David Albert DeBusschere (October 16, 1940 – May 14, 2003) was an American professional National Basketball Association player and coach and Major League baseball player. In 1996, DeBusschere was named as one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history.
DeBusschere was born in Detroit to parents Peter Marcell and Dorothy Debusschere. He attended Austin Catholic Preparatory School and inspired the “White Shirted Legion” (the tradition of wearing white shirts to the school’s games to make fans more visible). As a junior, he was named all-state, and in his senior year of 1957–58, in just the school’s third year of organized basketball, he led his team to the Michigan Class A high school basketball championship on March 22, 1958, scoring 32 points despite fouling out midway through the fourth quarter as the Friars defeated Benton Harbor High School and Debusschere’s future NBA rival forward Chet Walker. Over 12,291 fans watched the game held at Jenison Fieldhouse on the campus of Michigan State. Detroit’s Austin Catholic went 23-0 that season and became the city’s first Class A basketball state champion since 1930.
Upon graduation from high school, DeBusschere went on to star in both basketball and baseball at the University of Detroit, helping Detroit reach the National Invitation Tournament twice and the NCAA basketball tournament once. He also pitched the Titans to three NCAA baseball tournament berths.
Forced to pick between pro basketball or pro baseball, he chose both, and is only one of thirteen athletes to do so.
A territorial pick of the Detroit Pistons in 1962, he was selected to the NBA All Rookie team his first year. During his third year, he was named player/coach at age 24, making him the youngest coach in NBA history. In 1966, he drafted Syracuse guard , Dave Bing, who would become the NBA Rookie of the Year and later mayor of Detroit.
After he stopped being coach, he became an even greater player, according to Bing. The team was stunned on December 19, 1968, when DeBusschere was traded to the New York Knicks for Walt Bellamy and Howard Komives.
Matched with future U.S. Senator Bill Bradley, Walt Frazier, Willis Reed, and Earl Monroe, the Knicks captured world championships in 1970 and 1973 and won more games than any other NBA team from 1969-1974, the year DeBusschere retired at age 33.
An eight-time All-Star, he was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame n 1983, then posthumously to the inaugeral class of the National Collegiate Hall of Fame in 2006. He was also named to the NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time team in 1966.
Bill Dow, “Austin Catholic to name gym after DeBusschere”, Detroit Free Press, March 25, 2018.
“Legends of the Game” from the MHSAA Archive.