Once upon a time, the Detroit Pistons were the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons. Based on the name, it should come as no surprise to learn that the basketball team was based in Fort Wayne, IN. However, the Zollner came from the owner Fred Zollner’s Zollner Corporation that specialized in producing pistons for cars as well as other automotive engines.
In the earliest times, the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons were a National Basketball League franchise, where they went on to win a couple of championships in 1944 and 1945. Later, the basketball team moved on over to the Basketball Association of America, with the result that it became one of the founding franchises of the National Basketball Association when the National Basketball League and the Basketball Association of America performed their merger in in 1949. With that said, it wasn’t until 1957 that the basketball moved to Detroit to become the Detroit Pistons, which has since won three NBA championships in 1989, 1990, and 2004.
How Has the Detroit Pistons Logo Changed Over Time?
According to Sports Logo History, The Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons and the Fort Wayne Pistons might have shared a name with the Detroit Pistons, but there can be no mistaking their respective logos. This is because the pre-Detroit basketball team used what one might call a very distinctive cartoon character for its logo, which can be best described as a very anthropomorphic piston playing basketball. In total, there were a couple of logos featuring said character, with the first seeing it going for a layup and the second seeing it moving forward at a dribble. It is interesting to note that the cartoon character has a very noticeable “Z” on its chest in both cases, which is presumably a reference to Zollner.
Once the Fort Wayne Pistons became the Detroit Pistons, the basketball started using a new logo that can be recognized as a direct ancestor to the one that sees use in the present time. In short, the first version of this logo was unveiled in 1958, consisting of “Detroit Pistons” in orange outline lettering, “Basketball Club” in orange solid lettering, and “National Basketball Assn.” in blue lettering. Backing this was a blue circle with lines that suggested it was supposed to be a basketball, though the lack of more elaborate detail makes it rather difficult to confirm.
From 1972 to 1979, there were a couple of other versions of this logo that saw use by the Detroit Pistons. First, there was a version that was the same save for the removal of the “National Basketball Assn.,” which served to make it seem much less cluttered. Second, there was a version that went with solid lettering for “Detroit Pistons” while also switching out the “Basketball Club” for “NBA.” It wasn’t until 1980 that the Detroit Pistons logo saw the next step in its evolution towards becoming its present self. In short, the new logo filled in the basketball with the result that it became red with white outlines, which in turn, resulted in the “Detroit Pistons” being rendered in white letters that stood out well against its red background. With that said, the new logo still retained the blue used in its predecessors, which now saw use in a blue circle encompassing the red basketball.
However, before the Detroit Pistons logo changed to become even closer to its present form, it took a slight detour. In 1997, the basketball team revealed a new logo with a flaming horsehead, which was still in-theme because it was supposed to remind people of the concept of horsepower. Before the horsehead is “Pistons” in big, bold lettering, while a blue-encircled red basketball can be found in the background bearing “Detroit” on its bottom rim. Later in 2002, this logo saw some revisions in the form of color changes but otherwise remained in use until 2005.
In 2006, the Detroit Pistons reverted to a logo that was much more reminiscent of its earlier efforts. However, this one had some differences, with example ranging from how the “Detroit Pistons” now looked like it was popping forth from the image to how the red basketball was now oriented at a different angle. By 2017, the Detroit Pistons had decided to go back to something that was even more similar to its previous logos from the 1980s and 1990s, which was very much meant to evoke the franchise’s long, proud history while cleaning it up to some extent for a better presentation.