Legendary Piston Isiah Thomas spoke Saturday during the Pistons' 'Bad Boys' celebration at Little Caesars Arena. Rod Beard, The Detroit News
Detroit — Isiah Thomas has been part of some of the biggest moments in Pistons history and generally doesn’t bend when he’s in the limelight.
Saturday was one of the few exceptions.
The 30-year anniversary celebrating the Bad Boys teams, the back-to-back NBA champions in 1989-90, at Little Caesars Arena may be one of the few exceptions.
Thomas was cheered by the raucous crowd, bringing tears to his eyes as he was recognized during a first-half timeout.
“I’ve seen that video before but any time you feel that outpouring of love that I received at that moment, I was trying to be cool and not break down, but I was overwhelmed with the emotion and love that I was receiving,” Thomas said. “I want to say thank you to everybody Detroit for making me feel this way.
“Any time that the outpouring of love that I receive from the fans and community, I didn’t know how to handle it, so I started tearing up. To have that amount of love and appreciation directed at me during that moment, it was just really nice.”
The night was full of acknowledgments for the Bad Boys squad, which was represented by Thomas, Bill Laimbeer, Rick Mahorn, James Edwards, Mark Aguirre and others. Notably absent were Dennis Rodman and former Pistons president Joe Dumars.
The players said they don’t get to have reunions very often, but they’ve agreed they want to get together more to help renew old bonds.
“We do a little bit but not all at one time. We just made a pledge to each other yesterday that we’re going to meet at least once or twice a year,” Aguirre said. “I travel quite a bit and I get to see mostly everybody. The only one I haven’t seen is Dennis.”
When they do gather, it’s often a time to renew old bonds, where they mostly reminisce — and tease Thomas.
“I told somebody the other day that the only time I get treated really badly and disrespected is when I’m around my old teammates. The way Laimbeer and Mahorn talk to me is so bad. I’m a grown man now with kids,” Thomas said. “It’s not fit for TV; it’s really bad.
“I finally said to Laimbeer on the ride over here that it was enough. It’s always good to be around everybody.”
Thomas still is held in high esteem in Detroit and almost every time he returns, he gets a warm reception, whether he’s in a big group or just by himself. It’s a testament to the impression he left in his career and becoming the most popular Pistons player in franchise history.
“I feel like I’m everybody’s brother or family member. Everyone wants to invite me into their homes and I go because they want to give you food,” he joked. “It’s a weird kind of love that I get from my teammates. It’s not a fan recognition; it’s a family recognition. It’s unlike any other place in the world.
“People ask for autographs and want pictures but it’s a different type of appreciation you receive.”