The Way It Was — The Detroit Pistons at Olympia Stadium

Take a closer look at this 1958 photograph of a Detroit Pistons game.
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Photograph courtesy of the Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University (The Detroit News)

1958 Sometimes sharing a space with another tenant just isn’t easy. For their first four seasons after moving from Fort Wayne, Indiana, to Detroit in 1957, the Pistons played their local games at Olympia Stadium at Grand River and McGraw, home of the Detroit Red Wings.

Pictured above is the contest between Detroit and the Cincinnati Royals played on Halloween night 1958 (with Olympia Stadium’s hockey boards still in place and the flooring placed atop the ice). A sparse crowd of 2,652 fans watches the Pistons’ Dick McGuire drive to the basket while teammates (from left to right) Walter Dukes (number 23), partially hidden Earl Lloyd, George Yardley (12), and Gene Shue (21) anticipate another two points. The Pistons beat the Royals 120-113.

Eight years earlier to the day, Lloyd became the first Black player to compete in the NBA. In the previous, inaugural season in Detroit, Yardley — a future Hall of Famer — became the first player to score 2,000 points in a season.

In a 2007 interview, Gene Shue did not fondly recall playing at Olympia. “There were so many delays during the game because the floor was slippery from the ice below. I didn’t like playing there because it was a large building with small crowds and you were always freezing your butt off.”

Using an ice rink as a basketball arena came with other challenges. On March 12, 1960, the Pistons were forced to play a playoff game against the Minneapolis Lakers at Grosse Pointe South High School because Olympia was scheduled to host the Ice Capades.

The Pistons soon moved to the newly built Cobo Arena for the ’61-62 season, where they played until 1978, before leaving for the suburbs and competing for 10 seasons at the cavernous Pontiac Silverdome. Finally, the Pistons built their own home, The Palace of Auburn Hills, and won their first of three NBA Finals in the inaugural ’88-89 season.

The team returned to the city of Detroit in 2017 and once again became co-tenants with the Wings at Little Caesars Arena, a far cry from their first shared digs 60 years earlier.


This story is part of the March 2023 issue of Hour Detroit. Read more in our Digital EditionPlus, find even more The Way It Was articles on HourDetroit.com