The franchise was founded in Fort Wayne, Ind., as the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons, a National Basketball League (NBL) team. Owner Fred Zollner ran a foundry that manufactured pistons primarily for car, truck and locomotive engines.
In 1948, the team dropped "Zollner" from the name and became the Fort Wayne Pistons, competing in the Basketball Association of America. In 1949, Fred Zollner brokered the formation of the National Basketball Association from the BAA and the NBL at his kitchen table.
Though the Pistons enjoyed a solid local following, their city's small size made it difficult for them to be profitable. In 1957, Zollner moved the team to Detroit, a much larger city that hadn't seen professional basketball in a decade. When the team relocated to the Motor City, the name Pistons was still appropriate in the nation’s automobile capital.
"Since I've been here, we've never considered changing the team name," President and CEO of Palace Sports & Entertainment Tom Wilson said. "Mr. Davidson would say that it was, is and always will be the name. Just like the Lakers, Warriors, and Hawks, who all moved from different cities -- it is what it is."