Prior to joining the NBA in 1948, the Detroit Pistons were founded as the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons in 1941 as a member of the National Basketball League (NBL). The team won two championships in the NBL, and has won three championships to date as a member of the NBA (1989, 1990, 2004).
Fred Zollner, who owned a company that produced vehicle pistons, founded the team. As a member of the NBL, the team played their home games in the North Side High School gym. Despite this small setting, the Pistons would win two NBL championships in 1944 and 1945. In 1948, the team joined the Basketball Association of America (BAA), which later merged into the NBA, as the Fort Wayne Pistons. In 1957, Zollner decided to move the team to Detroit, a city that he thought would make the franchise more profitable. Despite the move to a larger fan-base in Detroit, the Pistons would struggle. From 1957-1979, Pistons teams failed to find success. In 1974, Zollner sold the franchise to Bill Davidson, who moved the team to the Detroit suburb of Pontiac.
The Pistons’ losing ways would finally start to change in 1981, when the team drafted point guard Isiah Thomas out of the University of Indiana. In the following years, the Pistons would acquire players like Bill Laimbeer and Vinnie Johnson, forming a core group. In the late 80’s, the team added young players John Salley, Dennis Rodman and Adrian Dantley. Under the supervision of head coach Chuck Daly, the team adopted the nickname of the “Bad Boys”. After a string of years in which they would come up just short in the playoffs, the 1988-1989 team would erase the bad taste of failure very quickly. In their first year playing in the suburb of Auburn Hills, the Pistons would win 63 games and sweep the Los Angeles Lakers in the Finals, to capture the franchise’s first NBA championship. The following season, the Pistons repeated as champions as they took the NBA finals from the Portland Trail Blazers in seven games.
The Pistons would struggle in the 1990’s, but again found away to turn it around. In the early 2000’s they built another core of talented players by trading for Ben Wallace and Richard “Rip” Hamilton, signing Chauncey Billups, and drafting Tayshaun Prince. After coming up short in the playoffs, the 2004 team avenged those playoff loses. Fueled by the mid-season acquisition of Rasheed Wallace, the Pistons made it all the way to the NBA Finals, where they dominated a star-studded Los Angeles Lakers team in 5 games. In the following years, the Pistons would continue to be a playoff team, but they have been unsuccessful at clinching another NBA title.