One year his road roommate Willie Norwood decided to test Bing's vision. After Bing went to bed, Norwood took his teammate's glasses off the nightstand. Bing woke up to go to the bathroom and ended up in the hallway.
"I've not once in my life ever heard him complain about it," Lanier says. "I mean, not one time."
Those old NBA friends—Trapp, Russell, Rowe—misjudged him. Maybe they thought Bing was too forgiving to fire them. Maybe they remembered how he felt about Jimmy.
Jimmy Walker is gone now—his friends like to think he is up in heaven, looking for a nightclub. He was a wild man, Jimmy. "A free spirit," Bing says. For five years they shared the backcourt in Detroit—the best in the NBA, they believed.
Jimmy had a sweet jumper and an ahead-of-its-time spin move and a never-ending supply of wild oats. He would drink and carouse all night, sleep all day, then hang 25 on the Lakers. "Amazing stamina," Bing says.
The Pistons roomed Jimmy and Dave together on the road, hoping Dave could reel him in a little, but that was like trying to net a pack of butterflies. Walker was traded to Houston in August 1972; five months later Jalen Anthony Rose was born in Detroit. Jimmy was Jalen's biological father. Jimmy was a lot of kids' biological father. "I hear that number is in the teens," Rose says.
Jalen's mother, Jeanne Rose, was a key puncher for Chrysler. His father was invisible; Jalen never saw him. But his father's backcourtmate was around. Bing kept tabs on the kid, taught him what he could. "Like a godfather," Rose says. For years they talked about everything but Jimmy. "That was not something we heavily stressed," Rose says. "Or discussed. Or even acknowledged."
Rose went on to be a star at Southwestern High. Jimmy was never there, but he was always with him. Rose chose number 42 because it was the reverse of the 24 that Jimmy wore with the Pistons. Jalen wanted to play like his father and get famous enough to let Jimmy know who he was.
When Jalen reached high school, Bing gave him a job working on a steel press and moving cargo; and it came with the same warning everybody else got: Do your work or I'll fire you. Jalen learned, "When the lunch truck pulls up, there is no taking cuts because you got a good jumper."
Ask him if he was ever angry at Jimmy for ditching the boy, and Bing says, "If you knew Jimmy, you couldn't be angry." He says that Jimmy was "beautiful" and that he loved him. Bing never said a bad word about Jimmy to Jalen, and it is impossible to know exactly what effect that had on the boy. But eventually Jalen picked up the phone and called Jimmy. Jalen was not bitter anymore. He was ready to meet his father.