John Mason, Voice of the Pistons, on Origins of His Famous Chant

Court side Announcer John Mason talks with Stephen Henderson after the first Pistons home game of the season and Bill Shea of The Athletic talks about the business of basketball.

Can you name a better rallying cry in all of sports than “DEE-TROIT BASKETBALL”? 

Basketball is back in Detroit this week with the start of the NBA season. Yesterday, the Pistons hosted the Atlanta Hawks in their home opener at Little Caesars Arena.

Detroit Today‘s Stephen Henderson talks with the man behind the mic, John Mason, court side announcer for the Pistons, where Mason recounts the origins of the call

Click play above at 8:33 to hear announcer John Mason recall the story behind the famous chant, or continue below to read it in his own words.

“It wasn’t anything planned, at all,” Mason says. “I had been with the team two years, and on the third year they were going to give them a national game. I was like, oh wow, now we’re going to be on national TV. The broadcasters from ESPN thought the game was boring. This is when the Pistons were keeping teams under 80 points. They said, well this game is boring, we’re going to switch to Houston. And I’m like, no! Don’t do that! This is our first time and now you’re going to take it from us. 

I wanted the country to just feel Detroit. I didn’t know what to say. I wasn’t trying to think of anything to say, but I was just crushed that they were going to switch. We had just made a great defensive steal, and knocked the ball off of another player. And, subconsiously I took a negative, flipped into a positive without even knowing it. The negative was this: Air ball! And I just shouted out, Dee-troit! Basketball! 

And the guy next to me said, you know this is your last game? You’re not supposed to do that. That’s not a foul. That’s not a shot. They’re going to kill you, you can pack it up buddy. 

So I said to myself, even if they do, if they let me go, at least I showed pride for Detroit. And that was the only thing that I was thinking about, just to show pride [in] our city. 

They did not like it, the organization. And they told me they’d have a meeting with me next game. The next game they went to play, ironically, was in Indiana. They had to go on the road before they came back home. 

They go on the road in Indiana, and some fan has a gigantic sign that says, ‘Detroit Basketball.’ When I got back, they said, anytime you want to say that, go right ahead.”

Also on today is Bill Shea, senior writer with The Athletic, joining Henderson to talk about the prospects for the team in the new season, the Pistons’ new training facility and emerging tech in the realm of sports analytics. 

On the new season: “I don’t know if the Pistons are going to be considerably different than last year. They looked great in the opener in Indianapolis. They could be interesting this year,” says Shea. “It would be nice to see [the Pistons] do well, because Detroit sports right now are not in a good place.” 

On the new facility: “It’s a magnificent facility. There’s a number of these facilities out there now. They’re revenue-generators for the team.”

Click on the player above to hear the whole Pistons conversation with John Mason and Bill Shea.




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