As the Detroit Pistons head into Staples Center to take on the Los Angeles Lakers Sunday evening, even though these teams have new players and new looks, this rivalry stretches back in time. The Lakers being known as the team with the bottomless pockets and massive egos, while the Pistons represent a blue-collar, team first mentality, has helped shape this rivalry into a fierce and exciting one. Regardless of the difference in styles, the Pistons have shown a large amount of success against the Purple and Gold, dating all the way back to their days as the Fort Wayne Pistons.
In eight conference playoff meetings from 1950-62, the Lakers won all but one round, which was the 1955 Western Conference Finals in which the Pistons went on to lose in the Finals. This rivalry didn’t get good until the 80’s, when the Lakers and Pistons squared off three separate times in the NBA Finals.
In 1988, what has been dubbed the “Phantom Foul” on Kareem Abdul-Jabar forced a Game 7 in this series, in which Laker James Worthy put up a 36 point triple double and pushed the Lakers to their fifth NBA title in the 1980’s alone. This series also solidified this rivalry, as the Lakers and Pistons would square off again in the Finals the following year, where the Pistons would get their revenge.
The Lakers were once again favored to win the series, but the Pistons quickly swept the Lakers in four games, leading a 4-0 Finals sweep and retribution for the previous season’s end. In fitting fashion, this was also the Pistons’ first even NBA title. It was several new generations of players later when these two teams squared off in the 2004 NBA finals that the the Pistons shocked the Shaq and Kobe Bryant favored Lakers with a 4-1 Finals win.
The faces of each team have changed once again, except for the ageless Black Mamba, yet he remains sidelined recovering from his Achilles surgery. This game will be an exciting one to watch Sunday night, as the Pistons head into Hollywood for this regular season game and some new highlights in the rivalry.
Be sure to follow Ian Meredith on Twitter @Cui2iousGeoi2ge