Editor's Note: This story was originally published in December 2012, but with the announcement that Chauncey Billups is retiring, I thought it deserved some new life. The Grantland story is an absolute must read for any Chauncey Billups or Detroit Pistons fan. The original story follows.
Chauncey Billups will always be my favorite Detroit Piston from the 2000-2008 era. His calm, collected demeanor. His love of the dagger 3-pointer, his feel for the game and setting the rhythm on any particular night -- when to shoot, when to drive, when to get others involved -- was awe inspiring.
And I couldn't have been more pleased when I saw that ESPN's Grantland devoted more than 5,000 words to the Piston great. The story covers the ups and downs of his 15-year-and-counting career.
The college dominance, the disappointment of Boston. Being labeled a bust and floating from one team to another. Then signing with the Pistons on what could possibly be the biggest steal of a free-agent contract in the history of the NBA.
the heights of winning a championship and being a Finals MVP. A perennial all-star. And then the disrespect of being traded by the team where you made you mark (Detroit), your hometown team (Denver) and ultimately being amnestied, cut essentially, to make way for another player (New York). None of it had to do with Billups play and everyone involved had nothing but praise for him then or now. Now he is with the Los Angeles Clippers trying to win another championship.
The entire story is great, though it might be familiar to many Pistons fans. Still, I love reading profiles like this and it does nothing but give me more respect for Mr. Big Shot. Hell, maybe we can convince him to finish his career in Detroit and groom him to be a coach or front-office executive. I certainly wouldn't mind having Billups associated with the Pistons for the rest of his career.
Some choice quotes from the piece to whet your appetite.
On his introduction to the NBA:
"I wasn't the best player on the court," he said. "I wasn't the biggest at my position or strongest. I went from high school to college and I was able to dominate as a freshman. Going into the NBA, I go to the bottom of the totem pole. It was the first time it had ever been like that."
On him dealing with the bust label:
"People had this negative perception of him as a basketball player," Timberwolves teammate Sam Mitchell said. "Because he came in and scored, they thought he was being selfish, which was the furthest thing from the truth. As I got to meet Chauncey, what I realized is people put labels on people that really stick. Well, how do you get those labels off? It's harder to get rid of a label than it is to gain one."
On joining the Pistons:
For once, Billups had perfect timing - he was hitting free agency again, only with the leverage of being an up-and-coming star with a strong pedigree.10 Billups visited Pistons general manager Joe Dumars's home, and the pair discussed his erratic past. "I'm sure it was somewhat cathartic to him, to sit there and rehash everything that had happened," Dumars said. "My basic response to him was now that I've heard all the obstacles that you've had in the past, my job is to ensure that you have none of those obstacles here in Detroit. So it was good for him, but it was also good for me to hear because I wanted to know what he felt impeded him from becoming the player he could become."
Billups signed a six-year, $35 million contract with Detroit, but not before agonizing about moving again, as well as leaving behind his buddies Brandon and Garnett. Midway through his first season, Dumars noticed something wrong: Even after being blessed with the security of that contract, Billups still looked over his shoulder.
"What are you looking around for?" Dumars recalled telling him. "You're looking like we're going to trade you or bench you. Not happening. You're the guy. We're committed to you. Quit looking over your shoulder. You're going to lead this team."