Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Detroit Pistons

The Pistons franchise was established in Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1937. The team played in the National Basketball League under the guidance of original owner Fred Zollner. Zollner’s business manufactured pistons for automobiles, so he named his team the Fort Wayne Pistons. The team joined the National Basketball Association in 1949 and was placed in the Central Division along with Rochester, Minneapolis, Chicago, and St. Louis.

During the 1950s, the Fort Wayne Pistons reached the NBA Finals twice, but did not win a championship. Zollner felt that his team could not compete in a small market city, so in 1957, he announced that the Pistons would move to Detroit, Michigan. Zollner kept the Pistons name because it kept with Detroit’s automotive identity. During their first four seasons in Detroit, the Pistons played in the Olympia Stadium, before relocating to Cobo Arena in 1961. From the late 1950s to the 1970s, the Pistons experienced several losing seasons; however, the team had strong individual players who became all-stars, including Dave DeBusschere, Dave Bing, and Bob Lanier.

In 1974, Zollner sold the Pistons to Bill Davidson for 6 million dollars. The team relocated in 1978 to the Pontiac Silverdome. They played poorly during the late 1970s. All-Star player Isiah Thomas was drafted in 1981 and was selected to play in 12 All-Star Games during his 13 years of playing for the Pistons. Chuck Daly became the head coach in 1983 and during his tenure, the Pistons were a playoff team for nine straight seasons.

In 1988, Pistons moved again to the Palace of Auburn Hills. The team developed a physical and aggressive style of play, earning them the nickname “The Bad Boys” of basketball. The captain of the team was the point guard Isiah Thomas, who excelled alongside Joe Dumars, Bill Laimbeer, Rick Mahorn, Dennis Rodman, Adrian Dantley, Mark Aguirre, and the rest of the team. They became back-to-back champions by dethroning the Los Angeles Lakers and defeating the Portland Trail Blazers in 1989 and 1990, respectively.

With the retirement of Daly, Thomas, and Laimbeer, the team became mediocre during the 1990s. Although the team drafted Grant Hill and other notable players, they could not resurrect the franchise into its winning ways of the prior decade. In 2000, the Pistons traded Grant Hill to the Orlando Magic. The Pistons acquired Ben Wallace, an unknown player at the time and within two years, they returned to their winning ways by appearing in the Eastern Conference Finals six years in a row - a franchise record. In that same time span, the Pistons appeared in the NBA Finals two consecutive years, and in 2004 they became champions with a starting squad of Richard Hamilton, Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace, Ben Wallace, and Tayshaun Prince.

The Detroit Pistons moved to Little Caesars Arena in 2017, sharing the space with the Detroit Red Wings for the first time since Olympia Stadium.



1978 Detroit Pistons media guide and yearbook

Detroit Pistons penant

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