|Eastern Finals:||Pistons defeat Bulls, 4–2|
|Western Finals:||Lakers defeat Suns, 4–0|
The series was a rematch of the previous year's championship round between the Eastern Conference champion Detroit Pistons and the defending two-time NBA champion Western Conference champion Los Angeles Lakers. This was the first NBA championship since 1983 to be won by a team other than the Lakers or the Boston Celtics.
During the season, the Lakers had won their division, with Magic Johnson collecting his second MVP award. The team swept the first three playoff series (Pacific Division foes: the Portland Trail Blazers, Seattle SuperSonics, and Phoenix Suns), resulting in a rematch with the Detroit Pistons in the Finals.
The Pistons had dominated the Eastern Conference, winning 63 games during the regular season. After sweeping the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks, the Pistons beat the Chicago Bulls in six games, earning a second straight trip to the NBA Finals. In the season before, the Lakers had beaten them in a tough, seven-game series.
The Pistons won the series in a four-game sweep, marking the first time a team (Lakers) had swept the first three rounds of the playoffs, only to be swept in the finals. As of today, the Pistons are the most recent Eastern Conference team to sweep an NBA finals. Prior to 2016, the Pistons were the only team to clinch all four series on the road.
For their rough physical play, and sometimes arrogant demeanor, Pistons' center Bill Laimbeer nicknamed the team 'The Bad Boys'. The name became an unofficial 'slogan' for the Pistons throughout the next season as well.
Following the series, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar announced his retirement at 42, after 20 years with the NBA.
Prior to the 2016 NBA Finals, when the Cleveland Cavaliers overcame the Golden State Warriors, and the 2014 NBA Finals when the San Antonio Spurs bested the Miami Heat, the Pistons were the last Finals champion to have been runner-up to the same opponent the previous season as they did in the 1988 Finals.
1989 NBA Playoffs
|Los Angeles Lakers (Western Conference Champion)||Detroit Pistons (Eastern Conference Champion)|
1st Pacific, 1st West, 2nd Overall
|Regular season||63–19 (.768)
1st Central, 1st East, 1st Overall
|Defeated the (8) Portland Trail Blazers, 3–0||First Round||Defeated the (8) Boston Celtics, 3–0|
|Defeated the (4) Seattle SuperSonics, 4–0||Conference Semifinals||Defeated the (5) Milwaukee Bucks, 4–0|
|Defeated the (3) Phoenix Suns, 4–0||Conference Finals||Defeated the (6) Chicago Bulls, 4–2|
|Game||Date||Home Team||Result||Road Team|
|Game 1||June 6||Detroit||109–97||Los Angeles|
|Game 2||June 8||Detroit||108–105||Los Angeles|
|Game 3||June 11||Los Angeles||110–114||Detroit|
|Game 4||June 13||Los Angeles||97–105||Detroit|