Born in Mount Vernon, New York to Jamaican parents, Drummond moved to Middletown, Connecticut as a 7-year-old with his mother and sister, then went to Woodrow Wilson Middle School before starting high school at Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Connecticut. During his freshman year, he averaged 12.7 points, 11.9 rebounds and 6.5 blocks per game. He improved during his sophomore year at Capital Prep, averaging 20.2 points, 16.6 rebounds, 7.2 blocks and 4.5 steals per game. After two years at Capital Preparatory Magnet School, he transferred to St. Thomas More. At St. Thomas More in Oakdale, Connecticut, Drummond was one of the most dominating centers in high school basketball. He spent two years at St. Thomas More and led the team to the national prep championship in 2011. He graduated in the spring that year.
He was rated as the #1 player in the class of 2011 by ESPN and NBADraft.net, while being ranked #2 player by Rivals.com and Scout.com.
In the summer of 2010, Drummond was a member of the gold medal winning United States team at the 2010 FIBA Under-17 World Championship. He helped lead team USA to a 111–80 victory over Poland in the gold medal game.
Drummond initially declared he would spend a post-graduate year at Wilbraham & Monson Academy in 2011–12. Two weeks later on August 26, 2011, he announced via Twitter that instead he intended to attend the University of Connecticut. According to ESPN, the decision "created a media frenzy due to the sheer surprise." Drummond had also been considering attending Kentucky, Louisville, Georgetown, or West Virginia.
Drummond appeared in 34 games as a freshman at UConn, starting 30 times. He averaged 28.4 minutes of playing time per game, during which he scored 10.0 points and grabbed 7.6 rebounds. He led the team in rebounds per game, blocks per game (2.7) and field goal percentage (.538). He scored 20+ points in 2 games during the season, including a 24-point performance against Holy Cross, in which he shot 11-of-12 from the field. Drummond's collegiate career ended in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, as the ninth-seeded Huskies fell to eight-seed Iowa State. The freshman center scored two points before fouling out in 26 minutes. A month later, Drummond announced his decision to enter the 2012 NBA draft.
Drummond declared for the 2012 NBA draft on April 12, 2012. In May 2011, ESPN wrote he had "a chance to be the No. 1 overall player in any draft he's involved with."
Drummond was selected by the Detroit Pistons with the ninth overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft. In his rookie season, Drummond quickly became one of the most effective players on the Pistons, averaging 7.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.0 steal and 1.6 blocks in just 20.7 minutes per game. On May 14, 2013, the NBA named Drummond to the 2012–13 NBA All-Rookie Second Team. He also finished fourth in NBA Rookie of the Year voting with a total of 36 points.
On January 24, 2014, Drummond recorded a then career-high 20 rebounds along with 20 points and 2 blocks in a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. On February 14, Drummond scored 30 points and an NBA Rising Stars Challenge record 25 rebounds, and was named the MVP of the event. On March 3, Drummond recorded 17 points and a then career-high 26 rebounds in a win over the New York Knicks.
On March 11, 2015, Drummond recorded 22 points and a season-high 25 rebounds in a loss to the Golden State Warriors. This was Drummond's fourth 20-point, 20-rebound game over the previous two seasons, the most in the NBA in that time span. On March 29, Drummond recorded a then career-high 32 points in a loss to the Miami Heat.
Drummond recorded three double-doubles over the Pistons' first three games of the 2015–16 season, helping lead the team to an NBA-tying-best 3–0 record for the first time since the 2008–09 season. He became the first Pistons player to record three consecutive double-doubles to start the season since Ben Wallace in 2004–05. He was subsequently named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week for the week ending November 1, becoming the first Piston to win the award since Rodney Stuckey did so in December 2009. He averaged 18.7 points, 16.3 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game during that time. On November 3, Drummond recorded 25 points and a career-high 29 rebounds in a loss to the Indiana Pacers, becoming the first Piston with back-to-back 20/20 games since 1985. On November 8, he recorded 29 points and 27 rebounds in a win over the Portland Trail Blazers. He joined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain as the only players with three 20/20 games in the first six games of a season.
On November 9, Drummond was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week for games played from November 2 through November 8, becoming the first Piston to win player of the week in consecutive weeks, and the first player to win the award in the first two weeks of the season since LeBron James in 2011–12 with the Miami Heat. On November 21, Drummond's streak of 11 consecutive double-doubles to begin the season came to an end. This was the longest streak by a Piston since Dave DeBusschere recorded 13 consecutive double-doubles in 1966–67. On December 18, Drummond recorded 21 rebounds and a career-high 33 points in a 147–144 quadruple overtime win over the Chicago Bulls. He became the first Pistons player with at least 30 points and 20 rebounds in a game since Dennis Rodman in 1990–91.
On January 20, 2016, Drummond set an NBA record for free throws missed in a game with 23, surpassing the previous record of 22 set by Wilt Chamberlain on December 1, 1967. He also set a career-high and franchise record by attempting 36 free throws. On January 28, Drummond earned his first NBA All-Star Game selection as a reserve for the Eastern Conference in the 2016 NBA All-Star Game. During the All-Star weekend, he also participated in the Slam Dunk Contest. On February 27, he recorded his league-leading 50th double-double of the season with 15 points and 17 rebounds in a 102–91 win over the Milwaukee Bucks. On March 2, Drummond recorded nine points and 14 rebounds against the San Antonio Spurs, ending his career-high and the league's season-high of consecutive double-doubles at 13 straight. The Pistons finished the regular season as the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference with a 44–38 record, earning a playoff berth for the first time since 2009. However, just as in 2009, the Pistons were swept 4–0 by the first-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers.
On July 15, 2016, Drummond re-signed with the Pistons on a five-year, $130 million contract. In the team's second game of the season on October 28, Drummond recorded 12 points and 20 rebounds in a 108–82 home-opener win over the Orlando Magic. He reached 20 rebounds in a game for the 28th time in his career. Two days later, he recorded 20 points and 23 rebounds in a 98–83 win over the Milwaukee Bucks. He reached 20 rebounds for a second consecutive game, and it was his 10th career game with at least 20 points and 20 rebounds. With 20 points and 17 rebounds on November 19 against the Boston Celtics, Drummond reached 4,000 career rebounds. At 23 years and 101 days, he became the second-youngest player to reach the milestone, trailing only Dwight Howard (22 years, 129 days). On December 7, he had a season-high 26 points and 20 rebounds in an 87–77 loss to the Charlotte Hornets. On March 17, 2017, he grabbed 22 rebounds in an 87–75 loss to the Toronto Raptors. It was the 34th time he had 20 rebounds in a game, including seven in 2016–17.
Drummond was a member of the United States national team that won the gold medal at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup. Over the span of the tournament, he averaged 3.0 points and 2.5 rebounds in eight games.