The Detroit Pistons’ franchise was founded as the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons, a National Basketball League (NBL) team, playing in the gym of North Side High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Owners Fred Zollner and his sister Janet’s Zollner Corporation was a foundry, manufacturing pistons, primarily for car, truck and locomotive engines. Fred Zollner, who currently owns a professional softball team known as the Zollner Piston softball team, was eventually persuaded to start a basketball team due to the fact that Indiana was so basketball minded. The Zollner Pistons were NBL champions in 1944 and 1945. They also won the World Professional Basketball Tournament in 1944, 1945 and 1946.
The Zollner Pistons continued to fire on all cylinders winning their second straight regular season title with an 18-4 record. In the playoffs the Pistons would roll through the competition beating the Cleveland Chase Brassmen in two straight games before sweeping the Sheboygan Red Skins to capture the NBL Championship.
Coming off their NBL Championship the Zollner Pistons continued to be the best team in the league capturing the Eastern Division with an awesome record of 25-5. In the playoffs the Zollner Pistons reached the finals again by beating the Cleveland Allmen Transfers in two straight games. Facing the Sheboygan Red Skins in the finals for the third straight year the Pistons looked to be going down as they dropped the first two games. However, the Zollner Pistons would rally to win the next three games and capture their second straight NBL Championship.
The NBL continues to lose talent to the BAA prompting talk of a merger. Among the people leading the calls for a merger is Pistons Owner Fred Zollner. The Zollner Pistons would go on to finish in third place with a record of 40-20. In the playoffs the Zollner Pistons would once again be taken out by the Rochester Royals who were their first round series in four games. Following the season the Pistons would be one of four teams, along with the Minneapolis Lakers, Rochester Royals and Indianapolis Jets to join the BAA as the first step of a merger between the two leagues was initiated.
Joining the BAA the Pistons are starting over again as they drop the Zollner from their nickname. However, Fred Zollner remained a virtual part of the development of the league as he helps provide transportation arrangements for the entire league. In their first year in the BAA the Pistons would struggle finishing in fifth place in the Western Division with a record of 22-38, missing the playoffs. Following the season five more NBL teams would join the league, which would be rechristened the NBA as the merger was completed.
The Detroit Pistons’ franchise was founded as the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons, a National Basketball League (NBL) team, playing in the gym of North Side High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Owners Fred Zollner and his sister Janet’s Zollner Corporation was a foundry, manufacturing pistons, primarily for car, truck and locomotive engines.
Fort Wayne - Detroit
1949 – Present / National Basketball Association
1948 – 1949 / Basketball Association of America
1941 – 1948 / National Basketball League
1957 – Present / Detroit Pistons
1948 – 1957 / Fort Wayne Pistons
1941 – 1948 / Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons
Pistons - Originally the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons, the teams name comes from team owner Frank Zollners piston manufacturing company. Owners Fred Zollner and his sister Janet’s Zollner Corporation was a foundry, manufacturing pistons, primarily for car, truck and locomotive engines.
NBA Championships 0
2004, 1990, 1989
2016 – Present / Little Caesars Arena
1988 – 2016 / The Palace of Auburn Hills
1978 – 1988 / Pontiac Silverdome
1961 – 1978 / Cobo Arena
1957 – 1961 / Olympia Stadium
1952 – 1957 / Allen County War Memorial Coliseum
1941 – 1952 / North Side High School Gym
2011 – Present / Tom Gores
2009 – 2011 / Karen Davidson
1974 – 2009 / William Davidson
1941 – 1974 / Fred Zollner
Who is the greatest Fort Wayne Pistons/Zollner Pistons?
1 Chauncey Billups
2 Chuck Daly
3 Ben Wallace
4 Joe Dumars
10 Dennis Rodman
11 Isiah Thomas
15 Vinnie Johnson
16 Bob Lanier
21 Dave Bing
32 Richard Hamilton
40 Bill Laimbeer
– William Davidson
– Jack McCloskey
1996 – Present / Hooper
Unknown – 1996 / Sir Slam A Lot
*Blue is this team’s history