30 for 30: Bad Boys (Film Review)

30 for 30: Bad Boys (Film Review)

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the 30 for 30 documentary about the Detroit Pistons championship teams of the late 80’s and early 90’s, entitled Bad Boys, is the dynasties that they needed to overcome in order to become champions, and legends, themselves.

The Pistons, a scrappy bunch of players that became renowned for their toughness and nearly brutal play, slowly got better over the years, but where faced with overcoming some of the greatest teams in NBA history. To even make it to the Finals, they had to get through the legendary Boston Celtics teams led by Larry Bird. If they did get past them, they were faced with the other dynasty in the league at the time, the Los Angeles Lakers during the height of Magic Johnson. No easy feat.

badboysEven when they managed to overcome these teams, there were other obstacles. Including a little team from Chicago that was led by the most dominant player in the game, Michael Jordan. The route the Pistons had to take to win their back-to-back titles was not an easy one. It was tough from the beginning, just as they were as a team.

Bad Boys takes us on the journey of Detroit starting as a laughingstock in the league, a place where nobody wanted to play. But it was one draft pick, Isiah Thomas, that changed everything. Slowly, the team built themselves up, through a ton of trades, some free agent signings, and more solid draft picks (like Joe Dumars). Eventually, a monster was created, and the Pistons became perhaps the toughest team in the history of the league. People hated them, thought they were dirty, and goons. Which was completely fine with all of the players on the team.

If you were thinking about them and their rough play before taking the court, then they had already won. The game of the Pistons was at times more psychological than physical. But the physical was there. They abused superstars, forced legends to their breaking points, and made teams pay for every point that was scored against them.

And it made them almost unbeatable for a time, cementing their place in history in an era that had been dominated by Bird and Magic, and was soon to be completely owned by Jordan and the Bulls.

30 for 30: Bad Boys provides the background to the team, and it is interesting to see how their relationships all worked. Their personalities did not always mesh, but they always had a common goal: to win, and to be the best.

Talent-wise, these Pistons were not the greatest. There was definitely skill, but it was their hard work that made them the best.

badboys3Hearing the behind-the-scenes clashes and issues that the team had, their true opinions of themselves and their opponents, is another feather in the cap of the ESPN series. They have managed to get good, and honest, interviews from the players that lived that experience, and they reflect back on their time as the champs with glee. They took pride in being hated, of being the bad boys of the league, and of being able to instill fear into the hearts of others. The segments with Bill Laimbeer were truly great.

Had it not been for these Pistons teams, perhaps Jordan would have never learned what it took to be a champion, to understand the physical abuse that had to be taken in order to be the best.

Regardless of their impact on others, the Pistons deserve their own spot in history/infamy, because they did win the title in back to back years, after falling short in their first trip to the Finals. Their struggle was intense, and endeared them to an entire city that needed someone to embrace at the time.

Yet another winner in the 30 for 30 series.

The King Returns: A Fringe NBA Fan’s View

The King Returns: A Fringe NBA Fan’s View

I am not a very big basketball fan, to say the least. I find it difficult to watch games on TV, as, like many people, I find they drag on in the waning minutes of each game, where each team seemingly has an endless supply of timeouts, and a final minute can take a half hour to play out. I have been to a couple of NBA games, and find the in-person experience much more entertaining. I follow who the stars are, and can tell you who won the championships in each year, but that might be it.

For me, like millions of people, the heyday of the league was during the days of Michael Jordan and the reign of the Chicago Bulls, when every kid with a basketball hoop on their driveway was a Jordan fan. For me, those days are long gone.

But I have been trying to pay more attention to basketball over the past couple of years, even engaging in a fantasy league that I inexplicably won (I had Kevin Durant, and I’m pretty sure that’s what did it for me).

Like the rest of the sporting world, I have been following the LeBron James Decision 2.0, and have opinions, just like any other fan of sports.

Back where he belongs.
Back where he belongs.

Today, James announced that he would be leaving the Miami Heat for his former, and hometown, team, the Cleveland Cavaliers.

And this is great news. For a few reasons.

Like many people, I had been trained to hate the Heat after they created the Big 3. Cheering for them would be like cheering for the New York Yankees, a team that simply buys themselves a championship, and seems to be devoid of a soul. We all knew what Miami fans were. Fringe fans, who would only go see a winner. Their attendance records over the years definitely reflect this. They didn’t seem like a city worthy of having such a dynastic team. And the Heat did well, the experiment worked. They went to four straight finals, and won two of them. Sure, they probably should have won all four to make themselves legends, but that is still a pretty impressive record, leaving the rest of the Eastern Conference chasing them since the day James told us he was taking his talents to South Beach.

With his return to Cleveland, James is coming home. He is from Akron, was drafted by the Cavs, and spend the formative years of his career there. They even went to the finals once, getting rightfully whipped by the Lakers when they got there.

But now, the Cavs are a team on the rise, and having the best player in the world rejoin them makes them an immediate contender. They are a young team, and in a couple of years, if they are able to keep it all together, they have the look of a team that can win year after year, giving the downtrodden fans of Cleveland something to cheer for in their title-less town.

James will join a plethora of young talent, and a group of fellow #1 picks. Kyle Irving, Anthony Bennett, and Andrew Wiggins (unless he is traded for Kevin Love) will be a part of the future that will soon dominate the league. This is to go along with Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters as well. Seems like a pretty good group. If they can grow together, they will truly be a force to be reckoned with, and the Cleveland championship drought should end at some point. They are good side pieces to the best player in the game, which, let’s be honest, is important in basketball, where having one great player is enough to make you a good, contending team.

I believe that LeBron made the right choice by going home. He should probably have never left Cleveland in the first place, as it made him look like a mercenary. He was the best player in the league, and should have convinced others to join him in Cleveland, instead of him packing up and moving somewhere else to chase a title. It made him look less great than he really was, like he was the piece, instead of the centerpiece. If, and more likely when, he wins in Cleveland, he will be a legend. Going back to a small market makes him look like a better person. Trying to win for his home makes him look like someone who truly cares about Ohio. And this is good for him.

With one choice, James has, in my mind, gone from being one of the greatest villains in the NBA, to one of the good guys. He is already cleaning up his image by making this choice. It will be easier to cheer for him now that is a Cav again. In the same way that it was always easy to cheer for Jordan, even though it is in our nature to hate the greatest player and the greatest team.

In another way, this is a cool thing for the Canadian basketball fan. The Canadian Cavaliers, with three Canucks on their roster, were already on their way to becoming Canada’s Team (except for those few people outside of Toronto that actually cheer for the Raptors). Now, it is much easier to cheer for them, because we know that they will be good. It is nice to watch our homegrown talent play at the highest level, it is even better to watch them when they aren’t completely terrible.

In my opinion, the Return of the King is nothing but good things. It brings a star back to where he belongs, it ruins a troublesome partnership in a city that is tough to cheer for, and it turns a villain into a returning hero.

Great choice by LeBron, and it will be interesting over the next few years to see how well the Canada Cavaliers are able to do. I may still be a fringe fan, but this one move is something that could help draw my interest back to the NBA.