Next Thursday, NBA folks will gather inside David Stern’s big top and hold the 2007 draft. The #1 overall pick will probably be the man-child Greg Oden, from Ohio State. Number two will likely be the other man-child, Kevin Durant from Texas. Slight chance it could be flip-flopped, but doubtful.
Nowadays, the order of drafting is determined by powerballs sucked thru a tube. The NBA lottery. The non-playoff teams get assigned a certain amount of powerballs, supposedly weighted so that the weaker teams have a greater chance of their, ahem, balls being sucked thru the tube. It all sounds rather obscene, but there you have it.
Back in the day, they used a different kind of a lottery. It was called a coin flip.
The Pistons and the Knicks were involved in such a game of chance, way back in 1966. At stake was the selection, #1 overall, of the pearl known as Cazzie Russell, who played at Michigan. The Pistons wanted Cazzie. Cazzie wanted the Pistons. Just the year before, the NBA had abandoned the old territorial pick, which enabled teams to choose one player from their geographic region without fear of that player being selected by anyone else. Had Cazzie Russell been available in 1965, he would have gone to the Pistons — no ifs, ands, or buts. And no coin flips.
The Pistons lost that coin flip in 1966. Or so they thought. The Knicks chose Russell, as expected.
The Pistons ended up with the consolation prize — othwerwise known as David Bing, the guard from Syracuse.
Guess who “won,” after all?
I bring up Bing, not only because of the upcoming draft, but also because I’d like to add to the Pistons’ to-do list this summer.
Plans should be underway — terribly overdue, by the way — to erect a statue of Bing in one of the main concourses of the Palace. Or maybe it would be more appropriately placed in the Cobo Convention Center, not far from the bust of former mayor Albert Cobo. Regardless, it needs to go up, and sooner rather than later. For if it wasn’t for Bing, there’s no guarantee that the Pistons would even have remained in Detroit, let alone them becoming three-time NBA champions in Motown.
Bing (left) and Lanier: they should have a date with bronze
While they’re at it, they might as well build one in Bob Lanier’s likeness, too. Lanier came along in 1970, and with Bing he helped bring the Pistons into the previously unexplored realm of respectability. The 1973-74 team won 52 games, to show you. And it took an angry, bitter, seven-game series loss to the Chicago Bulls to keep them from a possible berth in the Finals.
Bing was grace on the court, with a deadeye shot and slithering drives to the hoop. Lanier was the first great big man the Pistons ever employed. Maybe the only one, with apologies to Bill Laimbeer and Ben Wallace.
Both Bing and Lanier have been noteworthy citizens in their post-NBA playing careers. Bing, for a time, was considered a viable option as Detroit’s mayor. His investment in the city — both financially and emotionally — has been grossly overlooked by the folks in this town. Lanier now works for the NBA as a sort of missionary and orator — giving back to the youth around the world.
Of course, both have their numbers retired and raised to the Palace rafters. But that’s not good enough. You have to crane your neck to see them, first of all. Reminders of Bing and Lanier’s contribution to the Pistons franchise should hit fans square between the eyes as soon as they walk into the building. Or put the statues outside, if that suits your fancy.
By the way, tonight their old coach, Ray Scott, will receive a Brown Bomber jacket in a ceremony at Cobo, honoring him as part of the culmination of a week-long worth of activities celebrating Joe Louis’s becoming world heavyweight boxing champ some 70 years ago. Scott is also a recently-announced member of the Class of 2007 of the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame.
That’s an overdue thing, too.