Motor City’s Man Of Steel

After a legendary career in the NBA, The Bing Group CEO David Bing has carved an impressive niche into the auto industry

for entrepreneurs and small businesses, it appears good times are indeed returning to Motown. But it would be difficult for any outsider to truly appreciate just how far Detroit has come unless you were there during the dark days. Following the riots of 1967, when crime was at an all-time high and businesses were leaving the city in droves, Detroit was synonymous with urban blight and despair. But that’s where David Bing chose to plant roots and call home.

Bing married when he was only 19. He arrived in Detroit in 1966 already a husband with two young daughters after being drafted by the Detroit Pistons. For a short while, that first year was like a fantasy come true. Having grown up on the Motown sound of Diana Ross and the Supremes and Smokey Robinson, Bing says, “One day you’re listening to all these people on the radio and all of a sudden to come here and meet and become friends with a lot of them, those were fun times.”

The good times didn’t last for long. During Bing’s first summer in Detroit, “We had the riots. I was 23 years old just coming here, and half the city burned,” says Bing, who even now says he wasn’t very surprised by what happened. “There were a lot of people angry for a lot of legitimate reasons. That doesn’t justify what happened here, but it happened. And this city has been in a rebuilding mode ever since.”

If you knew Bing’s background, it wouldn’t surprise you that he’d want to be part of that rebuilding process. He’d been groomed for entrepreneurship almost from the start. Bing’s father worked as an independent contractor, then started his own construction company in Washington, D.C., in the late ’50s and ’60s. “And as a young man growing up and going out on jobs with him, I liked the idea of being the boss and running your own company.” So Bing says his plans were pretty much set by the time he headed to Syracuse University, where he majored in business and minored in economics before graduating in 1966.

But a funny thing happened on Bing’s road to entrepreneurial wealth. He had a not-so-minor detour into the NBA, where he developed into one of the finest players the game has ever seen. Meeting with the lanky, soft-spoken Bing for more than a few minutes, you wouldn’t get the sense this spectacled, wispy-haired man regularly slam-dunked on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and many other NBA legends in route to scoring over 18,000 points and averaging 20.3 points a season in a 12-year career. Indeed, in 1990 Bing was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame, and just last year was honored at the NBA All-Star Game in Cleveland as one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history.

Bing says his basketball memories are fond ones, but admits his timing was probably a bit off. “Back then we weren’t making the kind of money that you make today in the NBA,” Bing chuckles.

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