Detroit Pistons: The wild and tragic story of Reggie Harding

The Detroit Pistons 313 logo (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
The Detroit Pistons 313 logo (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images) /
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Detroit Pistons
The Detroit Pistons logo (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images) /

Reggie Harding in the big leagues both on and off the court

The league decided he was ineligible due to his stint at the college preparatory school since it was a learning institution. The rule stated a player could be drafted if not planning to attend college, however they have to be one year removed from high school. He played for a few small leagues that were available and the following year the Detroit Pistons drafted him again with their 48th pick, making him one of the only players to be selected twice in the annual NBA draft.

He finally made it to the NBA, yet his surroundings didn’t change. Harding may have benefited more as a player if he left his hometown. He was suspended before suiting up for the Detroit Pistons after finding himself in more legal troubles. This postponed his debut, making his first showing mid-season, playing in 39 games his first season after everything was settled.

As a rookie with the Detroit Pistons he averaged 11.0 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. He only played three seasons in Detroit, averaging a double-double in the first two, as his issues were never lack of talent. His playing career showed promise early on and the league was taking notice.

Red Auerbach once said regarding his potential Harding could  “match NBA’s top pivot-man” praising his play. He was in the big leagues now, making a name for himself on and off the court. In this contest he tallied 23 points and snagged 19 rebounds matched up against Bill Russell’s and the Boston Celtics.

It seems the more success Reggie had on the court in his profession, the more trouble he had off of it. By the time his professional career kicked off, he was involved with robberies, suspected of heroine distribution amongst other things. In the league he was known to carry a pistol in his gym bag, it was even rumored he had a prostitution ring for players.

Recently Marquez Johnson, former Milwaukee Bucks player made reference to Reggie Harding on the No Chill with Gilbert Arenas podcast in regards to his iconic role in White Men Can’t Jump. Johnson stated that his role in the film was inspired by Harding.

Watch the clip here:

He also detailed a incident in which Harding allegedly dangled a prostitute out of a window in San Francisco. He accused her of not paying him after rendering services to teammates on his behalf. Whether it was his drug addiction, upbringing, or just bad decision-making, the league didn’t change his street mentality.

He couldn’t shake the street life, no matter how far he was from the Motor City. The issues continued, eventually leading to the largest fine in NBA history up to that point. The two thousand dollar fine was handed out along with a season-long suspension after being convicted of assault on a police officer after an argument over a parking ticket. The Detroit Pistons later traded him to Chicago for a third round pick in 1967.