Episode four of “The Last Dance” featured the “Bad Boys” era Detroit Pistons, with whom former Houston Rocket Terry Teagle had first-hand experience.
You know those movies where a team of superheroes is gathered together one at a time to ultimately form a power group? That’s essentially what the Detroit Pistons did in the 1980s, if you replace the word ‘superheroes’ with villains. Terry Teagle, who got his NBA start with the Houston Rockets, played through their entire era and lived to tell about it.
The Pistons initially started their “Bad Boys” roster when they drafted Isiah Thomas in 1981, eventually acquiring Bill Laimbeer, Rick Mahorn, John Salley, Dennis Rodman and James Edwards by the end of the decade.
As we’ve all seen plenty of times before and saw again in episode four of “The Last Dance,” the Pistons began playing with a toughness that the league has never seen before, and no one was safe from their physicality.
While it led to some success against Michael Jordan and the Bulls early on, he eventually was able to overcome them in the 1991 NBA playoffs. Still, they won back-to-back titles during their Bad Boys era, so it’s not like they didn’t have some success of their own.
One former Rocket that was in the league throughout the forming of these Pistons and beyond was Terry Teagle, who played in the league from 1982-93. Teagle was drafted by the Rockets in 1982 and ended his career with them 11 seasons later after stops in Detroit, Golden State and Los Angeles (with the Lakers).
Although he only played a grand total of five minutes with Detroit, he did remember what it was like going up against them in the 80s and 90s.
“The Pistons were a tough group of guys,” Teagle told us. “They relied on their fundamentals and ran sets to get the right shots.” Teagle then went into detail about how each of them played specific roles within the team to make them effective.
“Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars knew what they wanted to do. Isiah was unique for his size and he could run the offense or score. They were a tough team, with Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn. Laimbeer was the instigator and Mahorn and Dennis Rodman were the enforcers. Mahorn would take hard fouls on purpose just to set the tone of the game.”
In seeing the way he played, it’s easy to see Laimbeer as playing the instigator role. He seemed to constantly be trying to get under the skins of opponents, frequently their stars. Another point Teagle made sure we took note of was the toughness of 19-year NBA veteran James Edwards.
“Although Mahorn, Rodman, and Laimbeer got all the attention, James Edwards was a tough center also,” said Teagle. “In fact, Edwards was arguably one of the toughest players in the league. He wasn’t just physically though, he was also a great center. He could score on you at ease.”
Edwards had a long career that included three NBA titles, with the last one being in his final season, when he was on Jordan’s Bulls for the 1995-96 season.
Terry Teagle went 1-3 against the Pistons while on the Houston Rockets and 4-8 while on the Warriors, but his Lakers won two of four against them later in his career. While they had a controversial playing style, the Bad Boys era certainly made it’s mark in NBA history.