Players come around every now and then that you just want on your team regardless of what they bring to the court, whether it be their offensive ability, defensive mentality, leadership qualities, etc. For Chauncey Billups, selected third overall by the Boston Celtics in the 1997 NBA Draft, it just happened to take a few years for teams to realize what they had.
Arriving on the scene smack dab in the middle of Rick Pitino’s ill-fated return to the NBA, Billups didn’t gel with the Celtics coaching staff. Labeling his status with the team as “recipe for disaster” during his short-lived tenure, he was dealt to the Toronto Raptors midway through his rookie year.
Billups played just 29 games in Toronto before being sent to the Denver Nuggets, who then flipped him to the Orlando Magic. Immediately placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury, Billups would never officially suit up for the Magic. After being drafted so high, many NBA publications began to consider Billups a bust.
The 2000-2001 season shed some new light on Billups’ career after he signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves. After starting point guard Terrell Brandon went down with a serious knee injury during the 2001-2002 season, Billups was inserted into the starting lineup and didn’t look back. He was a key contributor in pushing the Timberwolves into the playoffs where they met the Dallas Mavericks in the first round. Dallas eliminated the T-Wolves in the first round but Billups’ production didn’t go unnoticed. He averaged 22 points per game in the series and finally seemed to show why he was drafted so high.
The upcoming off season was the biggest of Billups’ career when he signed a 6-year deal to join the Detroit Pistons and assume the role as the team’s starting point guard. That’s when things really took off.
During his tenure with the Pistons, Billups was tabbed with the nickname “Mr. Big Shot” for his affinity for hitting clutch shots. Billups played six years in Detroit, a tenure that included three all-star appearances and an NBA Championship in 2004, earning Finals MVP honors in his team’s five-game win over the Los Angeles Lakers in 2004.
On November 3, 2008, Billups was infamously dealt to his hometown Denver Nuggets in exchange for Allen Iverson. A shocker to many at the time, Joe Dumars called the trade one the hardest and toughest moves he had to make as a general manager. Billups found himself in the playoffs for two of his three seasons with the Nuggets, including leading them to the Western Conference Finals against the Lakers during the 2008-2009 season.
Billups ended his career the way he began it, by bouncing from team to team over his final four years in the league, including a return to Detroit in 2013. Following an injury plagued last hurrah with the Pistons, Billups officially retired from the NBA.
Billups’ career spotlighted what being a teammate is all about, what it’s like to give back to the community and good sportsmanship. When it was all said and done, Billups established himself as an NBA champion by becoming the type of player that comes around every now and then that you just want on your team. That is the perfect way to describe Chauncey Billups. He was the perfect teammate on and off the court and just seemed to have a demeanor about him that made people gravitate to how great of a human being he truly was.
Tonight is a special night for me inparticular. Chauncey is my favorite basketball player of all-time. He grew on me so much with his time in Detroit and really got me into following the game of basketball. The impact that he had for the Motor City is well documented and his number rising up to the rafters of the Palace is surely going to get the old goosebumps going. His legacy wearing the Pistons home red, blue and white will forever be on display for all to see. He played such a crucial part in the Pistons’ resurgence in the early 2000’s. Chauncey will forever be a Piston.
Thanks for the memories, Mr. Big Shot!