Champs' Responsibility

THE Detroit Pistons and their Motown fans waited three years for an NBA championship. After a hard-won four-game sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA finals, they've got one - ending the bid of the Lakers to win an unprecedented three titles in a row. All hail the victors!

The series was memorable not only for the Piston's brilliant defensive play, which set a new standard for toughness - but because game four was the final one for Laker's center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. It seems hard to believe, but when we first heard tell of the phenomenal 7-footer (then Lew Alcindor), President Johnson was in the White House. Mr. Abdul-Jabbar and his famous sky-hook will retire after 21 years, three NCAA championships, and six NBA championships.

Now the Detroit Pistons are the champions. That brings with it at least some new responsibilities. If there's anything we've been worried about, it's a brawling ``ethic of intimidation'' the Pistons, the so-called ``Bad Boys,'' have allowed to grow up around their team. They've developed a reputation for blatant shoving, and an attitude of ``if you can get away with it, do it.''

Surely some of this is bravado, some is marketing, and some is media exploitation. (Though in the crucial second and third games of the series they outfouled the Lakers 62 to 43).

But we think the Pistons are now too good a team to continue sending this message. We're frankly impressed out of our socks by the play of Joe Dumars, Vinnie Johnson, and Isiah Thomas.

So we hope the Pistons and their management begin to clear the air of this message and ethic of might makes right. Real champions know better.

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