Foster: Pistons get Bing assist in embracing Detroit

Terry Foster
The Detroit News

Detroit — Dave Bing grew up in Washington D.C. but he is a Detroiter to the core.

Despite playing his final three seasons with the Washington Bullets and Boston Celtics, he is a Piston for life.

Now Bing is helping bridge a gap between the city he loves and the basketball team he played nine seasons for through a series of gritty and impactful videos that are making their way on television and radio. They are more than marketing tools to sell season tickets for the 2015-2016 season. They are part of owner Tom Gores’ vision to weld city and suburbs together in an area where scars from old battles between the city and suburbs remain.

The Pistons were part of that when they left Cobo Arena, where Bing played, for the Pontiac Silverdome and later The Palace of Auburn Hills.

Bitterness remains with many Detroiters, although it is not as pronounced as it was in the 1970s when former owner Bill Davidson fled for the suburbs and never looked back. Now Gores is trying to reach back and what better person than Bing, one of the 50 best NBA players of all time and former Detroit mayor and businessman.

For many years Bing was Detroit basketball.

“I think they are trying to identify and reconnect with Detroit,” Bing said. “Obviously they don’t play in Detroit anymore. I think that has been lost. When you look at what is going on at their facility there are not a lot of people from Detroit out there. And because they still have the name Detroit Pistons they are trying to figure out a way to reconnect. And with so many good things happening in Detroit and the owner being a multimillionaire I think he wants to get into the game of what is happening in Detroit.”

The Pistons hit a home run with a recently released set of videos that portray Detroit and Detroit basketball.

They are fun, dramatic and gritty as Bing narrates the vision of dozens of Detroiters who were interviewed by the Pistons production team as they give their version of Detroit.

“We started by listening and observing,” said Charlie Metzger, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for the Pistons. “We talked to people in the city, the suburbs and in the region. We talked to season-ticket holders and it was clear that there is a great amount of civic pride. That was the (constant) and we are looking out from our standpoint of building a great basketball team. That is where we started. From there we will continue to build the next phase of our basketball campaign.”

In other words, there is more to come as the Pistons build on these videos and find more stories.

In Detroit Basketball Anthem Bing says: “Detroit. It’s a big word. To outsiders, it’s an uncertain word. But to us it’s our word. We know Detroit is not just a place. Detroit’s an attitude. It’s heart. It’s hustle. It’s drive. We don’t care about being pretty. We’re not sleek and shiny or delicate.

“No. We’re better than that. We’re solid, sturdy, proud, unbreakable. Detroit’s not going anywhere. We’re here to stay. Detroit means grind, muscle and leaving it all on the floor. And when we take the court, we play hard, smart and together. It’s the only way we know how to play. Detroit wins because nobody outworks us – ever. From midtown to Warren, from Dearborn to Birmingham our spirit is Detroit and our team is the Pistons.”

There is a scene outside American Coney Island, the slow-roll bike riders, Tommy Hearns’ clinched fist inside a boxing ring. We see visions of the Bad Boys Pistons, Ben Wallace and Rick Mahorn showing off his championship ring. And the final scene is of the current team walking slowly toward the camera.

“I always consider myself a Piston even though I did not play my whole career with the Pistons,” Bing said. “But my whole 12 years with the Pistons everything was downtown and at Cobo Arena. And I probably have more history than any other player that played for the Pistons in how it relates to downtown. All of my business was with the city of Detroit and my political career was downtown.”

This is part of a master plan for Gores, who wants to put his stamp on the entire state. Gores and his wife, Holly, have made major contributions to the city, including money to Bing’s “Bingo” program that mentors inner-city boys.

“Tom really wants to make an impact on Detroit, even the entire state,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. “Or course we can make more of an impact if we are winning games. That is my side of it but I think Tom is looking to extend his reach and extend his platform and I think that is why he brings in a guy like Arn Tellem, who has tremendous abilities in those areas when it comes down to business negotiations.”

The Pistons are just getting started in the community. And Bing is happy to play a major role.