And they played the same kind of game. While Owen Jr. had to protect Rick and while Horn has to look after Laimbeer, Mahorn and Ruland were equals. "Rick and I talk all the time," says Ruland, who is now retired.
In June 1985, Washington traded Mahorn and the rights to center-forward Mike Gibson to Detroit for forward Dan Roundfield. "I was shocked," says Mahorn. "I learned the game from Wes Unseld, alongside Jeff Ruland. I felt at home in Washington."
Says Unseld, who now coaches the Bullets, "I was shocked, too, but it happens. He had endeared himself to me. Ninety-nine percent of the guys don't want the job Rick has. A lot of people have problems with the way he plays. I have no problem with it. If you come in there weak. Rick will make you pay."
Mahorn lives in a spacious, nicely decorated apartment in the Riverfront development in downtown Detroit. The rest of the Pistons live near The Palace, a good 25 miles north of Mahorn's digs. During the off-season, he sometimes stays at his mother's place in Hartford. "Rick came by one day and said, 'Mommy, I want you to see this house,' " says Alice. "I thought we were looking for him." Mahorn bought Alice that house—all 22 rooms of it.
Only two pictures are on display in Mahorn's apartment. One is of his mother. The other is of his six-year-old daughter, Moyah, who often spends time with her father. (Mahorn is estranged from Moyah's mother.) "Not enough, though, never enough," says Mahorn of his desire to see his child. "She's my heart, my light, my life." So yes, when Mahorn isn't getting fined for passing out love taps, he really is just a big old teddy bear. He recently befriended a young unwed mother and bought her baby a few outfits of clothing merely because Leon (The Barber) Bradley, the Pistons' self-designated No. 1 fan, had asked him for help. Mahorn also donates time to the South Arsenal Neighborhood Development programs for kids in Hartford, and with respect and affection, he sends Alice a Father's Day card every year.
"At one time the things said about my son bothered me," she says. "Not anymore. If anyone takes the time to know Ricky, they'll see what kind of man he is. Ricky has a job to do." She pauses and continues, "He has his day's work."
Mahorn's day's work is twofold. He gives the Pistons a chance to win a championship, and he gives the crowd someone to boo. After all, he is a good villain.