New Detroit Mayor Has Tall Order To Fill

Dave Bing was sworn in as mayor of Detroit earlier this month. The NBA star turned businessman turned politician will have to draw from all of his years of experience to help this city, which is failing financially and adrift politically.

Noah Ovshinsky reports for member station WDET.

The Rookie Mayor Of Detroit

Dave Bing was elected mayor of Detroit earlier this month to finish the term of former mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick. It might be time for the 65-year-old Bing to pull out his Rookie of the Year trophy for inspiration. He won that trophy after the 1966-67 season with the Detroit Pistons.

Now Detroit is turning to this former NBA star turned businessman turned political rookie to save the failing city. It won't be easy.

Bing was born in Washington, D.C., and raised in a poor neighborhood. He and his three siblings slept in one room. He was determined to not do the backbreaking work of his father, a bricklayer.

Bing told Sport magazine, "I swore I'd never live a life like that."

As a kid, Bing suffered a serious injury when a nail went through his eye while he was playing. His sight in that eye remains fuzzy.

Bing attended Washington's Spingarn High School where, despite his impaired eyesight, he played both baseball and basketball, eventually choosing to put all of his efforts on the court.

When it came time to choose a college, Bing deflected interest from more impressive programs like UCLA and Michigan State University, and opted for the lesser known Syracuse University. It was the right choice — he was able to average more than 24 points a game in his three varsity seasons and was scouted by the pros. He was the No. 2 pick when the Detroit Pistons selected him.

Bing spent 12 years playing in the NBA — nine in Detroit, two in Washington, and ending with a final year in Boston. A former player and coach for the Pistons told Scout, "Maybe some other player does this better, and another player does that better, [but] nobody does as much as Dave does." And that's why he was captain.

Just as stellar as his ball career, if not more so, was Bing's foresight that he had to prepare for life after basketball. He worked his off-seasons in a bank and then for two years at a Chrysler dealer training program.

After leaving basketball in 1978, he was approached by Paragon Steel of Detroit about a public relations job. The savvy Bing was not interested. Instead he got a two-year gig that showed him the ins and outs of the steel business. He told Black Enterprise magazine, "I worked in the warehouse with inventory control, in the plant getting a basic knowledge of the product and in shipping and receiving. On the inside I started in the accounting area, then on to credit, purchasing, sales and marketing."

He then launched Bing Steel, a steel processing company. It struggled at first, but was able to hang on when Bing won a contract to supply General Motors. It became profitable two years after it started, grossing $4.2 million. According to Black Enterprise, it was the 10th largest steel company in 1990, grossing $61 million.

His fame as a basketball player and his broadcast presence covering games in Michigan helped the business, but Bing told Black Enterprise several years ago, "Most folks don't think blacks understand economies of scale, big business, big dollars."

Today Bing wants his city to dream as big as he once did. He told The Washington Post, "We've got a city where a lot of people don't even hope or dream anymore. In the 42 years that I've been here, I still dream. I dream that this city can be what it was before I even got here."

If he can bring hope to Detroit, he just may be MVP.

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