Born: May 24, 1963
Position: Shooting Guard
Detroit Pistons (NBA): 1985-’99
Joe Dumars was never one to awe with the freakishly spectacular.
He stood 6’3″, had a matter-of-fact mustache, and a workman-like attitude. About the flashiest thing he ever did on a basketball court was hit silly bank shots and toss scoop-handed alley oops to players capable of reverse dunks like Grant Hill.
Dumars instead “awed” with a relentless, stubborn defense that was solid like a rock. Routinely giving up inches and pounds to other shooting guards, Dumars nonetheless held the advantage when it came to determination. Perhaps you would get the best of Joe, but it wasn’t going to be because he gave a flimsy effort.
And his effort paid off in a litany forced bad shots. Sometimes a bad shot wasn’t even attempted because Joe D stripped the ball as the shooter began rising for their jumper. Turns out being a little shorter than opponents had the advantage placing Dumars’s active hands close to the ball to swipe it away.
And on offense, Dumars could knock out opponents with his exquisite jump shot. By the end of his career he had become one of the more ruthless three-point shooters in the NBA. He occasionally scored more than 25 points in a game, but if you slept on him, or if the motion hit his ocean, he’d unleash a deluge.
That fact was exemplified in the 1989 NBA Finals when Joe Dumars erupted for 27 points per game on 57.6% FG and 86.8% FT shooting against the Los Angeles Lakers. Dumars simply decimated the Lakers with an array of dribble-hesitation moves and a bevvy of bank shots. The scorching performance earned him Finals MVP honors and propelled him to NBA stardom.
The next season (1990), the Pistons again won the NBA championship. Dumars wasn’t as dynamite as the year before, but in Game 3 of the series he lit up the Portland Trail Blazers for 33 points. The victory helped Detroit gain a 2-1 series edge, ultimately winning the Finals in five games.
Over the next decade, Dumars would make six All-Star Teams and five All-Defensive squads. The increasing personal accolades came as the team success began fading. In 1991, the Pistons were finally dethroned by the Chicago Bulls and their slide was steady and undeniable.
1990: NBA Champions
1991: Eastern Conference Finalists
1992: First Round losers
1993: Missed the Playoffs
By 1994 the Pistons bottomed out with just 20 victories and the retirements of Isiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer at the end of the season. Emblematic of the decline of the other Bad Boys, Dumars had his most prolific scoring seasons in this period, peaking with 23.5 PPG in 1993.
The bottoming-out in’94 though brought with it the drafting of Grant Hill and the revival of Dumars’s Pistons. Now in his early 30s, Dumars was cast in the role of sage adviser to Hill, Allan Houston and the other young Pistons.
Dumars made his final All-Star appearance in 1997 and the Pistons were again a playoff team, but not a title contender. His final great game in the 1999 Playoffs. In Game 4 of the first round series against the Atlanta Hawks, Dumars scored 20 points on 7-14 shooting including 4-6 from downtown. Detroit would drop the series to Atlanta, but it was a better ending than his Bad Boys teammates got mired on an abysmal lottery squad.
And of course Dumars quickly ascended Detroit’s front office in retirement and built the roster that would bring them a championship in 2004.
Although a fierce competitor – and being a member of the notorious Bad Boy Pistons- Dumars always carried the respect of opponents. He was the good Bad Boy. In fact, the recipient of the NBA’s Sportsmanship Award currently receives the Joe Dumars Trophy. How’s that for leaving behind a bland legacy?
So, perhaps the flashiest thing about Joe Dumars was his celestial last name, but his earth-bound game was still inspiring.
2x Champion (1989-’90)
Finals MVP (1989)
4x All-Defensive 1st Team (1989-’90, 1992-’93)
All-Defensive 2nd Team (1991)
All-NBA 2nd Team (1993)
2x All-NBA 3rd Team (1990-’91)
6x All-Star (1990-’93, 1995, 1997)
All-Rookie 1st Team (1986)
Regular Season Averages: 1018 Games
Playoff Averages: 112 Games