In 1957-58, George Yardley led the league in scoring with 27.8 points per game, a figure that stood until the 1990s as the greatest in Pistons history. He also set team records for free throw attempts (808) and conversions that season (655). In addition, Yardley led the NBA in minutes played (5040) and earned First Team All-NBA honors.
Yardley's stats were on par with those of Ralph Sampson, who averaged 28 points per game for the 1978-79 Washington Wizards. However, unlike Sampson who is regarded as one of the greatest power forwards of all time, Yardley is mostly known today for his accomplishments with the Pistons. He helped lead them to their first NBA championship in 40 years by defeating the St. Louis Hawks 4 games to 3 in the finals.
After leaving Detroit as a free agent in 1959, Yardley went on to have a long and successful career, playing 10 more seasons in the NBA and winning another title in 1964-65 with the San Francisco Warriors over the Pistons again. He ended up with three consecutive titles from 1960-62, making him the first player to win three straight championships. After retiring from basketball, he worked as an assistant coach under Lenny Wilkens for the 1989-90 Milwaukee Bucks before passing away in 1999 at the age of 69.
George Yardley was the Pistons' first great player. The Fort Wayne Pistons picked him seventh overall in 1950, and he played four seasons there before the team relocated to Detroit. He was a tremendous wing scorer, averaging 19.2 points per game during his career. The last time the Pistons had a player score at least 19 points per game was when Bill Bradley did so in 1975.
Yardley is also known for being one of five players who participated in both ends of the famous "Shoefly" incident. The other four are Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, and Bob Dandridge. It happened on December 23, 1952, in the final game of the season for both teams involved. The Pistons were ahead 91-88 with less than a minute left when Robertson stole the ball from Paul Arizin under the Indiana basket and scored eight straight points for the injury-depleted Cincinnati Royals. The next day's newspaper in Ohio where Robertson grew up reported that he caused "a stir by flying into a jealous rage while playing against his former club, the Dayton Veterans." In retaliation, Shoefly's owner, George Steinbacher, ordered him to be put down after he suffered a fractured leg during the game.
It's been said that this incident helped bring about the formation of a players' union in North America. Although that isn't exactly true, it does show how important professional basketball players have become today.
That season, Fred Schaus led the squad in scoring, averaging 14.3 points per game. During the next four years, the Pistons finished in the center of their division. The squad made the playoffs in all four of those seasons, but only once advanced past the first round. In 1958, they were defeated by the eventual champion Boston Celtics in six games.
In 1959, the Pistons drafted George King with their first-round pick (sixth overall). He would go on to play eleven seasons in Detroit and is still considered one of the best defensive players in franchise history.
Before drafting King, the team tried out several other players including Al Kaline (1958-59), Joe Dumars (1959-60), and Bill Bridges (1960-61). All three players made an impact during their time in Detroit, with Kaline and Bridges being selected to two NBA All-Star Games.
After drafting King, the team didn't make any more significant moves until the 1962 NBA Draft when they traded their second-round pick to the Chicago Bulls for Jerry West. West went on to win the Rookie of the Year Award that year as well as become one of the greatest scorers in NBA history.
In 1963, the Pistons drafted Dave Bingham with their first-round pick (sixth overall).
10. -John Wallace: For the Hoosiers (18-3) in 1946, he averaged a team-high 14.4 points per game and surpassed Ernie Andres' single-season scoring mark (250), ending with 302. He was named team MVP and All-American. After graduating from Indiana, Wallace played eight seasons in the NBA with the Indianapolis Olympians, Boston Celtics and Chicago Stags. He died in an automobile accident at the age of 37.
9. -Mel Daniels: For the Hoosiers (25-1) in 1949, he scored 30 or more points seven times, including a school record 75 against Ohio State. The National Collegiate Athletic Association's (NCAA) Division I Men's Basketball Record Book lists him as the second best scorer in IU history behind John Wallace with 2,973 career points.
8. -Larry Bird: One of the greatest point guards in NCAA history, Bird led Indiana to the 1978 National Championship game before losing to North Carolina. As a senior, he was named the Naismith College Player of the Year and won the Wooden Award, becoming the first player to win those three awards in one season. The 5' 11" (1.80 m) Bird was also an accomplished ball handler and shooter from long range.
In 1970, Jerry West earned the scoring championship with an average of 31.2 points per game. In 1971 and 1972, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won the scoring championship. Allen Iverson was the scoring champion in 1999, 2001, 2002, and 2005. In 2006 and 2007, Kobe Bryant claimed the scoring title. The highest-scoring season in NBA history was scored by Moses Malone in 1978-79 - an average of 50.5 points per game.
Abdul-Jabbar's contributions to basketball are unparalleled. He is considered one of the greatest players in NBA history. His career averages of 27.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 0.5 assists show how effective he was during his time.
When asked about his early years playing for Milwaukee, Jabbar said that he never thought about becoming famous or making money from basketball. He just wanted to enjoy being on a basketball court with his friends.
As for West, he was an unstoppable force in the 1970s, leading the league in scoring six times. His average of 30.4 points per game in 1970 stood as the highest until Abdul-Jabbar broke it three years later.
However, despite their differences, it is possible to compare both players' careers since they were on almost identical teams throughout most of their time together. Both men were instrumental in helping their franchises win multiple championships.