There was not much to cheer about on the court at Little Caesars Arena, as the Detroit Pistons lost an important game to the Charlotte Hornets during their push to make the playoffs. Fans booed the team’s performance in the first half, finding themselves with a 23-point deficit in the second quarter.
But there was plenty to be excited about off the court, with the 2004 NBA championship team being honored during halftime and throughout the game with video tributes. The core group, Chauncey “Mr. Big Shot” Billups, Ben Wallace, Richard “Rip” Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, and former head coach Larry Brown were all in attendance. Notably missing was Rasheed Wallace.
Others in attendance included Darvin Ham, Elden Campbell, Mike James, Mehmet Okur, and former staff of the 2004 team. Tremaine Fowlkes, Lindsey Hunter, Darko Milicic, and Corliss Williamson could not attend.
“It’s so good to have all the coaches and guys back together. We don’t get this opportunity very often,” said Billups, who was the MVP of the 2004 Finals. “I am so happy and thankful that the Pistons brought us back and they are celebrating what was probably the best years of our careers.”
The city of Detroit has always been known as a hard-working, blue collar city, and the 2004 team embodied that. They were a unique group of unique parts brought together through a unique set of transactions. By NBA standards, there were no “superstars” on the team, but that is what made the “Goin’ To Work” era special. They each did their part.
Players recalled what made the era special, a stretch that saw the Pistons reach the Eastern Conference finals six straight seasons in 2003-08. They upset the favored Los Angeles Lakers in a “five-game sweep” to win the franchise’s third championship, and the group narrowly missed winning a second straight title in 2005, losing to the San Antonio Spurs in seven games.
“At one point in time, everybody on this team was given up on,” said Wallace. “When we all came together, we had something to prove, we were fighting not only for our career, but we were fighting for each other. We wanted to see each other shine.”
Before the game, fans were able to see the 2004 team up close and personal on the concourse. Video tributes for Billups, Wallace, Prince, and Hamilton, played on the jumbotron, garnering loud cheers from the fans who needed something to cheer about. The fans even went home with celebratory shirts with the players’ names and “Goin’ To Work” in the shape of a wrestling championship belt.
“It was great to be able to see most of the 2004 team together again,” said Nathan Hill of Detroit. “I wasn’t born when the Bad Boys won, but I remember this team and they have a special place in my heart when it comes to basketball. The current team didn’t win, but tonight was special for all Detroit Pistons fans.”
Another disappointment was Wallace not making the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame over the weekend. The names of the enshrinees, announced at the Final Four in Minneapolis, included Sidney Moncrief, Bobby Jones, Vlade Divac, Paul Westphal, Chuck Cooper, Al Attles, and WNBA player Teresa Weatherspoon, among others. The class will be enshrined at the Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.