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Why I’m a fan of the Detroit Pistons

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The story of how a kid 10,000 miles away became obsessed with the Detroit Pistons

NBA Finals Game 5: Lakers v Pistons Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Welcome to the refreshed Detroit Bad Boys! To celebrate the new look and feel of our sports communities, we’re sharing stories of how and why we became fans of our favorite teams. If you’d like to share your story, head over to the FanPosts to write your own post. Each FanPost will be entered into a drawing to win a $500 Fanatics gift card. We’re collecting all of the stories here and featuring the best ones across our network as well. Come Fan With Us!


So ... my fandom. Warning. Be prepared for long backstory about Australian basketball culture and the sports landscape in the great land down under.

Ok.

Picture this. It’s 2004, and you’re a 9-year-old kid living in Sydney, Australia’s biggest and most globally known city. My main interests at the time were quite varied and strange; Yu-Gi-Oh, for example, maybe a bit of Ratchet and Clank, and who could resist some classic mid-2000s Nickelodeon?

But there was one thing that rose above it all…

Sport.

Australia is renowned around the world as a completely sports-mad nation. It’s often said that the national economy is founded completely on sports and beer (and colonial settlements, convict relocation and multiculturalism, but we’ll save those for another time). As a malleable third grader, I could be roped into just about anything. I was a star central defender (sort of) for my local soccer club, Saints United in Sydney’s northern suburbs, the Penrith Panthers were a year removed from winning the National Rugby League (a different sport to rugby, come on America), and the Sydney Swans were fast becoming one of the more dominant Australian Rules football teams of the decade (again, COMPLETELY DIFFERENT to rugby, this is the sport Matthew Dellavedova and Ben Simmons played as youths, not rugby…).

But there was a glaring omission.

Basketball.

Now you see, basketball in Australia has endured a funny timeline. In the 1980s and 90s, it endured what may best be described as the glory days of the sport in the land down under. The national competition, the National Basketball League, was booming, with record attendances and viewership, star imports like Ricky Grace, Dwayne McClain, Leroy Loggins and Lanard Copeland wowing audiences nationwide and sponsorship was high. This going along with a strong production line of local talent including Andrew Gaze, considered by some the best Australian basketballer of all time, Luc Longley and Shane Heal.

Then the sky fell.

Now, my parents have been season ticket holders for our local team, the Sydney Kings, since the early 90s, and I’ve been going to the games basically since before I was born in 1995. So I was always exposed to basketball my whole life, even if I was never a massive fan of it early. My earliest basketball memory is attending a game at the 2000 Olympics (no idea who played).

But the NBL was in a bad place. The mid 2000s brought the soccer boom, as a new league was established. Sponsorships and interest in basketball dwindled as soccer took over. Couple that with the always strong fanbases in rugby league, Australian Rules football and cricket, and no one cared anymore.

The Sydney Kings went bankrupt and folded for a season or two, and the league was generally rubbish. That’s why I’m extremely grateful for how basketball in this country has developed, and with the new age of superstars, from Ben Simmons and Dante Exum to Andrew Bogut and Patty Mills, everybody’s favourite pest Matthew Dellavedova, we have such a strong culture here now that I’m not THAT salty that Kyrie Irving chose the USA over us anymore. Our league has even developed to the point where we attracted some former NBA stars in Josh Childress and former Pistons retread Steve Blake. James Ennis, Casey Prather and Jordan McRae have made their names down here, and Terrance Ferguson even skipped college to play for the Adelaide 36ers instead. So basketball in Australia is really in a strong place.

Going to Work with Ben Wallace

Long backstory tangent aside, how DID I become a fan of the Detroit Pistons?

Let’s circle back to late 2004. A young Benjamin was sitting down in his family’s lounge room, a large Christmas tree towering over my 3-year-old sister and I. Under the tree, a large box stood, addressed from “Santa.” I opened the box to find a (now vintage) PlayStation 2, complete with Gran Turismo and Ratchet and Clank 3: Up Your Arsenal. The next day, I got the gift that kicked it all off.

NBA 2K5.

At my uncle’s house in Sydney’s infamous “Shire” region (locals will understand), my grandmother handed me the reason I became a Pistons fan. You see, the cover athlete for this excellent game was not Kobe Bryant. It wasn’t Allen Iverson. It wasn’t even a young LeBron James.

It was B-B-B-B-Ben…WWWWWWWWWallace.

“Hey, that guy’s pretty cool, who does he play for?” My internal monologue when I loaded the game later that night. Looking at the team now, I discovered that, what is now a travesty in hindsight, Tayshaun Prince was only rated a 74 overall. But I played with the team, and I liked them. I learned they’d won a ring recently, so I liked them even more. They were my secret.

Now here’s something you have to know about the NBA landscape in Australia. The majority of fans in the country are either older men who fell in love with the league during the Jordan, Magic and Bird era, and then there’s the younger generation being fed the lies of Steph Curry and LeBron James. As a result, you’ll see more Golden State Warriors jerseys down at Bondi Beach than you would southern cross tattoos, and that, my friends, is a bloody big deal.

The NBA wasn’t accessible to Australian fans in the 2000s and early 2010s. It was only the advent of League Pass that really got me back into it. You see, I was a “fan” of the Pistons, but I only followed their scores occasionally while I was in high school. Games are on here during the middle of the day, it’s a bit hard to sneak a watch during school or work. But that all changed in late 2013, when I graduated high school and had a lot of free time on my hands.

As a young man in the world who enjoyed the NBA, I found the “unconventional” method to watch NBA games. Hunched over a grainy livestream, I watched my first Pistons game properly ever, a matchup against the Sacramento Kings that was broadcast on ESPN and featured NBA 2K royalty Doris Burke on the call, marvelling at every good thing that Josh Smith did that game (what a time to be alive).

So I developed this habit. Every other day, I’d sit down and watch the Pistons on my fuzzy little screen, watching Brandon Jennings hoist jumpers, Josh Smith build houses and KCP get benched by Mo Cheeks for being too good. I remember the lane violation that was called against J-Smoove that cost us the game in New Orleans, KCP’s 30 point game, and the day Jon Loyer masterminded a victory over the Spurs after Cheeks was fired. My Pistons fandom was growing, I was watching all the games, but I wanted more.

Hooked on DBB

Enter Detroit Bad Boys.

I found the wonderful Pistons community on SB Nation during the offseason after the 13-14 season. So I joined, and I interacted. I found other Australians who were Pistons fans, a feat I didn’t know was possible. I wrote fan posts (and you should too!) about the state of the team, who we should draft, and why I should be targeted by the team (to this day, there is still a DBB movement to get me drafted by the team). The Pistons were fast consuming my life. At university, if I wasn’t watching the games on my laptop (the Dion Waiters buzzer beater game was spent in my university library), I’d be surfing the web for the latest rumours. I may have been a pre-made Pistons fan, but SB Nation and DBB only served to intensify that lust for the game.

And then the 2014-15 preseason rolled around, and I began posting game previews in the Fanposts. I had my format down to a fine art. In-depth analysis, likely lineups, last time the teams played, injury news and connections between the teams. I got so confident and invested that, on a whim, when DBB overlords Matt Watson and Brian Packey put the “Help Wanted” sign in the window, I thought “why not,” and applied. And thus, I joined the team on DBB as a staff writer, with my main duty being to preview the games with my untrained eye.

Ever since I joined the community at DBB and SB Nation, my NBA and Pistons fandom has just gone to a whole different level. From merely watching the games with casual enjoyment, I’ve found myself now studying film and analytical trends, formulating draft and free agency strategies, and rationalising every decision the organisation makes. I claim to have predicted the Reggie Jackson trade months before it actually happened (in actuality, I just wrote a post suggesting the Pistons might look at him), I looked at “The Curious Case of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope” and I even attempted to figure out what went right and wrong for Stanley Johnson in his second season.

More than a Game

To me, the Pistons represent more than a casual NBA interest. They’ve legitimately become one of the biggest parts of my young life. They represent everything that’s right in the human spirit, that unrelenting toughness, never-say-die attitude and unwavering resolve. The history of the team, from the pioneers like Fred Zollner, Dave DeBusschere, Dave Bing and Bob Lanier through to the Bad Boys like Zeke, Joe D, the Worm and the Microwave, to the Goin’ To Work Era, to Mr. Big Shot, Rip, Sheed, Big Ben and Tayshaun, they all represent the team. The greater needs of the collective over the selfish desires of the individual. Although I’ve never been to the city of Detroit itself, through my Pistons fandom, I’ve developed an almost irrational attachment to the city, claiming it as my second home from half a world away. The Pistons have grown that passion for a city within me that’s hard to explain, and yet I know I’m not alone. The Pistons drew me into the other great teams of the 313, and I now find myself getting up at 5am to watch the Detroit Lions of all teams. I’m not as big on baseball or hockey, but I’ll still check in on the Tigers and Red Wings from time to time, because the teams in this city are a brotherhood. The city is just different, and it’s my biggest regret that I never made it to the Palace of Auburn Hills for a game before the team moved back downtown. I got to see the Pistons play at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and, although they lost, it was honestly one of the greatest experiences of my life.

The Pistons are my team, and I feel honoured to cover them for Detroit Bad Boys. This is the story of a kid from Sydney, Australia, who grew up 10,000 miles from Detroit, and yet feels as close to the city as any local. From that Christmas Day in 2004 right through to the final dance at the Palace of Auburn Hills against the Washington Wizards and beyond, the Pistons have been my team. My parents bought me a Jerry Stackhouse jersey when I was a baby, a tremendous amount of foresight on their part. Now you can find me spouting nonsense over at Detroit Bad Boys, generally about how much money we should #PayKCP (HINT: all of it), and you can always come over and interact with the site on Twitter, I’m always up for a conversation.

All I can say is thank you Detroit. Thank you Pistons.

Bring that ring downtown.

#DetroitBasketball

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