Fort Wayne Pistons
1941/42: Automobile-piston magnate Fred Zollner launched the club in the National Basketball League and christened it the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons. The Pistons were not the only team named after auto parts in the NBL as they were joined by the Akron Firestone Non-Skids, Akron Goodyear Wingfoots, and Toledo Jim White Chevrolets. Playing against the start of America’s involvement in World War II and Pearl Harbor, the Zollner Pistons had a solid inaugural season finishing in second place with a 15-9 record. In the playoffs, the Pistons would overcome an opening game loss to beat the Wingfoots in a three-game series. However, in the NBL Finals, the Zollner Pistons would lose a three-game series after taking Game 1 against the Oshkosh All-Stars.
1942/43: The Zollner Pistons were even stronger in the second season as they finished the regular season in first place with a record of 17-6. In the semifinals, the Zollner Pistons would defeat the Chicago Studebaker Flyers in a three-game series. However, once again, in the finals, the Pistons lose in three games, dropping the finale to the Sheboygan Red Skins by one point.
1943/44: 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 consecutive games before sweeping the Sheboygan Red Skins to capture the NBL Championship.
1944/45: Coming off their NBL Championship, the Zollner Pistons continued to be the best team in the league, winning the Eastern Division with an impressive 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 consecutive 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.
1945/46: Seeking their third consecutive Championship, the Zollner Pistons again finished in first place, posting a solid record of 26-8. However, in the playoffs, the Zollner Pistons Championship reign would come to a sudden end as they are beaten by the Rochester Royals in four games, dropping three straight games after taking the opener.
1946/47: The NBL begins to lose talent to the newly formed Basketball Association of America, as the Zollner Pistons fail to win the division for the first time in four years as they settle for second place with a record of 25-19. In the playoffs, the Zollner Pistons would need five games to get past the Toledo Jeeps. However, seeking to reach it back to the NBL Finals, the Pistons are knocked off by the Rochester Royals again, losing a three-game series.
1947/48: 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.
1948/49: 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 to finish 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.
1949/50: Playing in their second season in the NBA, the Pistons would finish third in the Central Division with a record of 40-28. In the playoffs, the Pistons would beat the Rochester Royals in two straight games. However, playing for a trip to the semifinals, the Pistons would be defeated by the Minneapolis Lakers in two consecutive games. Following the season, six former NBL teams would leave to reform the league. However, it would never get off the ground.
1950/51: Back in the Western Division, the Pistons struggle again, finishing in third place with a 32-36 record. Along the way, the Pistons made history winning a November 22nd game in Minneapolis over the Lakers by a score of 19-18, setting a record for the lowest scoring game in NBA history. However, it would be good enough for a spot in the playoff, where they would be upended by the Rochester Royals in a three-game series.
1951/52: The Pistons continue to struggle to finish in fourth place with a poor record of 29-37. However, once again, it would be good enough for a berth in the playoffs. Once again, they would make a quick exit as they are beaten by the Rochester Royals in two straight games.
1952/53: After two consecutive losing seasons, the Pistons post a winning record finishing in third place with a record of 36-33, as Larry Foust leads the team in points and rebounds. In the playoffs, the Pistons would finally get past the Rochester Royals in a three-game series taking the decisive Game 3 by two points.
1953/54: The Pistons continue to improve, finishing in third place with a solid record of 40-32. However, the Pistons would not win a game in the playoffs as the NBA experiment with a round-robin format as the Pistons lose two games to both the Rochester Royals and Minneapolis Lakers.
1954/55: The Pistons capture the Western Division with sharpshooter Larry Foust leading the NBA in shooting percentage. After a first-round bye, the Pistons beat the Minneapolis Lakers in four games to reach their first NBA Finals. However, in a hard-fought seven-game series, the Pistons would be defeated by the Syracuse Nationals as they lost Game 7 on the road in the final seconds 92-91.
1955/56: After their trip to the NBA Finals, the Pistons again finish in first place despite only finishing two games above .500 with a record of 37-35. In the playoffs, the Pistons would overcome a 2-0 deficit to beat the St. Louis Hawks for a return trip to the NBA Finals. However, in the finals, the Pistons would be beaten by the Philadelphia Warriors in five games.
1956/57: After a second straight NBA Finals defeat, the Pistons would be part of a three-way tie in the Western Division to make the playoffs with a mediocre 34-38 record. In the playoffs, the Pistons would make a quick exit as they are beaten in two straight games by the Minneapolis Lakers. Following the season, Fred Zollner determined his team could no longer compete in the small market of Fort Wayne, Indiana. So he moved his team to Detroit, a growing city built around the automobile industry.
1957-Present: The city of Fort Wayne would not see a return of professional basketball, although with the launching of the ABA in 1967, the state of Indiana once again had a team to call their own in the Pacers. Eventually, the Pacers based in the capital city Indianapolis would go on to join the NBA.
©MMXX Tank Productions. Stats researched by Frank Fleming, all information, and team names are property of the National Basketball Association. This site is not affiliated with the Fort Wayne Pistons of the NBA. This site is maintained for research
purposes only. All logos used on this page were from Chris Creamer’s Sports Logos Page.
Page created on May 10, 2003. Last updated on April 10, 2020, at 1:25 am ET.