For the first time in 43 years, the Detroit Tigers, Red Wings, Lions, and Pistons all play in the Motor City. The Pistons make their triumphant return to Detroit tonight against the Charlotte Hornets. This marks the Pistons’ first game back in Detroit since 1978 and first time all four major sports teams are back in the city since the Lions left for the Pontiac Silverdome in 1975. They will share Little Caesars Arena with the Red Wings.
For many, in order to be a “Detroit” team, you actually have to play in the city, not 30 miles north.
The Pistons moved out of Cobo Arena Detroit in 1978, a little over 10 years after the infamous Detroit riots that they just made into a major motion picture. An event that decimated the city which was prompted by a prominent racial divide and circulating stories of police brutality.
It was after that time when Detroit businesses started fleeing the city at an astounding rate. Businesses that still have not been fully rejuvenated in the city since. When the team was sold to Bill Davidson in 1974 he wanted out of Cobo Arena and out of Detroit. There was very little money to be made at that location at that time. Davidson made the unpopular decision to leave the town, and many devoted fans, behind.
The Pistons would share the Pontiac Silverdome with the Lions for 10 years. They then moved to the Palace of Auburn Hills prior to the 1988 season where they would last for 28 years. That move came when the Detroit Bad Boys were at the top of their game and on their way to back-to-back championships in 1989 and 1990.
During the 2004 championship run, Pistons’ fans broke every attendance record imaginable. Nobody could keep those fans from the arena if they tried. Rain, snow, sleet, hail, walking uphill 20-miles both ways, it didn’t matter. Piston fans would battle through tumultuous elements all to see Mr. Big Shot, Sheed, Rip, Tayshaun, and Big Ben (forget winning the title, Ben Wallace’s afro was the main attraction that season).
Now just imagine if those three championship runs were actually centered in the city of Detroit instead of Auburn Hills. Businesses would have thrived every game night. Bars, shops, casinos, anything, you name it and they would have profited immensely which would have improved Detroit in millions of ways over the years.
But new business, including Under Armor, Amazon, Microsoft and more, are beginning to once again flock to the downtown area.
This summer I interned at After 5 Detroit, a small company that informs people of the hundreds of events happening in metro-Detroit every month. They also host events to show young professionals in the city that Detroit is the place you want to start your career and it’s glaringly obvious that Detroit is on the come-up like the Michael Jordan silhouette (note: Michael Jordan is the owner of the Hornets and will be in attendance at LCA on opening night). After being grounded for the past 50-years following the riots, Detroit is once again taking flight as businesses are finally returning to the Motor City. It’s incredible to see so many new developments and ventures taking place (Little Caesars Arena being the newest kid on the block with Dan Gilbert’s prison soccer arena project well in the works).
The Pistons don’t figure to be that great this year though, depending on a great number of factors. Head coach Stan Van Gundy has yet to put out his starting lineup for opening night but those five are expected to be: Reggie Jackson, Avery Bradley, Stanley Johnson, Tobias Harris, and Andre Drummond. If Drummond can progress after taking a big step backwards last season they will absolutely contend for a 5-8 playoff spot. Drummond has hit 80% of his free-throws so far this preseason which was his Achilles-heel last year after shooting 38.6%. My grandma might be able to make four out of ten free-throws so that’s really not asking too much out of the All-Star center.
If everything goes according to plan, Detroit could see all four of its major sports teams in postseason action in 2018. Well, actually, maybe not with the Tigers, but anything is possible when you have Miguel Cabrera.
The Pistons returning to Detroit is yet another step in the resurgence of one of the greatest and most important historical cities of the 20th century. The days of the assembly lines may be over but Detroit has infinitely more to offer than just cars or manual labor, and the rest of the country is slowly figuring that out.