All-Stars Keep Coming
Only four times in 48 All-Star games since coming to Detroit in 1957-58 did the Pistons fail to have an All-Star – 1980, 1981, 1994 and 2002. With the exception of 1980, every time the Pistons did not have an All-Star, the next year a multiple-time Pistons All-Star debuted, starting with Isiah Thomas in 1982, followed by Grant Hill (1995) and Ben Wallace (2003).
1982-1993: The Isiah Thomas Era
After a two-year absence, the Pistons exploded back on the All-Star scene with the arrival of Isiah Thomas.
The Pistons’ Hall of Fame point guard made the first of 12 consecutive All-Star teams in 1982, scoring 12 points. He was voted a starter by the fans 11 times, though he could not play in 1991 due to a wrist injury. In 10 games, Thomas averaged 16.8 points and 9.7 assists.
Thomas joined Bob Lanier as the only Pistons to be named the All-Star Game MVP, and he did it twice in a three-year period. He had 21 points and 15 assists to win the 1984 award and took the honor again with 30 points and 10 assists in 1986. His 1985 performance, 22 points and five assists, wasn’t too shabby, either.
Like the rest of his career, Thomas’ All-Star Game credentials are among the greatest ever. He is second on the All-Star career lists for steals and assists, and he is eighth in points with 185 – six short of Wilt Chamberlain’s 191. His 97 assists trail only Magic Johnson’s 127; his steals total, 31, ranks behind Michael Jordan’s 37. Thomas also shares the game record with four steals in a single quarter of the 1989 contest.
The Pistons emergence in the 1980s as one of the league’s elite teams was reflected in multiple All-Star berths for Thomas’ teammates. In the 1980s it was Kelly Tripucka twice and Bill Laimbeer four times. The only season all three went together was 1984.
In the 1990s, Joe Dumars made the first four of his six All-Star appearances with Thomas from 1990-93, and Dennis Rodman made it a trio in 1990 and 1992. Pistons coach Chuck Daly coached the 1990 East team, which had 11 current or future Basketball Hall of Famers, and won 130-113.
Amazingly, in 1989, when the Pistons captured their first NBA championship, Thomas was the Pistons’ only All-Star.
1995-2000: The Grant Hill Era
After Thomas retired in 1994, Dumars made the final two of his six All-Star appearances – which tied him with Dave Bing for third on the Pistons’ all-time list – alongside the Pistons’ star of the future, Grant Hill.
Hill, well known by fans after his four-year college career at Duke, was immediately one of the NBA’s most popular players. Hill was not only voted a starter five times as a Piston, he was the league’s leading All-Star vote-getter his first two years in the league, 1995 and 1996, a distinction generally reserved for veterans.
At a time when the Pistons struggled for respectability, Hill shined among the league’s biggest stars, averaging 11.4 points and 3.3 assists in five games. He was denied a certain sixth appearance by the league’s labor stoppage that wiped out the 1999 contest.
Hill inadvertently helped usher in the next generation of Pistons’ All-Stars when his sign-and-trade deal with the Orlando Magic brought Ben Wallace to Detroit in 2000.
2003-2006: The Ben Wallace Era
It’s not a surprise Wallace felt like he and the Pistons did not get enough All-Star respect as their 2004 championship team took form. Wallace’s specialties, defense and rebounding, did not always fit in at the high-scoring exhibition.
Wallace led the NBA in total rebounds in 2000-01 and he was named the 2002 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, but did not make the All-Star Game until 2003. Voted a starter, Wallace played 24 minutes – nine fewer than any other East starter and fewer still than reserves Jason Kidd and Vince Carter.
Like Thomas in 1989, Wallace was the Pistons’ only All-Star in their 2004 championship season. He made his third appearance as a reserve in 2005.
Wallace finally had company in 2006, and in record-setting numbers. Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton (whom the Pistons acquired by trading two-time Pistons All-Star Jerry Stackhouse in 2002) and Rasheed Wallace all made the East team as reserves, a credit to their league-best record at the break. It was the first time the Pistons had four All-Stars, and they even got to be coached by Detroit’s own Flip Saunders.
Saunders put all four on the floor together in the second half, and their defense helped lead the East back from a 21-point deficit. The Pistons also scored the team’s first 11 points of the fourth quarter in the 122-120 East win.
With Ben Wallace now in Chicago and Hamilton and Billups making their second straight All-Star appearances this weekend, the Hamilton-Billups era might be next in the Detroit Pistons’ long, proud history at All-Star Weekend.