Isiah Thomas

Vinnie Johnson drives to the basket against Kareem Abdul Jabbar during game 4 of the 1989 NBA Finals.

Although two new teams began play in Charlotte and Miami, some things remained the same. Michael Jordan won his third straight NBA scoring crown. Magic Johnson won his second Most Valuable Player Award. And the Detroit Pistons played the best team defense in the NBA. But the team's hierarchy sensed that the elusive team chemistry wasn't quite what it should be, so three days after the All-Star Game, the Pistons traded Adrian Dantley and a No. 1 draft pick for forward Mark Aguirre of the Dallas Mavericks. The trade seemed a gamble, but the Pistons responded to the trade and finished the regular season with a league-best 63-19 record.

The Lakers, meanwhile, were determined to send their captain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, into retirement with three straight titles. Abdul-Jabbar had announced that this season, his 20th, would be his last. The 42-year-old center had won the league MVP six times, had become the NBA's all-time scoring leader, and had played on six NBA title teams. When the Lakers swept through the first three rounds of the Playoffs without a loss in 11 games, it seemed the fairy tale ending was in place. But Byron Scott pulled his hamstring prior to Game 1 of the Finals, and Magic Johnson also suffered a hamstring injury during Game 2. The Pistons, who had nearly captured a Championship the previous year, outplayed what was left of the Lakers and swept four straight games, including the clincher at the Forum.

Joe Dumars was the best-kept secret in the NBA prior to the 1988-89 season, which took some doing considering he had made the NBA All-Rookie Team in 1986 and played in the NBA Finals in 1988. The long shadow cast by All-Stars Isiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer was large enough to obscure Dumars' solid contributions. When Mark Aguirre was acquired, it merely put another All-Star between the spotlight and Dumars. But his fine play on both ends of the court in the NBA Finals once and for all ended his anonymity as he was named NBA Finals MVP. Next to the flashy Thomas and bombastic Laimbeer, Dumars knew he was viewed as a straight arrow.

"I can understand that people want to see the fancy stuff," Dumars said. "But believe me, we've got enough fancy stuff on the Detroit Pistons where I don't have to be fancy."