Since the present Pistons team is mired in a 13 game losing streak, let’s think of something more pleasant. Who are the players who best represent the NBA Detroit Pistons? In other words, who belongs on the Pistons Mount Rushmore?
The Mount Rushmore of Pistons
I will take it upon my shoulders to choose the four faces, no, the five faces that will be proudly chiseled into the granite side of Mount Arvon of the Huron Mountains. If there were a mountain closer to Detroit, these faces would be there.
My only guideline for the Piston’s GOATs is that the player must have played on the team for at least five years.
In general, I think the best way to find who should spend eternity on the Piston Mount Rushmore is to start with the Pistons in the NBA Hall of Fame.
Let’s start with George “Bird” Yardley. Yardley played for seven seasons and was an All-Star during six of them. He played for the Fort Wayne Pistons and then moved with the team to Detroit in 1957. Playing small forward in Detroit, he led the league in scoring and totaled 2001 points, the first NBA player to score over 2000 points in a season. Overall, He averaged 19 points and 9 rebounds with the Pistons. Yardley was inducted into the HOF in 1996
The “Big D”, Dave DeBusschere. He played for seven seasons during the 1960s as a power/small forward. A Detroit native, DeBusschere was a fan favorite in Detroit, where he averaged 16 points and 11 rebounds a game. While BeBusschere was an excellent offensive player, he was also a great defender. He was a 3-time All-Star, voted the NBA’s Top 50 and 75, and was inducted into the HOF in 1983.
Dave Bing was a smooth-moving high-scoring shooting guard who played nine seasons in Detroit during the ‘60s and ‘70s. He averaged almost 23 points, 6 assists, and 4 rebounds with the Pistons. Additionally, Bing was Rookie of the Year, 6-time all-star, 2-time All-NBA, and was voted to the NBA’s Top 50 and Top 75. He was inducted into the HOF in 1990.
During the golden years of centers, Big Bob Lanier was a center for the Pistons in the 1970s. At 6’11”, he had fluid movements, a beautiful jump shot, a killer hook shot, and was ferocious on the boards. He is the Piston’s all-time leader in scoring average at almost 23 points a game, ranks second in rebounds, and third in total points. Additionally, Lanier was a 7-time All-Star. He was inducted into the HOF in 1992.
Isiah “Zeke” Thomas, listed at 6-feet tall, is one of the greatest “small men” ever to play professional basketball. He played point guard in the 1980s and early ‘90s during the heyday of point guards, and he stood out as one of the best. Playing for Detroit for 13 seasons, Thomas averaged 19-points, 9-assists, and almost 2-steals a game. He is the franchise’s all-time leader in total points, total assist, steals, and games played. As Captain of the “Bad Boys” teams in the late ‘80s, he led the team to two consecutive back-to-back NBA championships. Overall, he was a 12-time All-Star, 3-time All-NBA, won two championship titles, a Finals MVP, and was voted to the NBA’s Top 50 and Top 75. He was inducted into the HOF in 2000.
Joe Dumars was one of the top shooting guards in the era of guards. He was a constant all-around player that did everything well. Dumars was also a defensive wizard. Michael Jordan said Joe Dumars was the most formidable player he had to play. Playing 14 seasons in Detroit, Dumars averaged 16-points and 4.5-assists a game. He was a 6-time all-star, 4-time 1st Defensive Team, won two championships, and was a finals MVP. Joe was inducted into the HOF in 2006
Dennis “The Worm” Rodman was unique in talent and personality. Playing the forward position for seven years in Detroit on the “Bad Boys” team, Rodman was pure hustle and a Tasmanian Devil on defense. He wasn’t much of a shooter, but he didn’t need to be. He was the player the other team hated to play. While in Detroit, Rodman averaged almost 9-points and 11.5 rebounds a game. He was a 2-time all-star, 2-time Defensive Player of the Year, a 5-time All-NBA 1st Defensive team, won two championships with the Pistons and was voted to the NBA Top 75. Rodman was inducted into the HOF in 2011.
Grant Hill was a point-forward during his six years in Detroit in the second half of the 1990s. While playing only six years in Detroit, Hill amassed 9,393 points, 3,417 rebounds, and 2,720 assists. Only Bird, Oscar Robertson, and LeBron James eclipse these numbers after their first six seasons. Overall, Hill was the Rookie of the Year, a 5-time All-Star, and All-NBA. He was inducted into the HOF in 2018
“Big Ben” Wallace was the blue-collar working soul of the “Goin’ to Work” Piston’s 2004 NBA Championship team. Wallace was an undersized center who could jump two or three times for a rebound when most other players made one jump. Considered one of the best defensive centers in NBA history, Wallace played nine seasons in Detroit. He averaged 6 points, 11 rebounds, over 2 blocks, and 1.4 steals a game. Wallace was a 4-time All-Star, 5-time 1st Team All-NBA Defensive, and a 4-time Defensive Player of the Year. He was inducted into the HOF in 2021
Other Worthy Candidates for the Piston Mount Rushmore
Many Pistons are not in the NBA Hall of Fame could also grace the cliffs of the Piston Mount Rushmore. These players were great, and they all have their jerseys hanging up in the rafters of Little Caesars Arena.
Bill Laimbeer played eight years for the Pistons and was the leader on the Bad Boys championship teams. Other teams hated playing against Laimbeer because he not only had a great outside shot, he would battle hard for rebounds. He was also a tough player who would not back down from anybody. Laimbeer averaged 13.5-points, 10-rebounds, and 4-thrown elbows a game. He was a 4-time All-Star, the Piston career leader in rebounds, and had a streak of 685 consecutive games played that ended due to a suspension after an on-court fight.
Chauncey “Mr. Big Shot” Billups played as a point guard for six seasons in Detroit. He was the heart and leader of the “Goin’ to Work” 2004 NBA Champions. B was known for making clutch shots that won games. Overall, he was a 5-time All-Star, Finals MVP, and went to the playoffs 12 times.
Richard “Rip” Hamilton was a shooting guard for the “Goin’ to Work” Championship team. He played nine seasons in Detroit, where he became one of the best players in NBA history to play off the ball. He was constantly moving for an open shot that he would make more often than not. Overall, Hamilton averaged 18-points and 3-assist a game for the Pistons and was a 3-time All-Star.
Vinnie “The Microwave” Johnson was a shooting guard that could have started for almost any team in the league, but he was sharing position duties with two HOFers on the Pistons. Coming off the bench, Vinnie would go into a game and shoot the lights out. He was a clutch shooter, and he hit the winning shot with 0.07 seconds left to win his second NBA Championship with the “Bad Boys.” Johnson averaged almost 13-points a game in his ten seasons in Detroit.
The Pistons Mount Rushmorians
The following players represent the best players, in my opinion, in Piston history and should have their faces on the side of Michigan’s Mount Rushmore.
- Bob Lanier
- Isiah Thomas
- Dave Bing
- Ben Wallace
- Grant Hill
This list was not easy, and I can easily be persuaded to change a name or two.
The most difficult choice for me was between Dave DeBusschere and Ben Wallace.
DeBusschere was a monster on the court and had a solid defensive game. He was also a great scorer and was the leading man on the team. Born and raised in Detroit and going to college at the University of Detroit, he was everyone’s favorite Piston. He was also voted to the Top 50 and Top 75, making this choice even more formidable.
Why Ben Wallace?
While The Big D was great, I think Big Ben Wallace did more with what he had than any other player I saw. He personified the blue-collar work effort of Detroit and the DETROIT vs. THEM attitude. He was incredible on defense and was a cornerstone for a championship team. While not a scorer, he made up for that by stopping others from scoring. Even though DeBusschere was voted to the top 50 and 75 teams, in the end, it was Wallace’s 4-time Defensive Player of the Year and what he meant to the city of Detroit is what swayed me.
All of the other players made an impact with the Detroit Pistons and could just as easily be on the Piston Mount Rushmore. Dumars was a steady force on a rough and tumble team. Rodman was just a whirling dervish on the court and almost impossible to play against. Billups was the glue and leader who propelled the Pistons to their third championship. And I loved Vinnie Johnson coming off the bench to dishearten the other team by pouring in baskets. But after considering everything, Big Bob, Zeke, The Mayor, Wallace, and Hill just seemed to stand out among the others.
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