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John Salley reveals what really happened when Pistons walked off court vs. Bulls in 1991

The Detroit Pistons were an important component of Michael Jordan’s rise to the top. One of the most significant moments of his career was when he finally beat the Bad Boy Pistons in the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals and the entire Pistons roster, including John Salley, walked out after the sweep was completed in Game 4.

Some fans saw that as the Pistons being the Pistons. They were disrespecting Jordan and his Chicago Bulls; that was part of acting like the Bad Boy brand they have been stamped with.

However, former Piston big man John Salley remembered things differently. He appeared in a VLADTV video and explained his team’s side of the story. Based on his statement, it seems that the walkout wasn’t an original idea concocted by Isiah Thomas and company.

Salley said:

“What happened is Bill Laimbeer leans over and says, ‘Let’s hand them the torch like it was handed to us.'”

He was referring to the time the Celtics did the same thing to them in the 1988 Eastern Conference Finals, in which Detroit beat Boston after losing in the previous year’s East Finals:

“1988, Adrian Dantley is on the foul line on the Silver Dome. All of a sudden, all of the Celtics start walking through us as guys are on the foul line. Celtics are leaving the court, Larry Bird, Parish. Isaiah standing there, and we’re just watching these guys walk off as AD’s talking the foul shot.

Out of the blue, Kevin McHale looks back at Isaiah and says, ‘bring the trophy back to the East,’ gives him a five, and walks through. We’re like, ‘What in the world…?’ You’ll find that on camera.”

It turns out that the gesture had great intentions. However, Jordan and the rest of the Bulls took it badly. Later on in the interview, Salley observed that since the “New Messiah” said that it was disrespectful, the entire basketball community agreed on it.

Whether Salley’s words are true will depend on the listener. However, it does give some perspective to one of the more emotionally powerful moments in the history of the Bulls and the Bad Boy Pistons.