During his four years at McNeese State University, Dumars averaged 22.5 points per game, including 25.8 ppg as a senior - good for sixth in the nation. He finished his college career as the 11th leading scorer in NCAA history.

Drafted 18th overall in the first round of the 1985 NBA Draft, he played guard for the Detroit Pistons for his entire career, from 1985 to 1999. Dumars and Isiah Thomas combined to form one of the best backcourts in NBA history. He won two championships as a player in 1989 and 1990, and was voted the 1989 Finals MVP, averaging 27.3 points per game as the Pistons swept the Los Angeles Lakers in four games. The following year, he won accolades during the Eastern Conference Finals when, with Dennis Rodman, he was a cornerstone of coach Chuck Daly's "Jordan Rules" defensive playbook, which forced the Chicago Bulls to change their offensive strategy to include less of Michael Jordan and more of the other members of the team. According to Jordan, Dumars was the best defender he faced in the NBA.

Although he was a member of the famed "Bad Boys" teams known for their aggressive play and demeanor, he became personally known for his quiet and upstanding behavior. He was the first recipient of the NBA Sportsmanship Award which has been named the "Joe Dumars Trophy." Dumars was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.

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