August 10, 2012 in Professional
Imagine for a second in today’s 24/7 sports media landscape a basketball player having an incredible high school career in a city. Then, going to college and having an exceptional college career in that same city. Then, getting drafted and becoming an All-Star with that city’s NBA team en route to a Hall of Fame career. Only, instead of enjoying that Hall of Fame success in his city, he was instead often the only good player on an awful roster that was the result of unconscionably bad moves by management, a management that instead of upgrading that talent surrounding that player, tires of the player’s demands that the team start doing more to win and makes an awful trade to ship him out of town.
It’s difficult to imagine today. Fans and media alike would rightly scrutinize it and it would be viewed as the ultimate betrayal of a beloved local legend. Well, that was pretty much Dave DeBusschere‘s experience as a Detroit Piston. From Keith Langlois of Pistons.com:
DeBusschere, at 6-foot-6, was a tremendous rebounder and defender, but he could shoot the ball past 20 feet – if there’d been a 3-point line back then, he would have made it a weapon – and he was as clutch as they come. There’s a reason DeBusschere was named one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players of all-time.
The story goes that new Pistons coach Paul Seymour, who went 22-38 after taking over for Donnis Butcher 22 games into the 1968-69 season and wasn’t invited back for the following year, urged the trading of DeBusschere because he was tired of his sulking. If, indeed, DeBusschere had grown weary of being the good soldier, is it any wonder given the managerial incompetence that had surrounded him for his tenure in Detroit?
The return was journeyman point guard Howard Komives and 7-footer Walt Bellamy, who had splashed into the NBA in 1961-62 with Chamberlainesque impact, averaging a stunning 31.6 points and 19.0 rebounds as a rookie. But he’d worn out welcomes in Baltimore and New York and had a reputation as a malcontent. He proved it in Detroit, lasting a mere 109 games. In his second season with the Pistons, his scoring sunk to 10 a game before they moved him to Atlanta in a trade that netted the Pistons one John Arthurs, whose NBA career consisted of 22 games the previous season for Milwaukee. He never suited up for the Pistons.
The Pistons had turned one of the 50 greatest in NBA history and a player embraced by the hard-bitten New York audience as one of that city’s most beloved teams into a try-hard guard, Komives, and a non-entity.
My dad was always a Knicks fan when I was younger, and it took him a while to warm up completely to the Bad Boys era Pistons in the 1980s and I could never really understand why. But as a kid, his favorite player was DeBusschere and he, like many fans I’m sure, had to watch his in-state team dump one of his childhood heroes. It’s pretty hard to imagine the equivalent of that happening today. People would be outraged.