Everybody remembers the “Goin to Work” Pistons team that hoisted the Larry O’Brien trophy, but as we enjoy this Labor Day we wanted to reminisce: who are/were the hardest-working Pistons of all-time?
The aforementioned “Goin to Work” and “Bad Boy” eras has a litany of options, but what about narrowing those teams down even further? Detroit embodies working hard and searches for players who reflect their fans. So grab a fresh drink and try avoid thinking about your return to work and how it probably won’t be hard as these players:
Noah Sall (@iamnoahsall), Palace of Pistons Staff Writer
1. Dennis Rodman
“The Worm” was a beloved member of the Bad Boy squad that dominated the late 80’s and early 90’s. His insatiable desire to rebound and run made him an immediate fan favorite. Although limited in his offensive skillset, Rodman was a master of the glass and made it his personal mission to snatch every loose ball. His high-energy and swagger on the court would set the crowd alight many nights. I mean, the man once grabbed 34 rebounds in one game for crying out loud! At 6’7” Rodman didn’t possess the elite size many great rebounders enjoy, but that meant little to the man who would throw himself into the stands in pursuit of random loose balls. Rodman was definitely eccentric with dyed hair, piercings and self-marriages aside, he was Detroit personified when he stepped on the court in a Pistons uniform.
2. Ben Wallace
From one elite defender to another, Ben Wallace was a pivotal member of the “Goin’ to Work” Pistons teams of the early-to-mid 2000’s. Coming out of Virginia Union as an undrafted rookie, Wallace signed with the Wizards before being traded to the Magic. A season later “The Fro” was shipped to the Motor City alongside Chucky Atkins in the deal that saw Orlando bring in Grant Hill. Once in Detroit, Wallace set about making a name for himself. Although he was listed at 6’9”, Wallace himself has admitted to being closer to 6’7”. Despite his shorter stature for a center, he was a force to be reckoned with. While in Detroit Wallace averaged over two blocks a game from 2001-2006, was named to six All-NBA defensive teams, and was a four-time NBA All-Star. Alongside Dikembe Mutombo, Wallace is the only other player to be named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year four times. Pistons fans will never forget how vital he was in neutralizing Shaq in the ’04 Finals, helping shock the league and bring a title to Detroit. After stints in Chicago and Cleveland, Wallace retired a Piston. His thunderous dunks and emphatic blocks were hallmarks of his fantastic career. He may have been under-sized, but his work ethic was virtually unmatched and the city of Detroit certainly recognized that.
3. Bill Laimbeer
Although he may be perceived as a thug by many basketball fans, Bill Laimbeer was an absolute work-horse. In his 14 seasons in the league, Laimbeer never played in less than 79 games. His 12 seasons in Detroit were marked by hard fouls, aggressive rebounding, and great defense. The 6’11” power forward/center hybrid was notorious around the league, where many players hated playing against him because he made every possession a grind. He would get under opponent’s skin with trash talk, elbows, and straight up arrogance on the court. His hard-nosed style of play was complimented by a jumper that was ahead of its time. Laimbeer was able to step out and knock down three pointers at a clip most centers in the 80’s and 90’s couldn’t dream of. Laimbeer ran a multitude of pick-and-pops with Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars, stretching defenses and clearing room for players like Dennis Rodman and Rick Mahorn to snatch rebounds. His effort on the defensive glass was sublime and, in fact, Laimbeer led the entire league in total defensive rebounds from 1982-1990. His smash mouth, hard-nosed play was adored by Piston faithful and his grittiness earned him a spot on my list.
Ashley Gross (@Ash_Ketchum313), Palace of Pistons Staff Writer
Detroit is a blue-collar city and the people from there are some of the hardest working people in the world. So, it should come as no surprise that the city’s professional sports teams are expected to be just as hard-working and tough. Many of you will probably find it hard to believe but one of the more underrated hardest working Pistons is one of it’s greatest franchise players, Grant Hill…
…YES, GRANT FRICKIN’ HILL! Think about it – Hill was literally Lebron waaayyy before anyone even knew of an Akron, Ohio. Every game he flirted with accumulating triple-double stat lines and showed that a wing player could run a team like a point guard. Hill played in the rough and aggressive 90’s era style of basketball, utilizing deceptive elite athleticism combined with great shot-creating ability and underrated handles for someone of his stature. Most nights, he was tasked with guarding some of the greatest at the wing position. He bared the weight of being the primary scorer, playmaker, defensive presence the team needed, just to stay remotely competitive. Had it not been for injuries, Hill would be considered as not someone who just was an exceptional talent…but someone who worked feverously to become the greatest there ever was.
This next pick might catch you off guard, but Lindsey Hunter is also more underrated in terms of the hardest working. In the 1993 NBA Draft, Detroit took the 6’2” guard out of Alcorn State University and, ever since then, he has had one of the more successful careers any former player has had with the franchise. He is considered one of the hardest-working Pistons because of his stellar lockdown defense. Hunter was a competent guard who could run an offense, but he was a better defender, typically spending his time on defense guarding the best perimeter players. Hunter used his smaller guard stature and long wing-span to wreak havoc on his opponents when they were on offense. Even during the 2004 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers he gave Kobe Bryant fits when playing him tightly on defense. Hunter was mostly used as a bench player, but he was usually tasked with guarding the opposing team’s best player on the perimeter. His defense was an key in helping Detroit win the NBA title back in 2004.
Last but, not least is Mr. Bad Boy himself, Bill Laimbeer. Laimbeer played in a tough and sometimes violent era in basketball, the 1980’s. Laimbeer’s skillset was ahead of his time, as he was a big that could work you down in the post, but could float out to the perimeter and make long-distant jumpers. He is viewed as the poster-boy for the Bad Boys Pistons team of the 80’s. He would get into verbal and physical altercations in an attempt to throw his opponents off their game, frustrating players like James Worthy, Kevin McHale, Charles Barkley, and Larry Bird (all who have acknowledged that Laimbeer was one of the toughest (and at times, the dirtiest) player to defend them).
Bill Laimbeer would try any trick in the book to get a reaction out of his opponent, and sometimes it actually worked! Laimbeer prided himself on being stout defender, and a respected shooter. But his altercations with players like Larry Bird and Robert Parish are plays that will be remembered by all Piston’s fans. To step out on a ledge and take all the flack for being one of the roughest and dirtiest players in the league took great courage because he sure didn’t make many friends along the way. He is valued as one of the hardest working Pistons because he was willing to give everything and had to gain an edge over his opponents. He played the game from both a mental and physical aspect and brought two championships to Detroit with that style of play.
Tim Forkin (@TimForkinTV), Palace of Pistons Staff Writer, Video Coordinator
Bruce Brown: The first person I thought of after reading this prompt was Bruce Brown. Simply by the eye test, you can see how hard Bruce plays. Without consistently doing drills and workouts at game speed (or faster), the Pistons would not have the tremendous athlete that is Bruce Brown. Also, the jump in Bruce’s playmaking this offseason was duly noted by those who caught his four summer league contests. Bruce is becoming a dog, and it’s because of his work ethic.
Sekou Doumbouya: If my memory serves me right, we saw video of Sekou getting shots up at the Pistons facility only two days after being drafted in June. Sekou is currently the youngest player in the league, and he understands that. He is going to have to be the hardest working player in the league if he wants a shot to crack the rotation this season. He’ll also need to continue that grind all the way until he becomes the Pascal Siakam-type player the organization think he can be. Sekou has shown early on that he is more than willing to accept the challenge and work day in and day out to realize his potential.
Blake Griffin: The complete revamp of Blake Griffin’s game is a testament to how hard he works. Griffin, most commonly attributed for his dunking and explosiveness, has extended his game out to the three point line. He shot 36.2% from three last season and scored at all three levels, took on a leadership role, and has become one of the toughest inside scorers in the league. His blend of skill and strength are apparent now more than ever, and those are both qualities that have to be honed in on for years. Blake’s commitment to becoming the best player he can has given the Pistons their first superstar in a very long time.
Dylan Edenfield (@EdenfieldNBA), Palace of Pistons Staff Writer
Dennis Rodman: Rodman will always be known as one of the hardest workers in not just Detroit, but throughout his entire NBA career. Never one to put up stats on the offensive end, “The Worm” was relegated to “doing the dirty work” like fighting for loose balls and rebounds. Rodman made it his personal goal to get every single board before anyone else. He’d consistently sacrifice his body for the good of his team in situations that not many other players would. As a member of the San Antonio Spurs, Rodman once ended a game with 28 rebounds and ZERO points; that’s really all you need to know about what he always did for his team.
Ben Wallace: Similar to Rodman, Wallace was never one to put up offensive numbers. However, he showed the same intensity and effort that Rodman once put on display in Detroit 15 years prior. Big Ben’s defensive mindset was all about helping his teammates. Whether it was helping on a teammate’s defender in order to swat a shot into the stands or just licking his chops as a ball-handler slashes to the rim, Wallace always put in the extra effort that most other teams just could not bring to the table.
Joe Dumars: Keeping with the lockdown defender theme, we have Joe Dumars. Unlike the two aforementioned names before him, Dumars was tasked with being a key offensive contributor. Alongside being a player that can give you 20 points on any given night, “Joe D” was one of the absolute grittiest defenders the NBA has ever seen. Even Michael Jordan, one of the league’s greatest, called “Joe D” the toughest defender he ever faced. Always willing to step up and give the extra effort, Dumars has been an integral part of all three Pistons’ championships.
(Featured image by Jed Jacobson/Getty Images)