Let’s go back down memory lane and reminisce the dominance of the 1980’s “Bad Boys”, the Detroit Pistons. In an era where isolation and illegal defense were still in place with no zone D allowed, these bunch of athletes found a way to win. They practically bullied the league into winning the 1988-89 and 1989-90 seasons.

Amidst the muscle and brawn that is the trademark of this Pistons team, at the heart of the bunch is a 6’1 tough as nails point guard in Isaiah Thomas. Leading the team in points and assists, Thomas’ tenacity rubbed into the core of the Bad Boys. They themselves embraced existing rules and ventured to the borders of what’s allowed in the National Basketball Association (NBA) rule book back then. The original IT was one of my childhood heroes back then. His game can very well adapt to today’s NBA. He has the knack to shoot the three, the ball-handling and quickness to squeeze into the lane and the IQ to create plays for his teammates.

The Bad Boy bruisers include the likes of centers Bill Laimbeer and James Edwards, power forward Rick Mahorn, lockdown defensive forwards Dennis Rodman and John Salley, small forward and post up player Mark Aguirre and backcourt geniuses in Thomas, Joe Dumars, and Vinny “Microwave” Johnson.

The Bad Boys were featured in the documentary “The Last Dance” as the mountain that the Michael Jordan led Chicago Bulls had to scale to win their first championship. These Pistons team knew Jordan was the future of the NBA and they took measures to make sure they win them all before the Bulls take over the reins in the Eastern Conference.

The first championship of these versions of the Pistons was in 1989 wherein Joe Dumars won NBA finals MVP honors as they beat the Magic Johnson-led Los Angeles Lakers. The following season was Isaiah Thomas’ crowning glory being named finals MVP as Detroit nipped the Clyde Drexler led Portland Trailblazers.

Amidst all the drama, the hatred, the blue-collar work ethic, win at all cost mentality, and the all-star level of support on the bench, at the heart of it all is Isaiah Thomas. He is the uncontested leader of this Pistons’ era. In a decade dominated by the Lakers- Celtics, Magic- Bird matchups, the Pistons were there as a consistent playoff contender eventually getting their stars to shine brightest in the late ’80s. It’s a decade I grew up on and it’s definitely one of the best decades in basketball.

Kai Sotto to the G League

Kai Sotto is taking his talents to the NBA G League, the National Basketball Association’s Development affiliate. The Philippines is but a step closer to finally seeing a homegrown talent make it to the NBA.

Chances are, many would chime in to see if this is the very best move for the teenage 7’2 protégé. Was he given proper advice? Was skipping Division I NCAA or the Euro League a wise move? I am certain a lot of people around the kid had given their share of opinions before finally weighing down on this decision.
Personally, I feel it’s a perfect fit for Kai. There are multiple reasons but we can summarise it with the points below:

  • He will get an education: the G League contract offers a provision to enroll and its likely that Kai will take advantage of it. He may not necessarily be eligible to suit up for that university’s varsity squad but he can take college units to prepare for life after basketball
  • Gradual and progressive development: unlike playing ball in college where he will be forced to compete for minutes, get pressured to impact the game as a blue-chip recruit, and risk major injury in a highly competitive game time environment, the G League program will allow budding NBA aspirants to gradually ease themselves into the life of an NBA player. They will be given more personal 1:1’s, career advise and structured training that will keep them primed up for the next level of play
  • NBA environment: Kai will be exposed to the G League game atmosphere immediately allowing him to cope up with NBA rules while learning from fellow aspirants, veteran coaches, and some NBA veterans who will mentor this first batch. Kai, with his still lanky frame and raw skill set, will be allowed to grow into the role that’s perfect for him in the NBA

Kai will also be a core of the Gilas national program so his time with the G League will surely allow for practice time for the National team when the call of duty comes.

The sun and stars are shining bright for the best Filipino hope we have to make it to the highest level of professional basketball on the planet. We wish Kai the very best as he embarks on this journey of being the next global basketball superstar.

(The writer is a senior leader in the Business Process Outsourcing industry managing Philippine countryside operations)