Warner Bros. // 1989 // 1350 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dennis Prince (Retired) // January 25th, 2007
Relive every moment of the Detroit Pistons' first-ever NBA championship...and that would include all the egregious fouls routinely committed by the so-called "bad boys." Upon viewing this multi-disc edition, it seems to be yet another example of the incriminating evidence against the faulty yet dictatorial NBA.
All bow down to the mid-court magistrate, David Stern.
Let's be clear at the outset: I am a fan of basketball and I enjoy the ever impressive talent on the hardwood that thrills millions worldwide. And while I appreciate what Commissioner Stern has done to broaden the accessibility and appeal of the game, I'm nonetheless ready to proclaim this emperor has no clothes. Stern has made it a habit to endlessly tinker with the game, confounding fans and agitating players. Much the way high-tech hackers have been able to crack security codes and render piracy protections impotent, so too has Stern been faced with an endless stream of new talent that, every year, plays his game better than he ever could have anticipated, hence the need for new three-second rules, restricted zones, and a plethora of ambiguously interpreted ball handling infractions. Whether it was Larry Bird, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson or the thing known as "Shaq," Stern has had a tough time conjuring rules that his arrogant officials could consistently enforce.
Consistent enforcement of the carousel of NBA rules has certainly been Stern's albatross, evidenced by the man's proclivity to shroud his officials' judgments behind a fortress of executive office bastions and wielding hefty fines against anyone who might utter a word of challenge. And, so, as we look back at the 1988-89 NBA season in this overblown boxed set, NBA Detroit Pistons 1989 Champions: Born to Be Bad, its very title raises a snicker given how Stern, Stu Jackson, and others are scrambling now to soften such assertions of aggression whereas, at the time, they happily embraced the emerging hip-hop and "gangsta" culture as an untapped demographic and revenue stream.
On to the game and the basis of this 1989 Detroit championship, it's always interesting to take a look back to see how the game has changed. You'll begin this retrospective by dropping in on the Eastern Conference Finals where the undaunted Pistons met their first challenge of the post-season in the Chicago Bulls. Having swept Boston in the Quarter Finals (in the previous best-of-five format) and likewise dispatching Milwaukee in the Semi-Finals, the Pistons were poised to cut through the up-and-coming Bulls featuring the soon-to-be-phenom, Michael Jordan. Of course, Jordan had other ideas and presented a challenge that clearly rocked the Pistons back on their heels. Having delivered "The Shot" that dramatically dispatched the Cleveland Cavaliers under his belt, the confident Jordan and his Bulls' offense presented complications that Detroit hadn't yet seen, likely because they were expecting to take this series with only one eye open. The tussle went back and forth yet the Pistons prevailed after six hard-fought games. Jordan lacked the reliable contributions of the still-developing Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant while head coach Doug Collins generally knelt ineffective on the sidelines while then-Assistant Coach Phil Jackson had visions of triangles dancing in his head. But the series truly gained the Piston's attention and calls into question the allowed style of play, especially as the lumbering Detroit center, Bill Laimbeer, threw every egregious foul at Jordan and company with rarely a whistle being blown.
After escaping potential upset at the hands of the Bulls, the Pistons advanced to the NBA Finals where they would face the Los Angeles Lakers, undefeated in their Playoff campaign. Anticipating fatigue on their recently embattled opponents, the Lakers and coach Pat Riley were unprepared for the 12-point loss they'd suffer on Pistons' home floor at the Palace of Auburn Hills, followed by another loss two days later. Traveling back to the comfort of the L.A. Forum, the lacking Lakers hoped to even the score backed by some home cooking of their own. The home vittles, though, were stale and the "Showtime Lakers" were shown their own door as the Pistons made short work of them, sweeping the team and the retiring Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to claim the coveted Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy and establish their franchise-first national win.
Back to the DVD, though, this new boxed set delivers a whopping 11 discs, giving promise that it will use its digital capacity to deliver every detail and nuance of the Detroit Piston's flagship championship. Beware, though, because what you'll really get is a severely under-utilized offering that brings just one game per single-sided disc without any extras, commentary, or what have you. The set brings only the six games of the Eastern Conference Finals and the subsequent four of the Finals match up. The games, presented in their entirety minus commercial breaks, clock in at roughly 105 minutes each, digitally un-enhanced and definitely not in need of an entire disc (but I guess it looks impressive in the fat box and attempts to justify the ridiculous $64.98 MSRP). It should be noted, too, that the fourth quarter of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals is inexplicably missing the first several minutes, commencing at the 9:32 mark.
The 11th disc provides an equally scant offering, "Motor City Madness," that recounts the 1988-89 NBA season and culminates in the Pistons spraying the L.A. Forum visitor's locker room with champagne. While this 1989-produced documentary, narrated by Dick Stockton, is well done, it hardly deserves a disc of its own given it only runs 50 minutes.
As for the quality of this boxed set, that's where it becomes truly difficult to even consider a justified purchase. Although it's expected that we won't see the level of HD broadcast quality that we've quickly become accustomed to in the airing of today's sporting events, it's difficult to watch this presentation that looks like a degenerated VHS home recording. The image, framed at the original 4:3 broadcast ratio, is undefined and over-saturated. Colors bleed everywhere and edges wiggle and wobble constantly. Surely, in a age where we can restore classic films of 50 years ago to near-pristine quality, there certainly could have been some technique applied here to render an image that's easier on the eyes and which could reveal the sorts of picture details that DVD purveyors expect. This set, from start to finish, looks like quick dump of original broadcast feeds and underserves the fans who deserve much, much more. The audio is generally good in 2.0 stereo yet there are many points of dropout and uneveness that likewise betray the fact that this outwardly polished set is inwardly inferior. Again, there are no extras here.
Five of the six slimline cases here house two discs each and include game statistics on the outer insert (spoiling the outcome if you aren't familiar with each game's score and laughably denoting the Bulls' home court as being at The United Center; they were still playing at the Chicago Stadium in 1989).
In all, while this material is of value to fans of the game and the teams represented, the quality vs. cost makes it impossible for me to whistle in favor of a purchase here. Rent a disc or two before you purchase because the price here, much like the concession costs at NBA arenas, is grossly inflated.
Review content copyright © 2007 Dennis Prince; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 1350 Minutes
Release Year: 1989
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official NBA Site