the Pistons a personality that meshed with the rest of the team and gave his career a renaissance.
While a member of the Mavericks, Aguirre averaged 24.4 points his second year in the league, then a stunning 29.5 points in 1983-84. He averaged more than 20 points per game the rest of his career in Dallas before joining the Pistons.
He became a different kind of player at The Palace.
Aguirre didn’t have to score the way he did in Dallas, when he was the star, along with Rolando Blackmon, whom the Mavericks picked ninth overall in the same 1981 draft when they got Aguirre with the first selection. But the Mavericks didn’t have much of a supporting cast until the 1987-88 season.
With the Bad Boys, Aguirre became more of a supporting-cast member since the Pistons had established All-Star guards Thomas and Joe Dumars as well as rising defensive standout Dennis Rodman.
The new scenery provided Aguirre with a fresh start. He had received a mixed-bag of a reputation in Dallas, almost feeling like a Bad Boy anyway. What better place for him?
He joined the supporting cast of Bill Laimbeer, Rick Mahorn, John Salley, Vinnie Johnson and James Edwards. But most importantly, he still provided the scoring threat that Dantley did.
The Pistons were refreshed and quickly pieced things together, marching toward the NBA Finals for the second straight season as Aguirre averaged 15.5 points.
In the playoffs, Aguirre averaged 12.6 points per game as Detroit defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in the finals rematch for the team’s first championship.
It was a great moment for the Pistons as well as for Detroit fans all over Michigan. The repeat was nearly as sweet, but it might have never happened if not for the trade to reunite Aguirre and Thomas, and complete the Bad Boys.