When the Detroit Pistons won the 2004 title against the LA Lakers: If Cinderella Wore Afro

In the history of the NBA, there has seldom been a bigger sensation champion than the Detroit Pistons 2004 – a team without a star that grew collectively and dominated the finals against its exact counterpart, the Los Angeles Lakers, with defense. Looks at the 16th anniversary of winning the title SPOX back to the creation of a special team.

This article first appeared on September 14, 2016.

There are no laws in the NBA for predicting the outcome of a game or series. There are a few rules of thumb, however. For example: “The team with the best player has the better cards.” This is the simplest way to explain LeBron James’ dominance in the East over the past decade.

When a team also has the TWO best players in the series, maybe even in the world, in their ranks, the calculation is a little easier. And that was exactly the case in 2004 when the Lakers met a certain no-name troupe from Detroit with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal (as well as Karl Malone and Gary Payton).

The Finals would be a walk in the park, many assumed – including many of the Lakers players. “I knew we would be exposed,” Rick Fox later recalled. “I had a lot of respect for the Pistons, as often as they could keep opponents below 70 points. But we didn’t have that respect in the locker room. Everyone assumed that we would roll them over.”

Pistons vs. Lakers: “We’re not scared!”

A team was actually run over – but not the Pistons. In five games they robbed the self-fighting Lakers of the last nerve and kept the big opponent in the third game at only 68 points – negative record for LA “A great score when you play golf!”, Jay Leno etched next Day in the Tonight Show.

The Pistons were leading 2-1 at this point and never looked back. With a 100: 87 they ended the Lakers dynasty in game 5 and made one of the biggest upsets in NBA history perfect – although the whole thing hardly surprised them. “We are not scared of them!” Rasheed Wallace had announced eloquently before the series.

Chauncey Billups, who was elected Finals MVP despite missing an All-Star nomination, summed up after the fifth game: “They may have had the better individual players, but we always had the feeling that we were the better team. “

The whole is more than the sum of its parts – rarely has the old Aristotle wisdom (not Shaq!) Been as perfect as with the Pistons. And it all started with a happy coincidence.

The Detroit Pistons’ squad for the 2004 Finals

Point Guard Shooting Guard Small Forward Power Forward Center
Chauncey Billups Richard Hamilton Tayshaun Prince Rasheed Wallace Ben Wallace
Mike James Lindsey Hunter Corliss Williamson Mehmet Okur Elden Campbell
Darvin ham Darko Milicic

Big Ben: The classic extra income

In the summer of 2000, Joe Dumars was confronted with a situation that no HR manager in the NBA would really like to experience: Grant Hill, the face of the franchise for years, became a free agent and wanted to leave. In order not to go empty-handed, the Pistons GM threaded a sign-and-trade deal with the Magic, which sent Hill to Orlando.

In return, Chucky Atkins had the player Dumars was aiming for, as well as one the GM had seen as extra income. Only later would he realize that he had won a main prize in the inconspicuous and too small center Ben Wallace.

Ben Wallace: The wrecking ball that was too small

Wallace demonstrated in his first Pistons season with 13.2 rebounds and 2.3 blocks that he had only missed one real chance before. Detroit won only 32 games and therefore let go coach George Irvine – his successor was Rick Carlisle.

Detroit Pistons: History Repeats Itself

In the next season, the form curve was already clearly upwards. Wallace was named Defensive Player of the Year for the first time – and Detroit moved into the Conference Semifinals after 50 wins in the regular season. It was the end of the line against Boston, but the summer was again the inconspicuous main prize.

Once again Detroit got several players “under value” like Wallace once again: Mehmet Okur, a second round pick from the previous year, was directed from Europe to Detroit and surprised everyone there with his good throw and solid rebounding. # 23 Pick Tayshaun Prince only fell into the hands of the Pistons because of his slim stature – and then there was Chauncey Billups.

The No. 3 pick from 1997 had already played for four teams in the five NBA years up to then, but could not consistently call up its potential in Boston, Toronto, Denver or Minnesota. He was considered a “Journeyman”, so it came as a surprise when Dumars offered him a six-year contract worth $ 35 million. Similar to Wallace, it should be worth it.


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