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Having Fun Yet, Mr. Mayor?
MICHAEL ROSENBERG
January 18, 2010
Running Detroit isn't a job, it's a sentence. That's no retirement gig for a 66-year-old NBA Hall of Fame guard turned millionaire entrepreneur, is it? Dave Bing thinks differently (though he won't begrudge you thinking he's crazy)
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January 18, 2010

Having Fun Yet, Mr. Mayor?

Running Detroit isn't a job, it's a sentence. That's no retirement gig for a 66-year-old NBA Hall of Fame guard turned millionaire entrepreneur, is it? Dave Bing thinks differently (though he won't begrudge you thinking he's crazy)

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It never happened. Jimmy, who spent most of his post-NBA days bouncing around from city to city, died of cancer in the summer of 2007. Rose, who had just retired after a 13-year NBA career, went to the funeral in Kansas City. There were only a few dozen people there. A few were Jimmy's kids—at least, biologically. Jalen sat with siblings he'd never known as they mourned a father they'd never had. Jalen was stunned. Dave Bing was there to console him.

III. DRIVING

The mayor of Detroit folds his own laundry. He makes his own bed. He could have hired somebody to do this stuff years ago. His wife says she would do it. But they know that won't work, because she won't do it as well.

"I don't know what it is," Yvette says. "I tried to watch. But his looks better than mine."

He's been this way forever. Nobody else can meet his bedmaking standards, so he makes the bed. Everything in his life is in order. He abhors clutter. You'll never see yesterday's newspaper lying around. Sometimes Yvette will buy him a jogging suit, and he'll wear it again and again for three months, then give it away. Nothing hangs in his closet unless he still wears it.

Bing lives like he played basketball: hard, without flash. As a player he never talked trash. Boeheim remembers going through pickup games and fall practice with Bing at Syracuse. Bing never dunked. Then, in the first game, Bing threw down a two-handed jam. Boeheim was stunned. Where did that come from?

As an NBA player Bing read books voraciously, usually about business. He spent his off-seasons working at the National Bank of Detroit and Chrysler. After he retired in 1978, at age 34, he went straight to work for a firm called Paragon Steel, with the goal of learning the business and starting his own company. He founded Bing Steel, which became the Bing Group, and aimed to make it a billion-dollar-a-year business.

Other players put their names on basketball camps, then show up to give a speech, run a clinic or two and farm out the rest of the duties. Not Dave Bing. He went to his camp in the Poconos, built friendships with the kids, then had them over to his house in the winter—or dropped by their houses.

One of the kids, a 14-year-old named Benny White, went on to play at Michigan State, then worked for Bing Steel. By 1986 White was making $80,000 a year as an executive sales rep. "Tailor-made suits, taking customers to the Red Wings' games, living the life," White says. "But I started to feel empty."

White told Bing he was quitting the business to be an assistant coach at Albion (Mich.) College. The job paid $9,000 a year. Dave went nuts. Is this why he mentored White, hired him, even lived with him for a year? So White could go coach a game?

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