Bing, David ("Dave")

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BING, David ("Dave")

(b. 29 November 1943 in Washington, D.C.), professional basketball player, voted one of the fifty best players in National Basketball Association (NBA) history, who became a successful Detroit businessman after his retirement.

The son of Hasker Bing, a bricklayer, and Juanita Bing, a domestic, Bing accidentally damaged his left eye at age five, leaving him with permanently blurred vision in that eye. He gained early business experience helping his father build apartment houses and churches in Washington's poorer neighborhoods.

Initially shunned by older boys in playground basketball, Bing grew into a slender, powerful, six-foot, three-inch forward at Spingarn High School under the tutelage of famed coach William Roundtree. After graduating from high school, and influenced by the charismatic football player Ernie Davis from Syracuse University, Bing chose to attend Syracuse, then a lesser collegiate basketball power. With Bing on the team, however, the Orangemen soared. He averaged 24.6 points a game and thrilled spectators with his slashing, graceful drives to the basket and unerring jump shots. Bing earned first-team All-America honors in his senior year and graduated with a degree in economics. While still in college he married his high school sweetheart, Aaris. The couple had three daughters, but later divorced.

Bing was the second overall choice in the 1966 NBA draft, signing a $15,000 first-year contract with the Detroit Pistons. More than earning his money, he averaged just over twenty points a game and was named the NBA's Rookie of the Year. In his sophomore season, Bing improved his scoring average to 27.1, becoming the first guard to notch top-scoring honors in twenty years. For the 1969 season Bing leveraged an offer from the upstart American Basketball Association to raise his Pistons contract to $450,000 for three years.

Bing's natural leadership was admired by his teammates, and in 1971 he was named team captain. That season he averaged twenty-seven points a game with a career high 2,213 points. So impressive were his accomplishments that former player and then-Pistons scout Earl Lloyd told Sport magazine: "Maybe some other player does this better, and another player does that better. [But] nobody does as much as Dave does." Teammate Otto Moore concurred, adding, "He can run, dribble, shoot, do everything."

Bing's high-flying career was almost cut short at the beginning of the next season when Happy Hairston of the Los Angeles Lakers inadvertently poked a finger into Bing's right eye. Although he was in intense pain, Bing thought the injury was minor until he awoke a few days later to find his vision almost gone. The doctors discovered a detached retina, which required surgery and kept him on the sidelines for three months. Determined to recover completely, Bing practiced free throws during his convalescence. His diligence paid off; in forty-five games that season, he averaged 22.6 points with a much higher free-throw percentage and improved defensive skills. His greatest skill was disrupting defenses with leaping drives to the basket followed by acrobatic layups or deft passes to open teammates. His steady, intelligent play secured his place on seven All-Star teams.

Even Bing's talents could not lift the struggling Pistons, however. The team made the playoffs only twice during his nine-year tenure; in the 1973–1974 season, they were ousted in the second round by the Chicago Bulls, and the following year they were finished in the first round by the Seattle Supersonics. Frustrated by the team's mediocrity, Bing requested a trade that sent him home to the Washington Bullets for the 1975–1976 season. Although Bing earned Most Valuable Player (MVP) honors in the 1976 NBA All-Star game, his accomplishments with the Bullets were spotty, with his vision becoming an increasing problem. When his scoring average dropped to ten points a game, the team released him after the 1976 season. He rebounded for one last year with the Boston Celtics, during which he averaged 13.6 points a game. He retired at the end of the season with a lifetime scoring average of 20.3 points per game, a record that earned him a selection as one of the fifty best players in NBA history in 1996. His jersey number, 21, was retired by the Pistons.

After retiring, Bing put his drive and leadership to work in the business world. Because he had used his off-seasons learning the ropes at local banks, the Chrysler Corporation, and the Paragon Steel Company, he began his second career with valuable business experience and contacts. Paragon Steel offered him a training position, which allowed him to learn the business from the ground up. Branching out on his own, he used his own capital and a line of credit from banks to establish Bing Steel Company.

Despite his initial discouragement when most clients either talked only basketball or canceled contracts without notice, Bing persevered, taking no salary for six months. His first big order came from General Motor's Fisher Body Plant, and within a few years Bing Steel had found a market finishing steel parts for automobiles. During the mid-1980s he supplemented his income by working as a television commentator for the Pistons. In 1984 he was named National Minority Small Businessperson of the Year.

Using tough personnel methods (trainees were fired for being late four times in the first three months) and promises of equity to managers who stayed more than three years, Bing Steel rose to $61 million in sales by 1990, placing it tenth on the Black Enterprise list of top black-owned companies. In 1991 Bing expanded his empire, acquiring Superb Manufacturing Company ($28.4 million in sales in 1990) and Heritage ($3.6 million). Other acquisitions followed. By 2000 Bing's nine corporations netted $7 million in profits with $300 million in sales. The companies employ 1,500 people, about 78 percent of whom are African-American.

Although Bing still works about sixty hours a week, he devotes a quarter of them to a variety of charities, some of which derive from his businesses. He established an employee training center for minorities in 1999, for example, and located his plants in inner-city Detroit to provide employment opportunities for the city's residents. In 1998 Bing established a joint venture to produce car parts with the Lear Company that he plans to expand into Mexico and South America. He also serves on Standard Federal Bank's board of directors.

Biographical material on Bing may be found in several articles, including Ronald C. Modra, "Life Lessons from a Man of Steel," Sports Illustrated (19 Aug. 1991), and Tomas Kellner, "Rebound Man," Forbes (18 Sept. 2000).

Graham Russell Hodges