It's a day we all wish never happened. The day Detroit Pistons GM Joe Dumars traded the team's leader and former 2004 NBA finals MVP Chauncey Billups, Antonio McDyess, and Cheikh Samb to the Denver Nuggets for Allen Iverson.
Today is that horrific trade's five-year anniversary.
At the time, though, the trade was more shocking than repulsive. A lot of fans were clamoring for change after the seemingly staling team was bounced from the Eastern Conference finals for a third consecutive season. But, despite all the rumors and talks of sacred cows, Dumars stood pat, only adding Will Bynum and Kwame Brown in free agency after firing Flip Saunders and hiring first-year coach Michael Curry. The season tipped, the Kool-Aid was refilled and the hope for another title with 4/5 of the team that won it all in 2004 was fully restored. The team won its first two games, rather convincingly, and then Dumars rocked the fanbase's world.
I remember it quite well. Dumars had long been an Iverson fanboy, but nothing ever made sense. In fact, I read that very line of thinking -- it "doesn't make sense" -- on this blog back when I was just a lurker.
Then the trade happened.
As I'm sure was the case for most fans, a large piece of my fandom died the day of the trade. I had graduated college just six months prior where every single day I had a plaque of Billups holding the Larry O'Brien and his finals MVP trophy propped next to my desk. I rocked the white No. 1 jersey to enough parties that several of my friends started to greet me as P-P-P-Packey. Billups was to my young adulthood what Grant Hill was to my childhood -- with a ring.
After the initial shock and mourning wore off, I took a different turn than the more sensible fans, though. I admittedly grew excited about the trade. When had Dumars ever steered us way wrong before? Look at all that money he's going to have to play with! LeBron maybe?!? Iverson's exciting, in a ball-hog sort of way, but exciting -- he had the third highest points per game average in NBA history! Matt Watson was on board. Even the fan in Kevin Sawyer was excited about what the season was to bring. I'm naturally a glass-half-full kind of guy, so I figured even if the 2008-2009 season turned out to be a disaster, and it did, at least Dumars would make it all better that summer.
Boy, was I dead wrong.
The trade on this day in history turned out to be the first major domino of a series of crippling mistakes by Dumars. Mistakes that have been well documented here on DBB. It wasn't even 48 hours before Dumars kind of snuck in the ill-advised Rip extension and it was only a matter of weeks until the trade's novelty wore off and this blinding and irritating fog that would ultimately hover over the franchise for the next four years rolled in. Iverson's reputation preceded him and he played out to be every bit of the nuisance he had the potential to be, lying and quitting on Detroit over time and getting banned from the city's casinos. The Pistons made it into the playoffs, but served as a doormat for Cleveland. Dumars compounded matters that summer, giving away all of his savings to the biggest free agent disappointments in franchise history. Etc. Etc. Life for the Pistons may not have been all puppy dogs and ice cream if Dumars didn't trade Billups, but it couldn't have been worse.
Thankfully, Dumars (finally) realized the error of his ways -- he admitted that he regrets the trade, apologized and brought Billups back this past summer. Billups is now likely to retire as a Piston, but that never should have been in jeopardy when he was shipped out on Nov. 3, 2008. Exactly five years later, I'm just happy he'll be donning the blue, red and white tonight.