Fred Zollner, of Fort Wayne, Indiana, founded the Detroit Pistons in the 1940’s. The team was originally named the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons. Immediately, the Pistons entered into the National Basketball League (NBL), composed primarily of teams sponsored by corporations in the Midwest.
Led by Bobby McDermott, the team’s guard, the Pistons dominated the NBL and made it to the series championship the first year they competed. However, they lost to the Oshkosh All-Stars. Two years later they were defeated at the NBL Finals again, this time by the Seboygan Redskins, but by only a single point.
In 1944, they at last won their first championship title and they followed that up with another championship win in 1945. Three years later, the Pistons team transferred to the Basketball Association of America (BAA) and in 1949 the NBL and BAA joined to form the National Basketball Association or the NBA. The Pistons were the NBA’s premier squad.
The NBA’s first five seasons featured the Pistons in the playoffs and twice the team advanced to the division finals. In 1954 and 1955, the Pistons, which now included Andy Phillip on guard, Larry Froust on center, and George Yardley on forward, advanced to the NBA finals but tragically lost to the Syracuse Nationals by one measly point. In the 1956 finals, the Pistons lost once again, to the Philadelphia Warriors. Until 1964, they continued to qualify for the NBA playoffs but never gained their championship title back.
During the 1980’s, draft picks and trades brought many new players to the team: Isaiah Thomas, Kelly Tripucka, Vinnie Johnson, and Bill Laimbeer. Three years later, Chuck Daly signed on as the team’s head coach and he eventually led them to the 1984 NBA playoffs. With additional players like Joe Dumars and Adrian Dantley and Daly’s refreshing leadership, the team was getting closer and closer to that national championship. Still, during the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals, the Boston Celtics defeated them. However, in 1988 the tables turned, and the Celtics lost to the Pistons, due to the Piston’s solid defense, made up of Dumars, Laimbeer, Johnson, and recent recruit Dennis Rodman.
In the late eighties and early nineties, the Detroit Pistons moved to the Palace of Auburn Hills and added Mark Aguirre to the roster. They made it to the NBA finals in 1988, 1989 and 1990 and like old times, they were again one of the top teams in the league. The Pistons relied on a bruising defense and sharp shooting and they registered 63 regular season victories. In the 1989 NBA Finals, they swept the Los Angeles Lakers and followed suit in the 1990 Finals, beating the Portland Trail Blazers. At last, they could claim the title of champion.
Later, the Pistons began to fade as their roster disbanded. At the same time, the Chicago Bulls emerged as a dominating team in the Eastern Conference. However, 1994 brought in a high draft pick, Grant Hill, who helped out the struggling team.
In the 2004 NBA Finals, the Detroit Pistons, led by guard Chauncey Billups and teammates Richard Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace, Tyshaun Prince, and Been Wallace, won the championship title, defeating the Los Angeles Lakers.