Dave Bing’s remarkable career is rather stunning. He was one of the best guards – whether shooting or point – for a decade in the NBA averaging 20 points and six assists per game. And he did that despite two horrific eye injuries. As a child Bing’s vision was marred when a nail scarred his left eye. As a professional, another eye injury, this time a detached retina, further dimmed his vision. But the injuries, remarkably, never dimmed his basketball abilities.
The prior to detaching his retina, Bing was an awesome scorer for the Detroit Pistons. He was wily and always winding with the basketball. His ability to contort while elevated in the air beguiled opponents. Whatever his official label – point, shooting, combo, whatever-guard – Bing in just his second season led the NBA in total points scored in 1967 while also finishing second in points per game with 27.1. Up through 1971, Bing averaged 24.3 points a night along with 5.7 assists.
Then came his retina injury.
The points per game for the rest of his career fell to 17.2. Bing’s passing ability, however, remained unchanged and even got better. He averaged a career-high 7.8 APG in 1973. Per 36 minutes he tallied 6.2 assists after his eye injury compared with 5.5 before. As it turns out, the same slithering attributes that made his shot hard to stop, often allowed him to pass the ball when opponents least expected it.
Bing spent the vast majority of his career with the Detroit Pistons. He represented Motown six times in the All-Star Game and in 1968 he spurred the Pistons to a 40-42 record. Doesn’t sound like much but it was the best regular season record for the franchise since 1956 when they were in Fort Wayne. In the 1968 playoffs, the Pistons lost 4-games-to-2 to the eventual champion Celtics. In the deciding Game 6, Bing scored 44 points overall including 37 in the second half and 16 of those second half points came in a blistering row.
The Pistons high-water mark in the Bing Era came in 1974 when the club won 52 games. Alongside Bob Lanier, Bing’s Pistons eventually lost to the Chicago Bulls in the Western Conference Semi-Finals by 2 points in the Game 7. That achievement would be the best regular season and playoff showing for the Detroit Pistons until the Bad Boys game around a dozen years later.
From there the Pistons declined and Bing was traded to the Washington Bullets. His chance at an NBA title never seemed higher, initially at least, when he joined the Bullets. Washington had appeared in the 1975 NBA Finals, losing to Golden State. They hoped Bing was another, if not final, piece toward securing the championship. Dave made one final All-Star appearance in 1976. He made it worth his while snagging the game’s MVP.
However, the Bullets would be bounced in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals in both of Bing’s seasons with the franchise. And by the end of the 1977 postseason, it was clear Bing was diminished considerably. He finally ended his career in 1978 with the Boston Celtics.
Twice he averaged 27 points in a season and twice he was named to the All-NBA 1st Team. Unfortunately, Bing never achieved the ultimate team glory, but his wizardry with the ball was a spellbinding sensation. All the more remarkable considering he did it all with a bad eye. Makes you wonder what might have happened if both his eyes were 100% healthy.
2x All-NBA 1st Team (1968, 1971)
All-NBA 2nd Team (1974)
7x All-Star (1968-’69, 1971, 1973-’76)
All-Star Game MVP (1976)
Rookie of the Year (1967)
All-Rookie Team (1967)
Regular Season Career Averages (31 games):
Playoff Career Averages (31 games):