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Monday, August 2, 2010

1988-89 Detroit Pistons are the most hated team in NBA history


The Germans call it schadenfreude, it means "pleasure derived from others' misfortunes" and outside of your favorite team or player winning something, it's one of the best things about being a fan. Sure, it's kind of silly to actively root against someone or something, but it's also irresistable. Hating other teams is a natural and occasionally fulfilling part of sports.

Some teams are hated more than others. Some teams just get so far under everyone's skin that they become the team everyone loves to hate, driving away casual fans in droves. Eventually, only the team's die-hards remain, leaving them to fight an us-against-the-world battle for respect. And according to Sports Illustrated, one NBA team in the 60 year history of the league stands head and shoulders above all other basketball teams — the 1988-89 Detroit Pistons.

Between the joy of Magic and the majesty of Michael was the dark and frightening rise of the Bad Boys. They threw hip checks like the Red Wings and were as mean as any boxer in Kronk Gym. Outside the state of Michigan, you wanted these guys in handcuffs. Never has an NBA team been so easy to detest, what with Rick Mahorn throwing forearms, Dennis Rodman elbows and Bill Laimbeer fits. (Somewhere, Laimbeer is probably still whining to the refs). Worst thing about them? They were a great basketball team. For all their roughhousing, the Pistons could light up the scoreboard with anyone -- Isiah Thomas flashing that sneaky grin as he beat you off the dribble, Joe Dumars locking up opponents and knocking down threes, Vinnie (Microwave) Johnson throwing in jumpers from everywhere. Fact is, the Pistons helped end two dynasties (Magic Johnson's Lakers and Larry Bird's Celtics) and delayed the start of a third (Michael Jordan's Bulls). They were bullies in basketball togs, but they could play.

Gross. Get out of here, Detroit Pistons, with your punching, kneeing and general jerkishness. Congratulations on your championship, but you are a very annoying team that people only like when they are trying to illustrate how soft today's NBA is. P.S. Your shorts are way too short and your star point guard eventually became a terrible general manager. Burn.

The Pistons finished second overall on SI's list, besting the 1993-94 New York Knicks who came in 7th. Also included are the 2000-01 Trailblazers (21) and this coming season's iteration of the Miami Heat (25), which might climb a few notches in the next year. The 2004 men's Olympic team also cracked the list (20), which isn't surprising considering that team featured both Allen Iverson(notes) and Stephon Marbury(notes).

All things considered, I'd say Sports Illustrated made a fine choice for the most hated team in NBA history. It's hard to argue against a team that everyone but Detroit fans hated. However, I'd dock them a few points since people look back fondly on their rugged defense and team attitude. Personally, I'd vote for those 93-94 Knicks who were wholly unpleasant. From their sweaty superstar to their black shoes and white socks look, everything about that team was no fun. Well, the fact that they had a guy named "Herb" was pretty cool for a 10-year-old, but other than that, nothing.