Dave Bing Still Hits Big Numbers

By Michael Mink
Updated: June 20, 2007

LOS ANGELES — Dave Bing’s competitive fire always burned.

He vowed not to live his life in the poverty he was born into.

After working hard to became a top high school basketball player and good student, he had 100 scholarship offers.

One university that didn’t recruit him was Princeton, exactly where Bing wanted to go. He and his 3.1 grade-point average applied, but the school said no.

Bing went on to Syracuse, but he never forgot how he felt.

“For the first time in my life, I was rejected because somebody told me that I wasn’t good enough. . . . I was devastated! I decided (on) my second choice, Syracuse University, and I made up my mind that I would never again put myself in a position where I would have to face rejection,” Bing, now 63, said in “Dave Bing: Basketball Great With a Heart” by Elizabeth Schleichert.

At his upstate New York college, Bing’s competitive juices again flowed on the basketball court and in the classroom.

“I accepted it as a challenge,” he said. “I wanted to prove that I could compete with people from all over the country. I refused to accept that they were better or smarter than I.”

Drawing on his work ethic and professionalism, Bing went on to excel in two arenas. A 6-foot-3 guard, he became a Hall of Fame basketball player. He then turned into one of the leading minority businessmen in the country.

When he retired from the National Basketball Association in 1978, Bing was one of only four players among the top 20 leaders in scoring and assists. In 1996 he was named to the NBA’s 50th anniversary team as one of the 50 greatest players.

Bing never took his physical gifts for granted. He worked to maximize that talent. He studied the game and took care of his body.

“That’s the main thing you have to do at this level,” Stu Lantz, Bing’s backcourt partner with the Detroit Pistons, told IBD. “You have to take care of the mechanism that got you to this point. Dave was always diligent about taking care of his body.”

Bing’s passion never wavered. “He practiced as hard in practice as he played in games,” said Bob Lanier, another Piston teammate.

As a businessman, Bing was named the National Minority Small Business Person of the Year in 1984. He continues to hand out assists in the form of giving back to his community. He was in the Big Brothers program when he was an active player, and in 1989 he raised money to help save sports programs that were initially targets for budget cuts.

He’s worked with the Boy Scouts and the Boys and Girls Club of Southeastern Michigan.

Bing helped found the NBA Retired Players Association, which lends a hand to those who’ve found life without basketball a struggle. In 1985 he was named Detroit’s Humanitarian of the Year.

On the court, Bing’s intelligent, disciplined game won him the respect of one of the greatest players, Oscar Robertson.

“Dave is the perfect example of professionalism, class, dignity and humanity. He cares. He gets involved with the world,” Robertson said when introducing Bing before his 1990 Hall of Fame induction.

Bing said in Schleichert’s book: “It’s important to me to have success. But I’m not so driven to make money that I forget what my community (the African-American one) is going through right now.”

What Bing’s parents lacked in financial resources, they more than offset with love, support and wisdom that helped shape his character. His father taught him that nothing in life comes easy, that hard work is the key to succeeding in anything.

Schleichert wrote that his mother instilled in him to “have respect for others. And if you see anybody that you can help, you try to help them.”

Bing’s high school coach, William Roundtree, remembered him as a student who didn’t think he knew it all and listened and respected his teachers. “I’ve never had anybody like him in all the years I taught,” Roundtree told Schleichert. “He did so many things right.”

Whether in sports or business, Bing’s work ethic is the foundation for his success.

“He was the first one to get to practice and the last one to leave. That’s Dave Bing,” Lanier said.

So it goes in business. “Sixty- to 70-hour workweeks are pretty normal for me,” he told Schleichert. As the founder and president of Bing Steel of Detroit, “I take the responsibility very seriously. I try to lead by example more than anything else.”

Lantz observed Bing’s leadership style on and off the court. “Most people talk about physical ability in sports, but leadership has nothing to do with physicality; it has to do with mentality,” Lantz said. “Dave was just a guy that always thought about leading and always thought about others. And when you can put a thought process together of how you feel about others and what is going to make that team successful, that’s leadership quality. You take that from the sports world right into the business world, and that’s why Dave has been so successful.”

During his 12 seasons in the NBA, Bing used his time on the road to read some of the 200-300 books he consumed in a year. Many of the subjects involved business.

He did more than read about business. He further prepared himself for a business career by working in the banking industry during his off-seasons to learn about financing. “Everything revolves around finance in business,” he said.

After a stint at a steel firm following his retirement from pro basketball, Bing founded Bing Steel in Detroit with four employees in 1980.

The company lost $100,000 in the first year. Ten years later, Bing Steel had annual sales of $60 million and was ranked as the 10th-largest African-American-owned industrial company in the nation, according to Black Enterprise magazine.

Today Bing Group, a private company, says that last year it had gross annual sales of $370 million while employing 1,400 people.

Bing’s positive attitude sparked the company. “Dave was always uplifting, always an inspiring guy to be around,” Lanier said. “He knew when to listen. He could absorb your frustration and the problems you might be going through on a personal basis. . . . That’s why he’s so successful with Bing Steel.”