Pardon the car metaphor, but it took some time before the Detroit Pistons began to fire on all cylinders. Arriving in the Motor City in 1957 after a nine-year stint in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the franchise not only had to win over a new fanbase, but they also had to start winning games in general.
While guard Dave Bing led the league in scoring in ‘67-68 with 27.1 points per game, there was little else to cheer about in the early days. After the team acquired big man Bob Lanier at the 1970 NBA Draft, things began to look up for Detroit. With two perennial All-Stars in tow, the club posted 52 victories in ‘73-74, their highest win total since arriving in town. However, Bing would only last one more season before being dealt, and Lanier joined the exodus in ‘80. The loss of two future Hall of Famers certainly stung, but the pain was only temporary as the club made a monster leap in the ‘80s, one that would cement the franchise’s legacy as resilient competitors.
Point guard Isiah Thomas arrived in the Motor City in ‘81 after a successful collegiate career at Indiana and was soon joined by hard-nosed center Bill Laimbeer and Vinnie "The Microwave" Johnson. Bench boss Chuck Daly would enter the fold after that, and the team continued to accumulate assets such as eventual All-Stars Joe Dumars and Dennis Rodman. The new-look squad soon became known as the “Bad Boys,” thanks to their physical style of play. In ‘86-87, the Pistons won 52 games and then upped their win total the following year. It all came together in ‘88-89 as Detroit cruised to 63 victories in the regular season and proceeded to capture the franchise’s first world championship. Not content to give the city just one title parade, the “Bad Boys” returned to the NBA Finals in ‘90 and walked away with their second crown.
Starting in ‘01, a new generation of Pistons fans got to learn about true success as Detroit returned to the top of the standings. Led by four-time Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace and emerging All-Star guards Richard Hamilton and Chauncey Billups, the franchise notched at least 50 wins seven years in a row and advanced to the Eastern Conference finals six times. Undoubtedly, the ‘03-04 campaign was their finest outing as the well-rounded club triumphed over the Los Angeles Lakers to secure the Motor City’s third NBA title.
In 2013, the Pistons garnered headlines for something other than their on-court product, when the “Dancing Usher” debuted and immediately became a viral sensation. The Palace of Auburn Hills had become a hub for excitement once again, and fans of all ages wanted in on the action. Now, everyone takes part in the endless boogie and cheers wildly while pointing to the rafters and wondering when the next banner will be raised. If history is any indication, then the answer should come sooner rather than later.