Who are the most lovable players in Detroit Pistons history?
It is easy to love the Hall of Famers like Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars and Ben Wallace. It is easy to love the All-Stars like Richard Hamilton and Chauncey Billups. The enforcers, Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn get plenty of love as well. Loving these players is simple. They are the legends of the Pistons franchise.
What about the guys who were not great? The guys who are not part of the pantheon of Pistons history?
Every fan knows of at least one player they loved for nothing more than the fact that the player was likable. Whether it was their personality or some other quirk, these players received unanimous love from the fans.
With nothing better to do in the middle of August, I put together a team of the Pistons’ most lovable players in the 21st century. To make the All-Lovable team, players cannot have made an All-Star appearance. No All-NBA or All-Defensive teams are allowed either.
Forewarning: there is a severe lack of players from the “Going to Work” era of the Pistons. I was only a three-year-old when the Pistons won the 2004 NBA Finals, and I was only a seven-year-old the last time the Pistons made the Eastern Conference Finals. So, no, players from that era of Pistons basketball will not be filling up the All-Lovable team. The only players from that era I could truly appreciate were the starters, and none of them qualify for this team. If there is someone obvious from those teams that should be on this list, feel free to yell at me.
With that out of the way, let us get started.
Guard: Ish Smith 2016-2019
Ish Smith is the epitome of an NBA journeyman. To date, the veteran point guard has appeared in games with 12 NBA teams. That number will be 13, as Smith joined the Denver Nuggets during the offseason.
Smith has never been a great point guard throughout his career. He has played well, but teams have always viewed his level of play as replaceable. There is a reason teams continue to sign Smith: The 34-year-old is a steadying presence in the locker room.
Smith joined Detroit’s roster during the 2016 offseason. While the Pistons’ front office signed the point guard with the intention of bringing him off the bench, Smith was thrust into a starting role early in his tenure due to Reggie Jackson recovering from knee surgery. Smith ultimately started 32 games for Detroit in the 2016-17 season.
In total, he started 67 out of 219 games through three seasons. Smith averaged 9.8 points, 4.5 assists and 24 minutes per game during his Pistons tenure.
The Athletic‘s James Edwards III has always considered Smith to be one of his favorite players to cover during his time on the Pistons beat. When asked about why Smith is such an endearing player, Edwards said Smith is “one of the nicest people you’ll meet,” that he “talks to everyone” and “is always smiling.”
Guard: Langston Galloway 2017-2020
Langston Galloway joined the Pistons during the 2017 offseason, the final offseason of the Stan Van Gundy era.
The guard’s highest accolade was being named to the 2014-15 All-Rookie team as a member of the New York Knicks. Galloway averaged a career-high 11.8 points per game in that season. He has not replicated that level of play since.
While he has not played for nearly as many teams as Smith, Galloway has become something of a journeyman player himself. The 30-year-old has played for seven different teams in his eight-year career. The longest stint of Galloway’s career is his three-season stretch with the Pistons.
Galloway averaged 8.4 points per game while shooting 36.8 percent from beyond the arc through 204 games with Detroit.
Galloway is best known for his flashy shoe collection, which he proudly displayed during game days. From characters like Spongebob Squarepants and Sonic the Hedgehog to movies like Dumb and Dumber and The Grinch, Galloway’s shoe collection always included creative designs. Whatever the theme, Galloway always brought out something new and unique on a nightly basis.
Forward: Reggie Bullock 2015-2019
The most iconic moment of Reggie Bullock’s career might be his game-winning shot against the Toronto Raptors in 2018.
It was head coach Dwane Casey’s first return to Toronto after winning NBA Coach of the Year honors the previous season. With the game tied 104-104 late in the fourth quarter, Raptors superstar Kawhi Leonard drove towards the basket. He mishandled the ball and it flew off his knee and out of bounds for a turnover with two seconds left in the game.
The Pistons were set to inbound the ball from the Raptors baseline with 1.2 seconds in the game. The inbounds play was clearly intended for Blake Griffin to get a shot up, but inbounder José Calderón was unable to find him in the fray. Bullock found space in the paint where Calderón hit him. With Jonas Valančiūnas contesting his shot, Bullock sank his shot with time expiring, ending the game 106-104.
If Pistons fans did not love Bullock up to that point, his game-winning shot certainly won them over.
The 31-year-old spent nearly four whole seasons with the Pistons, the most of anyone on this list. He started in over half of his games played in Detroit, although he did not establish himself as a starter until his third year with the team. In four seasons, Bullock averaged 8.6 points per game and shot 41.2 percent from three-point range.
Forward: Anthony Tolliver 2014-2016, 2017-2018
Anthony Tolliver had two separate stints with the Detroit Pistons. The team acquired him in a midseason trade in 2014. Then, after he spent a season with the Sacramento Kings in 2016-17, Detroit re-signed the veteran power forward for the 2017-18 season.
Tolliver has played for nearly as many teams as Smith; the journeyman has played for 11 different NBA franchises in his 13-year career.
Tolliver appeared in 203 games for Detroit, including 30 starts. He averaged 7.3 points and 3.3 rebounds while shooting 39.2 percent from beyond the arc during his tenure with the Pistons.
Fans loved Tolliver’s high-effort play and fun on-court moments. Most notably, in a 2015 game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Tolliver took the ball in transition and finished a difficult layup through contact. He drew the foul and fell to the floor right in front of the camera. Tolliver stared directly into the camera and pointed into it. It was a fun moment that made its way into the Pistons hype videos on what was then Fox Sports Detroit.
Fans’ love for Tolliver was on full display when they celebrated his return to Detroit after a season away in 2017.
Center: Boban Marjanović 2016-2018
Boban Marjanović had the shortest tenure of anyone on the All-lovable team. However, he might also be the most lovable of all five players.
Marjanović appeared in only 54 games with Detroit and only managed to start in one of them. He spent the entirety of the 2016-17 season with the Pistons. He was dealt at the trade deadline of the 2017-18 season as part of the trade package that brought Blake Griffin to the Motor City.
The 7-3 center is viewed by many fans as simply a big man with a big lovable personality. It is on full display in his State Farm commercials, or his Goldfish commercials with former teammate Tobias Harris. He even made an appearance in John Wick: Chapter 3.
No matter what stadium he goes to, fans always cheer for Marjanović when he enters the game. That is no different at Little Caesars Arena. This past season against the Dallas Mavericks, Pistons fans were chanting Marjanović’s name near the end of the fourth quarter to try to entice head coach Jason Kidd to put him in the game.
Marjanović could very well be the most lovable player in the entire league. There certainly is no love lost for him in Detroit.
(Featured Image Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports)