Originally created 06/18/04

Pistons fans salute the NBA champs



DETROIT -- Hundreds of thousands of Pistons fans lined downtown Thursday to honor the NBA champions, a celebration that left outspoken Rasheed Wallace almost speechless.

"I don't have the words for it," Wallace, wearing a Red Wings Jersey, said as he looked at the gathering at the end of the parade. "I'm just feeling all good inside."

Spectators cheered and chanted as the team's stars rolled by the riverfront in pickup trucks and on floats past churches, car dealers, motels and abandoned buildings.

The Pistons won the NBA title Tuesday night by beating the Los Angeles Lakers 100-87 in Game 5.

"Actually, they were lucky to win one game," 81-year-old owner Bill Davidson said.

The Pistons won their first championship since 1989 and 1990. It also was the first time they won the title at home.

Davidson, who praised fans for celebrating peacefully, was lauded later at a capacity-crowd rally at the Pistons' arena, The Palace of Auburn Hills.

"He allows me to go out and do my job," team president Joe Dumars said. "Without him this wouldn't be possible."

Earlier, Davidson was in the back seat of a black pickup that was followed by a pickup carrying Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Coach Larry Brown sat on the back of a truck and wore a Pudge Rodriguez No. 7 Detroit Tigers jersey and cap.

"I hope our team reflects what this city is about," Brown said. "We've got the best fans."

A truck carrying forward Tayshaun Prince, wearing an oversized, striped top hat, stopped briefly and was instantly surrounded by autograph seekers.

"We worked so hard just to have this kind of appreciation, and it's so great to see the fans come out," Finals MVP Chauncey Billups said.

Center Ben Wallace delighted the crowd by taking a spare souvenir T-shirt and polishing the NBA championship trophy with exaggerated strokes. He also hoisted the trophy over his head, but fans could not see whether his hair was in cornrows or in his trademark expansive Afro - he was wearing a porkpie hat.

"This is absolutely fantastic," Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick said while holding one of his twin sons. "The city is proud. You couldn't ask for anything better.

"I think the newspapers, the media, had it right - basketball is the ultimate unifier," said Kilpatrick, who has criticized what he considers negative coverage of the city. "We're bringing everybody together. ... The spirit of Detroit is alive and well, and it's a real movement in the city of Detroit."

Rich McCray, the owner of a used-car business, parked his 40-foot mobile home in a gas station parking lot at the start of the 1.3-mile parade route Wednesday night in anticipation of the festivities.

"I've been a fan all my life, and this just proves that we are No. 1," he said. "People didn't give us a chance, and we did it."

Kilpatrick addressed concerns that Wallace, a free agent, might leave the team.

"Y'all show 'Sheed how much you love 'Sheed right here in Detroit," the mayor told the crowd, which responded with chants of "We want Sheed."

A grinning Wallace put down his videocamera and stood to acknowledge the cheers. Then he sat down and kept recording.