Detroit Pistons Mount Rushmore
OTG Basketball presents, NBA Mount Rushmore, where we look at who belongs on the Mount Rushmore of each team in the league. Up next, is the Detroit Pistons.
As one of the rare franchises to make three consecutive Finals, the Detroit Pistons have their fair share of legendary players. Though recent years have been a struggle in Motor City, historically the Pistons have been a great franchise.
For much of the 1990s and 2000s the franchise was a fixture in the playoffs and embodied the city of Detroit’s personality: hard-nosed, hard-working, and driven. These are the four individuals who embodied the Detroit state of mind the most.
While he was not the best player for the Goin’ to Work Pistons, Ben Wallace was the heart and soul of the team. Everyone in the league was forced to “Fear the Fro” as Wallace helped captain a staunch defense that led the team to three straight Eastern Conference Finals, two trips to the Finals, and an NBA Title.
During his time in Detroit, Wallace led the league in rebounding twice, and blocks once. He was a four-time All-Star, four-time Defensive Player of the Year and made five All-NBA teams. He would eventually come back to the Pistons after three seasons away, playing his final three seasons in Detroit. The Pistons have retired his No. 3 jersey.
His offensive numbers will never be impressive but his overall stat line in Detroit is mind-blowing. Over nine seasons in Detroit “Big” Ben Wallace averaged 6.6 points, 11.1 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game. He was the best defensive player in the league for more than half a decade and earned his spot on the Pistons Mt. Rushmore by outworking everyone he went up against.
Simply put, Isiah Thomas is the greatest player to ever play for the Detroit Pistons. His reputation around the league has tarnished his reputation as a player given that he rubbed many of his opponents the wrong way. But there is a reason Michael Jordan called Thomas the second-best point guard of all time.
Zeke played in at least 72 games in 11 of his 13 seasons, and he made the All-Star Game in each season but his last. He led the league in assists (13.9) in 1984-1985 while posting career averages of 19.2 points, 9.3 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 1.9 steals. Other notable accolades include five All-NBA appearances, two All-Star game MVPs and an NBA Finals MVP.
His legendary performance in a losing effort against the Lakers in 1988 puts him on this level just as much as the two titles he would win. Playing through a broken ankle and giving the team and the city everything he had to try to bring home a championship may have shortened his career in the long-run but it cemented his place in Motor City fan’s hearts and on the Pistons Mt. Rushmore.
Similar to the role Ben Wallace played, Bill Laimbeer embodied what it meant to be a Bad Boy Piston. Traded to the Pistons in 1982, Laimbeer would change the culture of the team along with the rest of the Hall of Fame core for the Pistons.
Laimbeer was only a four-time All-Star but his impact was more than that. He brought the attitude and leadership needed for a tough-nosed team to compete with the Magic, Celtics and Sixers of the 1980s and 90s. Along with Rick Mahorn, Laimbeer made sure there were no easy shots on his watch and brought the physicality of the team to another level.
All this being said, Laimbeer’s numbers were nothing to sneeze at, posting career averages in Detroit of 13.5 points and 10.1 rebounds. An ironman, he played in 79 or more games in every season but his last and in every game six years in a row. Without him, Isiah and the other Bad Boys there would be no Mt. Rushmore of Pistons.
This may be controversial but Chuck Daly belongs on this list over any other player in Pistons history. While some have passed him in wins since his passing, Daly is still one of the most respected coaches in NBA history.
Two NBA Championships set him apart as one of the more accomplished coaches of his era and managing the various personalities on the Bad Boys Pistons was the kind of task that would make most coaches cower. Daly rose to the challenge every day and got the most out of his teams.
As the sole representative for the Pistons on the Dream Team and the leader of the team Daly cemented himself as a Motor City legend. He belongs on this list as much as any of these players,