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Clear the way for 1, 3 and 10 in the Palace rafters

This is one segment of a feature you’ll see across the TrueHoop Network today: What numbers should your team retire, especially players who don’t necessarily have the numbers to typically justify it.

The question works well in Detroit, where top players don’t always have elite stats. The Pistons, for much of their history, have relied on a collection of very good players as opposed to one or two superstars.

Even the Pistons’ best player, Isiah Thomas, was surrounded by a deep and talented supporting cast.

Still, look up at the players honored in the Palace rafters:

  • 4: Joe Dumars
  • 11: Isiah Thomas
  • 15: Vinnie Johnson
  • 16: Bob Lanier
  • 21: Dave Bing
  • 40: Bill Laimbeer

It’s a collection of the franchise’s top players by the numbers.

But there’s room for a few more (and if there’s not, they could pull down some of the musicians who have banners, which just looks tacky anyway).

1 Chauncey Billups

Chauncey Billups (BestSportsPhotos.com)

Many Pistons fans think the entire starting five from the 2004 championship team (Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace) should have their numbers retired. The argument is, as a balanced team, they hurt each other’s stats and should all share credit.

But I’d reward just two: Billups and Wallace.

Hamilton and Prince have a chance depending on the rest of their careers – especially Hamilton, who’s the Pistons’ all-time leader in playoff points. Rasheed Wallace wasn’t here long enough and was a malcontent for too much of his tenure.

Billups was the leader during one of the best stretches any team has ever had. It may not have been evident until he went to Denver, but Billups held the team together.

He believed in Larry Brown, who’s notoriously tough on point guards. He made the Rasheed Wallace-Flip Saunders relationship work as well as it could. And he always radiated calmness when chaos surrounded him.

So, it’s no coincidence Billups stepped up at the biggest times. After a flurry of game-winners in a two-week-or-so stretch, he earned the nickname Mr. Big Shot. And he was Finals MVP in 2004.

After arriving from Minnesota, Billups considered Detroit home. And for six years it was.

Once he retires, the Pistons should invited him back to the Palace so his No. 1 can live on there forever.

3 Ben Wallace

Ben Wallace (Associated Press)

Of my three nominations, Wallace is the most logical. His numbers aren’t the best, but everyone realizes stats don’t capture Big Ben.

He was Detroit Basketball.

His game was based entirely on hard work and hustle. He did the little things few noticed.

He was the best defensive player of his generation.

There is absolutely no doubt his number will retired. And there’s no doubt he deserves it.

10 Dennis Rodman

Dennis Rodman (Pistons.com)

Before dying his hair, wearing a wedding dress and piercing himself to the point I’m not sure if he has more skin or holes, Rodman was one of the Pistons’ best players.

Rodman spent seven seasons in Detroit. He’s third in franchise history in rebounds, seventh in blocks, 10th in win shares and 10th in games played.

And first in field goal percentage.

Although his attention was often limited to rebounding and defense, Rodman was a pretty good offensive player when he wanted to be.

Rodman had a great career, and a good deal came of it in Detroit. The Pistons were his first team, and The Worm grew up as a player here.

If he wasn’t known more for his antics than his game, his number might be hanging from the rafters already.

I’d argue Rodman is the most underrated basketball player of all-time. The Pistons should retire his number and make that a little less true.

Other posts across the TrueHoop Network


  • [...] Detroit: Billlups, Ben and Rodman. [...]

  • Sep 11, 20096:14 pm
    by Patrick Hayes


    Great post. Totally agree on Rodman … his 91 actually should be retired in Chicago too.

  • Sep 11, 20098:54 pm
    by Dan Feldman


    Thanks, Patrick.

    Not many guys who deserve to have their number retired with two teams, but Rodman is definitely one of them.

    Just browsing through this list (http://www.nba.com/history/retired_numbers.html) and only a few guys have their number retired for two teams. (No promises I caught them all).

    • Wilt Chamberlain (Warriors and Lakers)
    • Kareem Abdul Jabbar (Bucks and Lakers)
    • Julius Erving (Nets and 76ers)
    • Oscar Robertson (Kings and Bucks)
    • Charles Barkley (76ers and Suns)
    • Nate Thurmond (Cavaliers and Warriors)
    • Pete Maravich (Hornets and Jazz), which is just weird. He stopped playing nine years before the Hornets franchise’s first season.
  • Sep 14, 20095:15 pm
    by John


    Nice piece. However, I would utterly amazed if Richard Hamilton’s number wasn’t retired, and disagree with your points on his case completely. I disagree with your points about Rasheed Wallace as well, but for different reasons. Wallace may or may not deserve to have his number retired, but your shallow arguments about his being a malcontent serve nothing for your points. More on topic, which I wish you were regarding him rather than being biased, without Wallace, the Pistons may or may not have won the NBA title in 2004.
    That said, I do agree very much with your points on Billups, Ben Wallace and Rodman. No question those three should have their numbers in the rafters, but so should Hamilton and possibly Rasheed Wallace (I could go back and forth on that). Tayshaun Prince, probably shouldn’t but if he was, I could understand that as he’s been an important player on many good teams.

  • Sep 17, 20096:04 pm
    by haywire


    Tayshaun is the sole reason why the piston’s won the championship, if it wasn’t for “The Block” on Reggie Miller, the pacers would of won, and went on to defeat the Lakers.  I have a feeling Tay’s gonna be a lifer with the Piston’s Organization.  He’ll probably end up a future coach or GM after he retires.

  • Sep 17, 200911:46 pm
    by The Rake


    I dont think Big Ben gets his number retired.  He is going to wear #6 this year, which will be weird enough in and of itself. I thought it was disrespectful of the Pistons organization and Stuckey himself to take #3 as soon as Ben left.  I think that makes it difficult to retire said #.
    The Rake

    • Apr 19, 20109:22 pm
      by 90centricher9


      AMEN TO THAT! I’m so pissed off that they changed Big Ben’s number and now Stuckey has it. Ben DEFINITELY deserves to have his number retired. I think he is more underrated than Dennis Rodman.

      • Apr 19, 20109:29 pm
        by Dan Feldman


        I don’t think it changes whether it will be retired. There are plenty of options, and I think they’d all work. You could ask Stuckey to change numbers, and I bet he would. You could wait until Stuckey is gone. Or you could retire it, allow Stuckey to finish his Pistons career with it, then never assign it anyone after that.

  • Mar 1, 20149:23 pm
    by Mufti Zar Wali Khan


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