This is one segment of a feature you’ll see across the TrueHoop Network today: What numbers should your team retire, especially players who don’t necessarily have the numbers to typically justify it.
The question works well in Detroit, where top players don’t always have elite stats. The Pistons, for much of their history, have relied on a collection of very good players as opposed to one or two superstars.
Even the Pistons’ best player, Isiah Thomas, was surrounded by a deep and talented supporting cast.
Still, look up at the players honored in the Palace rafters:
- 4: Joe Dumars
- 11: Isiah Thomas
- 15: Vinnie Johnson
- 16: Bob Lanier
- 21: Dave Bing
- 40: Bill Laimbeer
It’s a collection of the franchise’s top players by the numbers.
But there’s room for a few more (and if there’s not, they could pull down some of the musicians who have banners, which just looks tacky anyway).
1 Chauncey Billups
Chauncey Billups (BestSportsPhotos.com)
Many Pistons fans think the entire starting five from the 2004 championship team (Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace) should have their numbers retired. The argument is, as a balanced team, they hurt each other’s stats and should all share credit.
But I’d reward just two: Billups and Wallace.
Hamilton and Prince have a chance depending on the rest of their careers – especially Hamilton, who’s the Pistons’ all-time leader in playoff points. Rasheed Wallace wasn’t here long enough and was a malcontent for too much of his tenure.
Billups was the leader during one of the best stretches any team has ever had. It may not have been evident until he went to Denver, but Billups held the team together.
He believed in Larry Brown, who’s notoriously tough on point guards. He made the Rasheed Wallace-Flip Saunders relationship work as well as it could. And he always radiated calmness when chaos surrounded him.
So, it’s no coincidence Billups stepped up at the biggest times. After a flurry of game-winners in a two-week-or-so stretch, he earned the nickname Mr. Big Shot. And he was Finals MVP in 2004.
After arriving from Minnesota, Billups considered Detroit home. And for six years it was.
Once he retires, the Pistons should invited him back to the Palace so his No. 1 can live on there forever.
3 Ben Wallace
Ben Wallace (Associated Press)
Of my three nominations, Wallace is the most logical. His numbers aren’t the best, but everyone realizes stats don’t capture Big Ben.
He was Detroit Basketball.
His game was based entirely on hard work and hustle. He did the little things few noticed.
He was the best defensive player of his generation.
There is absolutely no doubt his number will retired. And there’s no doubt he deserves it.
10 Dennis Rodman
Dennis Rodman (Pistons.com)
Before dying his hair, wearing a wedding dress and piercing himself to the point I’m not sure if he has more skin or holes, Rodman was one of the Pistons’ best players.
Rodman spent seven seasons in Detroit. He’s third in franchise history in rebounds, seventh in blocks, 10th in win shares and 10th in games played.
And first in field goal percentage.
Although his attention was often limited to rebounding and defense, Rodman was a pretty good offensive player when he wanted to be.
Rodman had a great career, and a good deal came of it in Detroit. The Pistons were his first team, and The Worm grew up as a player here.
If he wasn’t known more for his antics than his game, his number might be hanging from the rafters already.
I’d argue Rodman is the most underrated basketball player of all-time. The Pistons should retire his number and make that a little less true.
Other posts across the TrueHoop Network
- NetsAreScorching: Kerry Kittles
- Hoopinion: Mookie Blaylock, Tree Rollins, Lenny Wilkens and Kevin Willis
- Bucksketball: Bob Lanier?
- Hornets247: Muggsy Bogues
- Celtics Hub: Danny Ainge, Paul Silas, M.L. Carr, Gerald Henderson and Don Chaney