Is Bob Lanier the greatest center in Detroit Pistons history?
Detroit Pistons fans are mourning the loss of Bob Lanier at age 73, as he was one of the franchise’s greatest players. But was ‘Dobber’ the greatest center in Pistons history? Ben Wallace and Bill Laimbeer might also contend for that title.
Detroit fans literally had never experienced a winning season since the Pistons had moved there in 1957 … until Bob Lanier arrived. As the No. 1 overall draft pick in 1970, the St. Bonaventure product quickly helped the Pistons to a 45-37 record, even though he was coming off a serious knee injury.
Lanier would lead the Pistons to three winning seasons during his time there (1970-80), which may not sound like a lot, but it was the only time they had ever won more than they lost in Detroit, until the arrival of Isiah Thomas in the early 80s.
Lanier gave the Pistons what they really never had before – an elite center. Before the advent of the 3-point shot, having a dominant big man was almost mandatory for a team to be considered a championship contender,
All the NBA titles back then were going to the teams with the best big guys: WIlt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Willis Reed, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wes Unseld were gobbling up the championships.
While the Pistons always seemed to have some sweet shooters, like George Yardley or Dave Bing, they never had the big, hulking center that other teams had – until Lanier.
What Detroit’s management did with who was considered the top center in the NBA outside of Abdul-Jabba is a whole other story (quick answer: not much).
However, on February 4, 1980, when Lanier was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks, there was no question, at the time, they were shipping off the greatest center in Pistons history.
But that was a long time ago. The Pistons have had some long periods of success (although not lately) since Lanier left the team. And they had some very good centers in those times – like Andre Drummond (kidding!).
But seriously, Detroit won a title with Ben Wallace at center, and he now is in the Hall of Fame. Bill Laimbeer was the center on the ‘Bad Boys’ two NBA championship teams, and he probably should be in the Hall of Fame.
So let’s take a look at all three together, and see who should be considered the greatest center in Piston’s history.