Mode of Operation.
These words harken back to those of the Immortal KneeGrow Poet William Paul Mitchell, who once said: “The person you least expect to slit your neck nine times outta every ten crimes is the prime suspect… And it doesn’t feel good… when can’t trust blood and your neighbor’s the neighborhood hood…”
What happened, Detroit Pistons?
Did you grow weary of the mean but well-paved streets and manicured lawns of the suburbs?
Has the almost 30-year-old Palace of Auburn Hills grown less palatial?
For those unaware, Palace Sports & Entertainment owner Tom Gores; head coach and President of Basketball Operations Stan Van Gundy, aka The Macho Man Stanley SVG; and The Drummond Gang will look to do work within the comfy confines of Little Caesar’s Arena, beginning in the 2017-2018 season.
Under the guise of job creation and economic progress, the city’s Downtown Development Authority will augment a massive sport merger between Gores’ company and Olympia Entertainment’s Mike Illitch, with an infusion of $284.5 million tax dollars initially earmarked for the woeful Detroit Public School system.
Illitch, the $5 pizza king and overlord of the Red Wings, Tigers and so much more valued real estate in the downtown Detroit core, is at the helm of this private-public partnership, trumpeting that “no new taxes” will be spent in creating his latest cash cow.
Herein lay more than just a prevarication.
In a small token of appreciation to stave off the stench of rote capitalism, Tom Gores and the Pistons will endow $2.5 million dollars over six years to refurbish over 50 inner-city basketball courts and donate 20,000 tickets per year per ‘10-point community benefits plan.’
Some might view the move by Gores and Illitch as one of the final pieces of the puzzle in helping revitalize a city that was once the richest on the planet, but fell into distress and bankruptcy by 2013 as a result of decades of gross financial, civic and political dereliction.
Some might see it for what it may actually be: Social Engineering.
Detroit has a deep, rich basketball history that mirrors her people: industrious, hard working and proud.
From The Iceman George Gervin, Mel Daniels and Dave DeBusschere to Jalen Rose, Chris Webber and countless others, it is rich indeed.
And I am a part of it…
I was born at Henry Ford Hospital there in 1970, mere hours after My Dear Ol’ Dad (Bless The Dead) had almost missed the magnificent moment of my birth, all because of the NBA Finals.
Dad was running back and forth between the neonatal unit, or whatever it was called back then, and the waiting room just to see the New York Knickerbockers, with his favourite player, Walt ‘Clyde’ Frazier, defeat the Wilt Chamberlain/Elgin Baylor/Jerry West–led Los Angeles Lakers during one of the most iconic Games 7 in NBA history: The Willis Reed Game.
Yep. That’s it. My contribution to Motown’s hoops tapestry: Being born.
That ain’t so bad.
But in the ’70s, the Pistons were.
Despite having Hall of Famers like Bob Lanier, Dave Bing and Bob McAdoo drop numbers in the Motor City during this time, Deeeee-Troooiiiiitttt Baaasssss-ket-baaaallll was horrid.
The city was down as well.
Culture-swinging assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy during the riotous 1960s gave way to the affirmative action of the 1970s and the rapid growth of the crack epidemic along with the prison industrial complex of the 1980s.
For lack of a better nom de guerre, “White Flight” became de rigueur.
While people of means, or in some cases, those without, moved away from the urban centers to escape its primary inhabitants, they also took entire industries, jobs and other necessary resources with them, leaving the inner cities moribund.
It was also at this time that cities like Detroit, along with Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Baltimore, Newark, Los Angeles and more elected Black mayors for the first time ever during the ’70s and ’80s.
As a parting gift in 1977, The Renaissance Center opened. Left as window dressing on the Detroit River, The ‘RenCen’ oversaw the waterfront that separated Canada from the United States while also reminding Michigan’s most populous city that she wasn’t dead just yet.
The Pistons left the mixed and rowdy crowds of downtown’s old Cobo Hall and pitched their tent in the cavernous Pontiac Silverdome, home of the equally turrible Detroit Lions, in 1978.
Kelly Tripucka’s feathered hair and the electricity of a man named Isiah Lord Thomas started to change the fortunes of the team under the auspices of the ever nattily attired Chuck Daly by 1983.
Detroit’s professional basketball team began competing for titles in the hinterlands of Auburn Hills at the start of the ’88-89 NBA campaign, far away from many of their most diehard fans.
The first-ever game I played in university happened in The D, Thanksgiving Weekend 1988.
After we tangled with and lost to the University of Detroit, the Rice Owls Men’s Basketball team was treated to a 1988 NBA Finals rematch in an early season meeting between the Pistons and back-to-back champion Los Angeles Lakers, complete with a post-game player meet-and-greet.
Zeke, Joe D., The Worm, The Microwave, Laimbeer, Aguirre… en route to back-to-back rings.
The city soars!
Expansion. Retirements. Transition.
New kids on the block: Stack and G. Hill… Seemed ideal… Never panned out…
Fast forward: Superstar-less Squad. Mr. Big Shot. Rip. Tay. Big Ben. Sheed. Toppled Kobe, Shaq, The Glove and the Mailman… Another ring.
Well… to be continued.
Ask a native Detroiter what was worse: the scourge of crack cocaine or Josh Smith’s time in a Piston uniform?
They might have to think on it for a second or two.
So this new thing with the move downtown… Coincidence?
Or has the neighbourhood carefully crafted an opportunistic move back to the ‘hood?
Whatever it may be, the wheels are more than in motion. And soon, many fans, consumers and citizens alike, will take pleasure in the new digs and the promise of a better team and a greater city.
Others may not be so optimistic about the return of halcyon days in southeastern Michigan, however.
AS SEEN ON TWITTER: Once Detroit was intentionally bankrupted x ripe for gentrification, all of these new stadiums x arenas are being built downtown #WeSeeYou
Welcome back to your Home Sweet Home, Pistons.
As Detroit continues to put band-aids over gaping, still festering wounds, at least we can happily await the return of Piston point guard Reggie Jackson to the lineup while kids skipping school enjoy a slice of not-so-Hot-N-Ready pizza from Little Caesar’s.
Ain’t it grand?