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1989 NBA Finals
Detroit Pistons Chuck Daly 4
Los Angeles Lakers Pat Riley 0
Dates June 6–13
MVP Joe Dumars
(Detroit Pistons)
Television CBS (U.S.)
Announcers Dick Stockton and Hubie Brown
Radio network ABC (National)
KLAC (Los Angeles)
WJR (Detroit)
Announcers Fred Manfra and Dick Vitale (ABC)
Chick Hearn and Stu Lantz (KLAC)
George Blaha and Dick Motta (WJR)
Game 1: Jake O'Donnell, Jess Kersey, and Jack Madden
Game 2: Darell Garretson, Hue Hollins, and Joe Crawford
Game 3: Ed T. Rush, Mike Mathis, and Hugh Evans
Game 4: Jess Kersey, Jack Madden, and Earl Strom
Hall of Famers Lakers:
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1995)
Magic Johnson (2002)
James Worthy (2003)
Joe Dumars (2006)
Dennis Rodman (2011)
Isiah Thomas (2000)
Chuck Daly (1994)
Pat Riley (2008)
Darell Garretson (2016)
Earl Strom (1995)
Eastern Finals Pistons defeated Bulls, 4–2
Western Finals Lakers defeated Suns, 4–0
NBA Finals

The 1989 NBA Finals was the championship round of the 1988–89 NBA season. The series was a rematch of the previous year's championship round between the Detroit Pistons and the Los Angeles Lakers.

During the season, the Lakers had won their division, with Magic Johnson collecting his second MVP award. The team swept the first three playoff series (Pacific Division foes: Portland, Seattle, and Phoenix), resulting in a rematch with the Detroit Pistons in the Finals. However, starting off guard Byron Scott suffered a hamstring injury in practice before Game 1 and was ruled out of the series. Then with the Lakers leading early in game 2, Magic Johnson pulled his hamstring and would also be out of the series. The Lakers had won two straight NBA championships in 1987 and 1988 but without their starting back court, their chances were doomed for a "3-peat."

The Pistons had dominated the Eastern Conference, winning 63 games during the regular season. After sweeping the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks, the Pistons beat the Chicago Bulls in six games, earning a second straight trip to the NBA Finals. In the season before, the Lakers had beaten them in a tough, seven-game series.

The Pistons won the series in a four-game sweep, marking the first time a team (Lakers) had swept the first three rounds of the playoffs, only to be swept in the finals. As of today, the Pistons are the most recent Eastern Conference team to sweep an NBA finals. Prior to 2016, the Pistons were the only team to clinch all four series on the road.

For their rough physical play, and sometimes arrogant demeanor, Pistons' center Bill Laimbeer nicknamed the team 'The Bad Boys'. The name became an unofficial 'slogan' for the Pistons throughout the next season as well.

Following the series, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar announced his retirement at 42, after 20 years with the NBA.

Pistons' guard Joe Dumars was named MVP for the series.

Prior to the 2016 NBA Finals, when the Cleveland Cavaliers overcame the Golden State Warriors, and the 2014 NBA Finals when the San Antonio Spurs bested the Miami Heat, the Pistons were the last Finals champion to have been runner-up to the same opponent the previous season as they did in the 1988 Finals.


Detroit Pistons[edit]

Before the season began, the Pistons moved from the Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan to the brand-new The Palace in Auburn Hills, Michigan. The new arena was envisioned by Pistons owner William Davidson. The arena consisted of luxury boxes and club seating, which added profits compared to older arenas. The Pistons sold out all 41 games at The Palace.

The team itself was also an improvement, highlighted by a mid-season trade that sent Adrian Dantley to the Dallas Mavericks for Mark Aguirre. With Aguirre taking over the starting small forward spot, the Pistons went on a tear, winning 31 of its final 37 games to finish with a league-best 63–19 record.

Their second-half momentum carried over to the playoffs, sweeping both the Boston Celtics and the Milwaukee Bucks in the first two rounds. However, they lost two of the first three games to their archrival Chicago Bulls in the conference finals, but after devising the Jordan Rules scheme to contain Michael Jordan, the Pistons won the final three games to earn another Finals berth.

Los Angeles Lakers[edit]

Prior to the season, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar announced that the 1988–89 season was to be his last. Therefore, his 'retirement tour' consisted of pregame tributes in every arena to pay homage to the retiring Lakers captain.

Seeking to become the first team since the Boston Celtics dynasty of the 1960s to win three consecutive championships, the Lakers managed to put up a conference-best 57–25 record. The team's core remained mostly intact, save for veteran forward Kurt Rambis, who was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets in the expansion draft. Their most notable addition was former Chicago Bulls forward Orlando Woolridge.

In the playoffs, the Lakers turned it up a notch. They became the first team to win their first 11 playoff games, as they swept the Portland Trail Blazers, Seattle SuperSonics and Phoenix Suns in each of the first three rounds. Magic Johnson won the MVP award that year.

Road to the Finals[edit]

Los Angeles Lakers (Western Conference champion) Detroit Pistons (Eastern Conference champion)
# Western Conference
1 c-Los Angeles Lakers 57 25 .695
2 y-Utah Jazz 51 31 .622 6
3 x-Phoenix Suns 55 27 .671 2
4 x-Seattle SuperSonics 47 35 .573 10
5 x-Houston Rockets 45 37 .549 12
6 x-Denver Nuggets 44 38 .537 13
7 x-Golden State Warriors 43 39 .524 14
8 x-Portland Trail Blazers 39 43 .476 18
9 Dallas Mavericks 38 44 .463 19
10 Sacramento Kings 27 55 .329 30
11 San Antonio Spurs 21 61 .256 36
12 Los Angeles Clippers 21 61 .256 36
13 Miami Heat 15 67 .183 42
1st seed in the West, 2nd best league record
Regular season
# Eastern Conference
1 z-Detroit Pistons 63 19 .768
2 y-New York Knicks 52 30 .634 11
3 x-Cleveland Cavaliers 57 25 .695 6
4 x-Atlanta Hawks 52 30 .634 11
5 x-Milwaukee Bucks 49 33 .598 14
6 x-Chicago Bulls 47 35 .573 16
7 x-Philadelphia 76ers 46 36 .561 17
8 x-Boston Celtics 42 40 .512 21
9 Washington Bullets 40 42 .488 23
10 Indiana Pacers 28 54 .341 35
11 New Jersey Nets 26 56 .317 37
12 Charlotte Hornets 20 62 .244 43

1st seed in the East, best league record

Defeated the (8) Portland Trail Blazers, 3–0 First Round Defeated the (8) Boston Celtics, 3–0
Defeated the (4) Seattle SuperSonics, 4–0 Conference Semifinals Defeated the (5) Milwaukee Bucks, 4–0
Defeated the (3) Phoenix Suns, 4–0 Conference Finals Defeated the (6) Chicago Bulls, 4–2

Regular season series[edit]

The Detroit Pistons won both games in the regular season series:

Series summary[edit]

Game Date Home Team Result Road Team
Game 1: Tuesday, June 6 Detroit Pistons 109–97 (1–0) Los Angeles Lakers
Game 2: Thursday, June 8 Detroit Pistons 108–105 (2–0) Los Angeles Lakers
Game 3: Sunday, June 11 Los Angeles Lakers 110–114 (0–3) Detroit Pistons
Game 4: Tuesday, June 13 Los Angeles Lakers 97–105 (0–4) Detroit Pistons

Game Summaries[edit]

Game 1[edit]

June 6
9:00 pm EDT
Los Angeles Lakers 97, Detroit Pistons 109
Scoring by quarter: 22–28, 26–27, 18–24, 31–30
Pts: Johnson, Worthy 17 each
Rebs: A. C. Green 8
Asts: Magic Johnson 14
Pts: Isiah Thomas 24
Rebs: Aguirre, Rodman 10 each
Asts: Isiah Thomas 9
Detroit leads series, 1–0
The Palace of Auburn Hills, Auburn Hills, Michigan
Attendance: 21,454
  • No. 11 Jake O'Donnell
  • No. 20 Jess Kersey
  • No. 14 Jack Madden

Just before Game 1, Lakers guard Byron Scott suffered a severe hamstring injury in practice; he would miss the series. His absence would especially be felt on the defensive end. Magic Johnson had a size advantage, but was too slow to defend against the Pistons' three-headed backcourt monster of Joe Dumars, Isiah Thomas, and Vinnie Johnson. Super-sub Michael Cooper would have to log more minutes than he was accustomed to, and rookie David Rivers was inexperienced. Another option was Tony Campbell, but he played very little during the season.

Without Scott's quick switches and help defense, the Piston guards smoked the Lakers in Game 1. Thomas had 24 points, Dumars 22, and Johnson 19. With six minutes left, Detroit led 97-79 and the final score was 109-97.

Game 2[edit]

June 8
9:00 pm EDT
Los Angeles Lakers 105, Detroit Pistons 108
Scoring by quarter: 32–26, 30–30, 30–28, 13–24
Pts: Cooper, Worthy 19 each
Rebs: A. C. Green 9
Asts: Magic Johnson 9
Pts: Joe Dumars 33
Rebs: Mark Aguirre 6
Asts: Isiah Thomas 7
Detroit leads series, 2–0
The Palace of Auburn Hills, Auburn Hills, Michigan
Attendance: 21,454
  • No. 10 Darell Garretson
  • No. 42 Hue Hollins
  • No. 17 Joe Crawford

The short-handed Lakers snapped right back in Game 2, pounding the boards and taking a strong first-quarter lead. Joe Dumars had a hot first half with 24 points (he would finish with 33) to keep Detroit close. Los Angeles held a 62-56 lead at halftime.

With about four minutes left in the third period, a major misfortune would befall the Lakers, leading 75-73. John Salley blocked a Mychal Thompson shot, which started a Detroit fast break. Magic Johnson dropped back to play defense, and in so doing, pulled his hamstring. Magic was visibly hurt and frustrated, and had to be coaxed into leaving the floor. Dick Stockton, commentating for CBS, said, "I've never seen (Magic) look like this!", referring to Magic's look of intense pain combined with resignation.

The Pistons had made the bucket on the break to tie the game at 75-75, but the Lakers, minus Johnson, charged to a 90-81 lead late in the period. In the fourth, however, the Lakers missed three easy baskets and committed an offensive foul as Detroit first tied the game, then went up 102-95. The gritty Lakers charged back and cut the lead to 106-104. The Pistons committed a 24-second violation, giving the Lakers the ball with eight seconds left.

James Worthy drove to the basket and was fouled, giving him an opportunity to tie the game. But the 1988 Finals MVP missed one of two, leaving the Lakers short at 106-105. Isiah Thomas then hit two free throws with a second remaining for the final 108-105 score before Jeff Lamp lost the ball on the Lakers' final inbound pass.

Game 3[edit]

June 11
3:30 pm EDT
Detroit Pistons 114, Los Angeles Lakers 110
Scoring by quarter: 27–22, 30–33, 29–33, 28–22
Pts: Joe Dumars 31
Rebs: Dennis Rodman 19
Asts: Isiah Thomas 8
Pts: James Worthy 26
Rebs: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 13
Asts: Michael Cooper 13
Detroit leads the series, 3–0
Great Western Forum, Inglewood, California
Attendance: 17,505
  • No. 4 Ed T. Rush
  • No. 13 Mike Mathis
  • No. 25 Hugh Evans

The Pistons had a 2-0 series lead, but knew it would be tough going in L.A. Magic Johnson tried to play, but the pain of his hamstring injury was just too great. He left Game 3 after just five minutes with the Lakers leading, 11-8.

Without Magic, the Lakers made a heroic effort. James Worthy scored 26 points, and the 42-year-old Kareem Abdul-Jabbar found the fountain of youth, contributing 24 points and 13 rebounds. Michael Cooper, the last remaining backcourt veteran, had 13 assists and 15 points. But it wasn't enough.

Dennis Rodman, despite suffering from painful back spasms, pulled down 19 rebounds between trips to the sideline for rubdowns. But the main effort came from the guards. Joe Dumars scored 31, including a remarkable third quarter in which he scored 17 consecutive points (21 in all for the period). Vinnie Johnson added 17, including 13 points in the fourth. Isiah Thomas pitched in with 26 points and eight assists, including six and three in the final period.

The Pistons led 113-108 with 15 seconds left when Thomas allowed A. C. Green to tie him up and steal the ball. Thomas then fouled Lakers rookie point guard David Rivers, who made both free throws, pulling Los Angeles to within three at 113-110 with 13 seconds left. Dumars then lost the ball out of bounds with nine seconds left, giving the Lakers a shot at the tie.

The Lakers then ran a play where Rivers got free for an open three-pointer in the corner. From about eight feet to Rivers' right, Dumars wheeled and lunged at the shot. Not only did he block it, he landed and saved the ball from going out of bounds. The Pistons then ran out the clock after Bill Laimbeer's free throw to close the game with a 114-110 win, putting them on the verge of an unexpected sweep.

Game 4[edit]

June 13
9:00 pm EDT
Detroit Pistons 105, Los Angeles Lakers 97
Scoring by quarter: 23–35, 26–20, 27–23, 29–19
Pts: Joe Dumars 23
Rebs: Johnson, Laimbeer 6 each
Asts: Dumars, Johnson,
Thomas 5 each
Pts: James Worthy 40
Rebs: A. C. Green 12
Asts: Michael Cooper 9
Detroit wins the series, 4–0
Great Western Forum, Inglewood, California
Attendance: 17,505
  • No. 20 Jess Kersey
  • No. 14 Jack Madden
  • No. 12 Earl Strom

With the Lakers' backs to the wall, coach Pat Riley admonished key offensive player James Worthy to step up his game. Worthy responded with a championship effort of 40 points on 17-of-26 field-goal shooting with Rick Mahorn in his face every step of the way. The Forum crowd was also anticipating Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's possible curtain call. During the pregame warmups and introductions, Kareem received several ovations.

With Worthy playing out of his mind, the Lakers took a 35–23 lead at the end of the first period. Despite trouble at the free-throw line (11 missed), the Pistons began to claw back as Los Angeles led 55–49 at intermission.

The Pistons started fast in the third quarter, beginning with a three-point basket by Bill Laimbeer. Mahorn then scored four quick points, and the Pistons took a 59–58 lead moments later. Dumars hit a driving bank shot, drew the foul and made the free throw, giving him 19 points on the evening. Mahorn followed that with another bucket and the Lakers called timeout. Worthy led the Lakers back into a 78–76 lead at the end of the third, but they knew the Pistons were coming on.

The Pistons took control of the game in the fourth, with James Edwards scoring particularly well. With 3:23 left and the Pistons leading 100-94, the crowd rose to a standing ovation as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar left the game. For the next two minutes, it seemed nobody wanted to hit a shot. Abdul-Jabbar reentered the game and spun and hit a bank shot with 1:37 left, his last two NBA points, cutting the Pistons' margin to 100–96. Kareem went out of the game with 47 seconds remaining amid thunderous applause.

Laimbeer hit a jumper at the 28-second mark, and the Pistons began celebrating. Riley sent Abdul-Jabbar back in after the timeout, but Michael Cooper missed a three-pointer and Isiah Thomas was fouled. Riley then sent Orlando Woolridge in for "the Captain", this time for good. The hobbled Magic Johnson came out to meet him amid the crowd's warm applause. The Pistons, in a show of sportsmanship, all came to the floor and faced the Laker bench to join in. Thomas then hit the foul shots, closing out the 105–97 win and the championship. Dumars was named Finals MVP.

This was the first NBA Finals that ended in a four-game sweep since the Finals went to the 2–3–2 format in 1985.

Team rosters[edit]

Detroit Pistons[edit]

1989 Detroit Pistons Finals roster
Players Coaches
Pos. # Nat. Name Ht. Wt. DOB From
SF 23 United States Aguirre, Mark 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m) 232 lb (105 kg) 1959–12–10 DePaul
SF 34 United States Dembo, Fennis 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m) 215 lb (98 kg) 1966–1–24 Wyoming
SG 4 United States Dumars, Joe 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m) 190 lb (86 kg) 1963–05–24 McNeese State
C 53 United States Edwards, James 7 ft 0 in (2.13 m) 225 lb (102 kg) 1955–11–22 Washington
PG 15 United States Johnson, Vinnie 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m) 200 lb (91 kg) 1956–09–01 Baylor
C 40 United States Laimbeer, Bill 6 ft 11 in (2.11 m) 245 lb (111 kg) 1957–05–19 Notre Dame
G/F 25 United States Long, John 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m) 195 lb (88 kg) 1956–08–28 Detroit
F/C 44 United States Mahorn, Rick 6 ft 10 in (2.08 m) 240 lb (109 kg) 1958–09–21 Hampton
SF 10 United States Rodman, Dennis 6 ft 8 in (2.03 m) 210 lb (95 kg) 1961–05–13 Southeastern Oklahoma State
PF 22 United States Salley, John 6 ft 11 in (2.11 m) 230 lb (104 kg) 1964–05–16 Georgia Tech
PG 11 United States Thomas, Isiah 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m) 180 lb (82 kg) 1961–04–30 Indiana
PG 24 United States Williams, Micheal 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m) 175 lb (79 kg) 1966–07–23 Baylor
Head coach
Assistant coach(es)

  • (C) Team captain
  • (DP) Unsigned draft pick
  • (FA) Free agent
  • (S) Suspended
  • Injured Injured

Los Angeles Lakers[edit]

1989 Los Angeles Lakers Finals roster
Players Coaches
Pos. # Nat. Name Ht. Wt. DOB From
C 33 United States Abdul-Jabbar, Kareem 7 ft 2 in (2.18 m) 225 lb (102 kg) 1947–04–16 UCLA
G/F 19 United States Campbell, Tony 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m) 215 lb (98 kg) 1962–05–17 Ohio State
G/F 21 United States Cooper, Michael 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m) 170 lb (77 kg) 1956–04–15 New Mexico
PF 45 United States Green, A. C. 6 ft 9 in (2.06 m) 220 lb (100 kg) 1963–10–04 Oregon State
PG 32 United States Johnson, Magic 6 ft 9 in (2.06 m) 215 lb (98 kg) 1959–08–14 Michigan State
G/F 3 United States Lamp, Jeff 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m) 195 lb (88 kg) 1959–03–09 Virginia
C 31 United States McNamara, Mark 6 ft 11 in (2.11 m) 235 lb (107 kg) 1959–06–08 Santa Clara
PG 14 United States Rivers, David 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m) 170 lb (77 kg) 1965–01–20 Notre Dame
SG 4 United States Scott, Byron 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m) 195 lb (88 kg) 1961–03–28 Arizona State
C 43 The Bahamas Thompson, Mychal 6 ft 10 in (2.08 m) 226 lb (103 kg) 1955–01–30 Minnesota
SF 0 United States Woolridge, Orlando 6 ft 9 in (2.06 m) 215 lb (98 kg) 1959–12–16 Notre Dame
SF 42 United States Worthy, James 6 ft 9 in (2.06 m) 225 lb (102 kg) 1961–02–27 North Carolina
Head coach
Assistant coach(es)

  • (C) Team captain
  • (DP) Unsigned draft pick
  • (FA) Free agent
  • (S) Suspended
  • Injured Injured

Player statistics[edit]

  GP Games played   GS  Games started  MPG  Minutes per game
 FG%  Field-goal percentage  3P%  3-point field-goal percentage  FT%  Free-throw percentage
 RPG  Rebounds per game  APG  Assists per game  SPG  Steals per game
 BPG  Blocks per game  PPG  Points per game
Detroit Pistons
Mark Aguirre 4 4 26.8 .364 .000 .750 6.0 1.5 0.5 0.0 7.5
Fennis Dembo 1 0 2.0 .000 .000 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Joe Dumars 4 4 36.8 .576 .000 .868 1.8 6.0 0.5 0.3 27.3
James Edwards 4 0 24.3 .444 0.0 .750 3.5 0.8 0.0 0.8 9.0
Vinnie Johnson 4 0 23.8 .600 .200 .636 3.3 2.8 0.0 0.3 17.0
Bill Laimbeer 4 4 23.5 .545 .667 .857 5.3 2.3 0.5 0.0 8.0
John Long 1 0 2.0 1.000 .000 .000 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 2.0
Rick Mahorn 4 4 24.5 .556 .000 .667 5.3 1.0 0.3 0.8 6.0
Dennis Rodman 4 0 23.5 .467 .000 .857 10.0 1.3 0.5 0.3 5.0
John Salley 4 0 20.3 .684 .000 .571 2.5 1.3 0.3 2.8 7.5
Isiah Thomas 4 4 35.3 .485 .333 .760 2.5 7.3 1.5 0.3 21.3
Micheal Williams 1 0 2.0 .000 .000 0.0 0.0 1.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Los Angeles Lakers
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 4 4 26.0 .435 .000 .833 5.0 1.8 0.5 0.8 12.5
Tony Campbell 4 1 20.8 .625 .333 .765 2.5 1.0 0.8 0.0 11.0
Michael Cooper 4 4 40.8 .378 .333 .833 1.5 6.8 1.8 0.5 12.0
A. C. Green 4 4 33.5 .440 .000 .684 9.3 0.5 1.0 0.3 8.8
Magic Johnson 3 3 25.0 .462 .200 .909 3.7 8.0 1.0 0.0 11.7
Jeff Lamp 4 0 2.8 .667 .000 .500 0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.3
Mark McNamara 2 0 2.0 .000 .000 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
David Rivers 3 0 8.7 .333 .000 .800 1.0 1.7 0.0 0.0 4.0
Mychal Thompson 4 0 25.8 .433 .000 .636 4.8 0.8 0.3 0.5 10.0
Orlando Woolridge 4 0 21.8 .611 .000 .842 5.3 1.5 0.0 0.5 9.5
James Worthy 4 4 42.5 .481 .667 .710 4.3 3.5 0.5 1.5 25.5

Television coverage[edit]

This series was aired on CBS. Dick Stockton and Hubie Brown called the action. Stockton also narrated the season-ending documentary "Motor City Madness" for NBA Entertainment.

That year, Pat O'Brien filled in for Brent Musburger for Game 2 as pre-game, half-time and post-game host as Musburger was on assignment for CBS Sports, the same thing that happened in 1988. CBS used three sideline reporters which were O'Brien (the Pistons' sideline), Lesley Visser (the Lakers' sideline) and James Brown (both teams). This was Musburger's last NBA Finals assignment for CBS, as he was fired on April 1, 1990, months before NBA's television contract with CBS expired. Musburger moved to ABC and ESPN, and later called nine NBA Finals series for ESPN Radio between 1996 and 2004.


The Pistons would repeat as champions in 1990. The Pistons won 59 games that season, then defeated the Indiana Pacers (3-0), New York Knicks (4-1) and Chicago Bulls (4-3) in the first three rounds, before overcoming the Portland Trail Blazers 4-1 in the Finals.

The Lakers earned the league's best record with a 63-19 record in the 1989–90 NBA season, despite losing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to retirement. However the Lakers fell to the Phoenix Suns 4-1 in the Western Conference Semifinals, after which head coach Pat Riley resigned. The Lakers did make it back to the finals in 1991 but fell to the Bulls in five games.

The Pistons and Lakers met again in the 2004 NBA Finals. Much had changed since they last met, but they still took on the personalities of their respective teams: the more physical, defensive Pistons against the finesse, offensively-minded Lakers. In the rematch, the underdog Pistons, led by Ben Wallace, Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince, and coached by Larry Brown, upset the star-studded future Hall-of-Fame Lakers team of Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal, Karl Malone and Gary Payton, and coached by Phil Jackson, in five games.

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