In 1996, a fraud charmed his way into the NBA's top 50 players list, and in 2021, nothing seems to have changed. Dave Bing is the first guy you want to have a beer with after a game, and my captain on the 'All-Humanitarian Team,' but in terms of ball, it's a hoax that he got voted in by his peers to be in the Top 50 and then Top 75 Greatest NBA Players list.
His career has been squeezed into the group of old NBA players that modern fans know are 'great' because they have seen the name countless times but would not have the slightest clue on how to evaluate his impact. Think Rick Barry, Sam Jones, Hal Greer, Bill Cunningham, Bill Sharman, Bob McAdoo, Adrian Dantley, Gail Goodrich, Connie Hawkins, etc. Except with Bing; he's the odd one out.
By all accounts, Bing was a great guy. No scandals, always polite to the media, did a ton of charity work, was a leading black businessman with a multimillion-dollar steel business in Detroit, and most importantly - founded the NBA Retired Players Association. The guy was even named Detroit's Humanitarian of the Year in 1985. If you walked in an elevator behind him, I'm sure he would insist that you press the button first.
Even his story before entering the league was awe-inspiring. After suffering a devastating eye injury at the age of five, and due to his impoverished upbringing, Bing was forced to let it heal on its own, leading to life-long blurry vision. But despite all of his challenges at home - one being his dad suffering a head injury while Bing was still very young - he still made it out, becoming one of the leading score first guards of his era behind Jerry West and Oscar Robertson. Except when you look a little closer, it's evident that he rode the ABA/ expansion statistical surge (67-73) while his teams never seemed to win until he was gone.
Although he played with Bob Lanier and Dave DeBusschere, he only made the playoffs three times in his 9-year Pistons career. All three were first-round exits. He then was traded for Kevin Porter (not to be confused with the father of Rockets' Kevin Porter Jr) and a first-round pick. What Top 75 player ever gets traded for Kevin Porter and a first-round pick on the edge of their prime?
That next season, the Pistons went to their first second-round in 14 years. While Bing joined a Bullets team fresh off an NBA Finals appearance, to then lose in the first round averaging a measly 14/3/4 to a Cavaliers team with no All-Stars. One more disappointing Bing/Bullets season later, and he packed his bags for Boston while Washington went on to win the NBA championship.
Bing's two biggest claims to fame are his two first-team All-NBAs, but both were sketchy. In 1968, Jerry West missed 31 games allowing Bing to slip through. Then in 1971, Walt Fraizer got robbed by the voters. He was putting up 21/7/7 on a 52-win 1st seeded Knicks team while doubling as the best defensive guard in the league. Bing had his best season of 27/5/4 on a 45-win 5th seeded Detroit team (back when Detroit were in the West). I know who I'm picking out of the two.
Even when Bing got inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (12 years after he retired), the stories seemed to focus on everything but what he actually did on the court. Oscar Robertson introduced him saying, "Dave is the perfect example of professionalism, class, dignity, and humanity. He cares. He gets involved with the world."
"Call it the Bob Lanier Corollary: if someone is loved and respected as a person by fellow players and media members, his actual talents rarely match the way he's evaluated."
Dave Bing finished his career as a three-time All-NBA player, seven-time All-Star, the 1976 All-Star MVP with a career average of 20/4/6. That's great - just not 'Top 75 Players Ever' great. Bernard King would have been one whole drug scandal away from beating him if we were basing it on likeability. The voters sacrificed the list's integrity by putting Bing on it, who I wouldn't have putten any better than no.85.
I guess it's clear this isn't just about basketball, but someone's entire body of work, on and off the court. That's fine, just don't say it's a "greatest basketball players" list - if Dave Bing is on it, it's a "greatest people who played in the NBA" list. But then more than a handful of guys shouldn't be on it....