By the late 1970s, a decade after horrific riots, the Pistons had fallen on hard competitive times, along with the city, and out they went to a charmless football dome in distant Pontiac, Mich., and later to the basketball-specific Palace of Auburn Hills.
A team in a sport played increasingly by young black men fled the city while hockey’s white-as-ice Red Wings stored their gloves and sticks in a downtown arena named for Joe Louis.
Mike Abdenour, the Pistons’ trainer since 1975, except for a three-year run with the Philadelphia 76ers, grew up on Detroit’s East Side, occasionally riding the bus with his brother to Cobo.
“The tickets cost $5,” he said, and that is why, he reasoned, Bill Davidson, the owner who moved the team, couldn’t be blamed for doing so when ticket prices began to rapidly rise leaguewide, along with salaries.
The fan base in the city could no longer afford to support the Pistons, Abdenour said, adding that the Red Wing crowds were already largely suburban, fiercely loyal and undeterred by ticket costs.