Detroit Pistons: Three-Time NBA Championship Winner
Detroit Pistons History and Highlights
While the Detroit Pistons have been part of the NBA since the beginning of the league, their foundation date even further back in history. The Pistons have won three NBA championships, two of which were in the 1980s, and one in 2004.
Founding and Early Years
The team was founded in 1937 as Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons as a semi-professional company basketball team. Four years later, the team went pro and joined the NBL, where they won back-to-back championships in 1944 and 1945.
In 1948, the Detroit Pistons joined BAA and the following year were one of the teams that merged into the NBA league. As the league grew, the Pistons had to move to a bigger market, and since 1957 they have been located in Detroit.
In the first two decades since moving to Detroit, the team struggled to find its identity. They made frequent coaching changes and made only one conference finals in that span. Players like George Yardley, Bailey Howell, Dave DeBusschere, Dave Bing, and Bob Lanier are worth noting from that period, but they also failed to bring any team success.
Things Start Looking Up
Things started to change for Detroit at the beginning of the 1980s. In 1981, the Detroit Pistons drafted point guard from Indiana University, Isiah Thomas. He spent the next 13 seasons with the team, bringing the glory days to Detroit. With Thomas at the point, the Pistons made nine consecutive Playoff appearances and, more importantly, three consecutive NBA Finals appearances, winning two of those. That team of the Pistons is known as the famous “Bad Boys” because of their style of play with a lot of physical contact, especially on the defensive end.
In the 1987-88 season, the Detroit Pistons made it to their first-ever NBA Finals. In the Playoffs, they went past Washington, Chicago, and Boston to play the Los Angeles Lakers for the NBA championship. The Pistons won the series opener and later were 3-2 up but fell short at the end, losing the last two games of the series.
Game 6 of that series brought on a real drama when Thomas twisted his ankle but decided to keep playing, trying to lead his team to the title. Thomas scored an NBA record 25 points in a single quarter, finishing the game with 43. The Detroit Pistons were 102-99 up with a minute left, but lost 103-102 at the end with one of the most controversial foul calls in NBA history. Game 7 was also a close one, with the Lakers winning 108-105.
The following season brought a rematch between the Detroit Pistons and the Lakers, but this time around, the Pistons swept the Lakers, winning their first NBA championship. Shooting guard Joe Dumars was named the NBA Finals MVP.
Two in a Row
The 1989-90 season saw the Detroit Pistons winning their second straight NBA championship. They had to go over Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals. After surviving that thriller series, the Pistons took care of business against the Portland Trail Blazers in the NBA Finals winning by 4 games to 1. This time, Isiah Thomas was the one crowned with the NBA Finals MVP trophy.
The veteran team of the Pistons started to break down after winning the second NBA championship, and the Chicago Bulls reached their peak, meaning that the winning days for the Pistons were over.
With Isiah Thomas retiring in 1994, the Piston third overall pick Grant Hill became the new hope for the team. Hill was an amazing talent, many thought that he would take over the league when Michael Jordan retired. But the injuries took a huge toll on Hill, and, after six seasons, he was traded to the Orlando Magic.
Joe Dumars, a member of the Bad Boys Pistons, became the general manager of the team, and he did a great job in the 2003-04 season. In that period, the Piston made a couple of trades acquiring Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Rasheed, and Ben Wallace.
That team didn’t look impressive at all at first sight, but what coach Larry Brown did with them is more than impressive. In 2004, the Pistons were the team that put an end to the Los Angeles Lakers’ dominance who won 3 consecutive NBA championships. The Pistons played excellent defense and defeated the Lakers 4-1 in the NBA Finals.
The Pistons made it to the NBA Finals the following season, losing Game 7 at home to the San Antonio Spurs. They were contenders in the next three seasons, losing in the conference finals.
2008 was the last time the Pistons had a successful season. Since then, they have made only three Playoff appearances, losing in the opening round each time.