From Chevette to Corvette: A definitive hierarchy of every season in Detroit Pistons history


One of the interesting things I didn’t consider when I started writing about the Pistons is how the era you grew up watching and following Pistons basketball seriously affects the prism through which you always view the team.

I became a basketball fan by watching the Bad Boys, but I’m not quite old enough to have watched the entire 1980s era, when that team was coming of age, struggling to join the elite of the Eastern Conference and, ultimately, become champions. In a lot of ways, watching those years prior to the championships was probably more rewarding to fans than the championships were. Those people got to come of age with the Pistons, got to watch Isiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer grow into the leaders they became, watch as smart drafting and ballsy trades continuously added pieces to the roster. I’m reminded of the value of that any time I get into a debate with a reader or fan who lived through those moments. After all, I just happened to come along and start being a fan towards the tail end. I entered my basketball fandom with a ready-made contender, I didn’t have to go through the struggle.

And now, I understand the struggle. Although I became a fan during the end of the Bad Boys era, I became obsessed with the Pistons and the NBA during the 1990s, an almost forgotten era that saw the Pistons land a perennial All-Star in Grant Hill and never succeed in putting a good supporting cast around him. I saw the team betray its roots and connection to the Bad Boys era by foolishly re-branding itself, changing its logo and color scheme. I saw Hill get fed up and leave, and the team seemingly hit bottom with no identity, no star and a bleak outlook before a championship team came together piece by piece. I learned, watching those teal era teams, what it’s like to grow up with a team, what it’s like to get attached to players like Cliff Robinson or Chucky Atkins for their roles in helping the team become good but also realizing trading them was a necessary price to pay for progress. The 2004 championship was amazing, but in many ways, I’m more attached to the teams preceding that championship. I get what all those adults lecturing me about not understanding the full meaning of the Bad Boys’ championships were talking about now.

As we speak, young fans are growing up in the struggle right now, with the Pistons near the bottom once again, trying to re-tool and find a combination that is again good enough to compete for titles. As strange as it sounds, some people became Pistons fans for the first time watching this team last season.

It was with this in mind that Dan and I are unveiling our latest series at PistonPowered, ‘From Chevette to Corvette.’ Basically, we’re ranking all 63 seasons in Pistons history (including when the team was in Fort Wayne). The first one in the countdown will be posted tomorrow. As for the name of the series, well, Pistons are a part of cars (I think … I’m no car expert). Chevettes are bad cars. Corvettes are good cars. So the series will go from the very worst Pistons’ season to the very best.

I know it has been really interesting to write these, especially researching the teams from the days way before I was born, and hopefully they provide the same thing for readers who may not be as familiar with all the eras of Pistons basketball. As always, feedback is welcome throughout in the comments.