Isiah Thomas

Thomas was named Finals MVP after averaging 27.6 ppg and leading the Pistons to their second straight title.


For the first time in 20 seasons, the NBA got things underway without Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The Lakers relied on Magic Johnson's all-around talents more than ever before, and he responded by scoring more than 22 points per game for the second straight year and also averaging 11.5 assists. Without Kareem, the Lakers used 35-year-old Mychal Thompson and rookie Vlade Divac at center. The new formula, with most of the old ingredients still intact, worked well enough for the Lakers to post a league-best 63-19 record, including a stellar 37-4 home record.

The Pistons looked a bit different as well. The loss of Rick Mahorn in the Expansion Draft to stock the new teams in Minnesota and Orlando meant more minutes for veteran James Edwards, who was nowhere near the physical presence Mahorn was but gave the Pistons a needed low-post scorer in addition to Aguirre. The Pistons won 59 games and their third straight Central Division title, but they also had to contend with Chicago, which had slowly built a team around Jordan that won 55 games under new Coach Phil Jackson, the former Knicks forward from the 1970s.

In the Playoffs, Detroit blitzed Indiana and New York, but needed seven games to dismiss the increasingly troublesome Bulls. The Lakers defeated Houston, but were stunned in the Western Conference Semifinals by Phoenix in five games. The Suns were in turn upset by the Portland Trail Blazers, a team which had lost in the First Round of the Playoffs four straight years. The Trail Blazers, led by high-scoring Clyde Drexler, had won 59 games, but didn't get much respect until outlasting San Antonio in seven games to reach the Western Conference Finals. When Portland won Game 2 in Detroit by one point in overtime to tie the Finals at 1-1, the young Blazers seemed poised to score a major upset. But the veteran Pistons, behind Isiah Thomas' 27.6, took three straight games in Portland to capture a second straight title. After going 17 years without back-to-back champions, the NBA now had back-to-back repeaters.

PISTONS GAIN RESPECT WITH BACK-TO-BACK TITLES
The Pistons felt they hadn't received their due for winning the NBA title in 1989, what with the Lakers hobbled by injuries to Scott and Johnson. While the 1989 title may have been for the loyal Detroit fans, the 1990 crown was one the Pistons won just for themselves.

"You rank this one as more of a satisfaction for a job well done," said Bill Laimbeer after it was over. "We wanted to repeat as Champions, but not so much to prove it to anybody else. We wanted to do it for ourselves."

"You can say what you want about me," declared Thomas, "but you can't say that I'm not a winner."