As NBA TV shows custom programming during the summer hoops vacuum, the show that really stands out is the story of the late 1980s Detroit Pistons–the Bad Boys. The first thing that strikes any contemporary NBA fan is how much the game has changed. What’s striking isn’t so much the oft-cited improvements in the all-around “athleticism” of the players, but the physicality of the old game–how much rougher it was. It’s like the NBA has been in lockstep with Times Square for decades–what was once rough and dangerous is now pristine and safe. (And worth a lot more money.)
Dedicated hoops fans know this story–how Isiah Thomas, coach Chuck Daley and company finally got over their Celtics nemesis, figured out a way to semi-control Michael Jordan, and made the Lakers look old to win back-to-back championships. But there’s one moment that makes everybody who ever took a shot smile in disbelief: during a playoff game in Boston, Dennis Rodman air-balled a free throw–an exceedingly rare occurrence after the 5th grade. And then he air-balled the next one, too. This surely makes Dennis Rodman the ONLY player in the NBA Hall of Fame to have air-balled consecutive free throws in a playoff game. The Hall of Famer didn’t graze the rim with either try.