After winning the 1987 NBA championship, Los Angeles Lakers head coach Pat Riley boldly guaranteed that his team would repeat as champs the following season.
No team had done so since 1969, but the Lakers, who possessed arguably the greatest team in NBA history, seemed capable of getting the job done.
However, in the 1988 NBA Finals, they fell behind 3-2 to the Detroit Pistons, and although they returned home for the final two games (if necessary), their backs were against the wall.
In Game 6, Detroit took an early lead, but the Lakers got themselves going in the second quarter and went ahead 53-46 at halftime.
Then, Isiah Thomas went on one of the great individual runs in Finals history.
Despite spraining his ankle midway through the third period, he scored 25 points during that frame, and behind his iron-clad determination, Detroit led by three with a minute left. The team was that close to its first NBA title.
But Magic Johnson and company wouldn’t let it happen.
Byron Scott scored on a mid-range jumper to cut L.A.’s deficit to one. After Thomas missed, the Lakers got the ball to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who was fouled while attempting a skyhook and made both free throws.
Down by one, the Pistons had one last opportunity with 14 seconds left, but guard Joe Dumars missed everything, preserving a 103-102 win for Showtime.
Johnson had 22 points and 19 assists, while James Worthy made the victory possible with 28 points and nine rebounds.
The Pistons’ best opportunity to win it all was gone, and with Thomas hobbling around on one good leg, the Lakers would make good on Riley’s promise two days later.