One of Motown’s Favorite Sons

By Tony McClean
Updated: March 2, 2005

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — He was a standout guard in a era that was dominated by three future Hall of Famers. Despite that, Dave Bing carved his own special niche in the NBA, overcame his own obstacles, and would make that same trip to Springfield on his own merits.

Playing against the likes of Walt Frazier, Oscar Robertson, and Jerry West, Bing was a high-scoring guard who triumphed over injuries and went about his business for 12 seasons in the NBA.

He then quietly went on to off-court success in the business world as a self-made industrial magnate.

In nine seasons with the Detroit Pistons, followed by two with the Washington Bullets and one with the Boston Celtics, Bing amassed 18,327 points in 901 gamess (20.3 ppg). His efforts earned him a spot on the NBA 50th Anniversary All-Time Team.

The league’s Rookie of the Year for 1966-67, he went on to make the All-NBA First Team twice and the Second Team once, and he played in seven NBA All-Star Games. In only his second season, 1967-68, he led the NBA in scoring with 27.1 points per game.

Born on November 24, 1943 in Washington, D.C., Bing grew up in the same neighborhood that produced another Hall of Famer, Elgin Baylor. At the age of five, Bing nearly suffered the loss of one of his eyes.

To improvise a game of “horsey,” he found two sticks, nailed them together, and was prancing down a street when he tripped; a nail plunged into his left eye. An operation saved his eye, but Bing suffered fuzzy vision in that eye from then on.

However, it didn’t stand in his way as he got older. Bing would become a standout at Spingarn High School under the tutelege of legendary basketball coach William Roundtree. In Bing’s senior year he was one of seven players on the varsity squad to average double figures in scoring.

Bing excelled in both baseball and basketball, but a scheduling conflict between tournaments in each sport forced him to make a reluctant choice. He opted for hoops and went on to be voted tournament MVP.

Despite those accolades, there were some that thought Bing was still too small to play the game. That sentiment wasn’t shared by college coaches, as his skills attracted collegiate interest from such basketball powerhouses as UCLA and Michigan.

However, Bing chose Syracuse at the urging of the late Ernie Davis, a man who would later win the Heisman Trophy while becoming a consensus All-American running back for the Orangeman.

In three varsity seasons at Syracuse, Bing averaged 24.6 points, earning All-America honors as a senior. He was a roommate with current Orangeman head coach, Jim Boeheim who called Bing, “The best basketball player I’ve ever seen play. Ever.”

The Detroit Pistons would make Bing the second overall pick in the 1966 NBA Draft, just behind the Knicks’ selection of Michigan’s Cazzie Russell. Bing’s debut season was a splash.

He finished with a 1,601-point season, making him only the sixth rookie in NBA history to top 1,600 points. He averaged 20.0 points per game and was named 1966-67 NBA Rookie of the Year.

The next season, Bing led the league in scoring with 2,142 points and a 27.1 average. At the time, Bing was the first guard to set lead the scoring since Max Zaslofsky of the 1947-48 Chicago Stags of the old Basketball Association of America.

After playing for two seasons in the ABA, Bing would return to the Motor City where he played the bulk of his NBA career. Unlike the Bad Boys of the 90’s and last year’s NBA champs, the Pistons would have their problems in the postseason in the 70’s.

In 1973-74, following the most successful regular season (52-30) since the franchise moved to Detroit in 1957, the Pistons finally made the playoffs only to be ousted in the first round by the Chicago Bulls.

The following season, despite sagging to a 40-42 regular-season record, the Pistons again made the playoffs but were ousted in the first round, this time by the Seattle SuperSonics.

Prior to the 1975-76 season, the Pistons traded Bing to the Washington Bullets with a first-round pick for Kevin Porter. The hometown reunion did not prove triumphant. Although Bing had one more brief moment of exultation, earning MVP honors at the 1976 NBA All-Star Game.

Bing’s point production sank to a career-low 10.6 per game in 1976-77, and Washington released him at season’s end. He later found a home for one more season with the Boston Celtics, serving as a third guard and appearing in 80 games with an average of 13.6 points per game.

He finally retired after the 1977-78 campaign.

Following his retirement, Bing returned to Detroit launched Bing Steel in the city in 1980. A decade later, the firm became the 10th-largest African-American-owned industrial company in the nation, according to Black Enterprise magazine’s rankings.

He went on to acquire Superb Manufacturing, a metal-stamping company, as well as a small construction firm. He currently heads the Bing Group, a manufacturing company that produces steel and numerous car parts.

He has operations in Indiana, Ohio and Michigan.

In 1990, he was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and was named “One of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History” in 1996.

Over the years, Bing has been described as the perfect example of professionalism, class, dignity, and humanity. While so many ex-athletes have struggled once the cheering stops, Dave Bing has proven to be a Hall of Famer on and off the court.

In September of 2008, Bing announced that he was running for mayor of Detroit.

NOTE: and Syracuse University have contributed to this story.