Chauncey Billups announced his retirement from basketball, closing the book on a 17-year NBA career that included an NBA Championship, a Finals MVP, numerous trips to the playoffs, five All-Star nods and a gold medal in the 2010 FIBA World Cup. He was not only a great player but a great teammate and man, being honored with the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, the NBA Sportsmanship Award and the Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year award.
So the big question for the Pistons to answer is, what is the right way to celebrate the legacy of one of the greatest Pistons of all time? More specifically, does he deserve to have his No. 1 hang in the rafters of the Palace of Auburn Hills, never to be worn again?
The answer is, of course, yes.
He finished his career averaging 15.2 points, 5.4 assists and 2.9 rebounds, which is good but not eye popping. He did only shoot 41.5 percent during his career, leading many people to believe that Mr. Big Shot was not an extremely valuable scorer.
Being overlooked is nothing new for Billups. The standout at University of Colorado was a heavily hyped draft pick (No. 3 overall to the Boston Celtics) who quickly became an NBA vagabond. He was traded three times in his first three years in the league. He was a backup point guard looking for his shot. And he got that shot in Detroit.
Billups was always underrated because of low per game averages, but he was a star because of his great decision-making and elite efficiency. He was dangerous from the 3-point line -- 38.7 percent during his career --and murder at the free-throw line. Billups shot nearly 90 percent from the charity stripe and attempted almost five per game. There are 143 players in NBA history to play at least 750 games and attempt at least 4 free-throws per game, but the only one who shot it better than Billups is Hall of Famer Rick Barry.
Speaking of the Hall of Fame, of the 45 players who averaged at least 15 points and four assists per game with at least 750 games under their belt, Billups' 58.0 true shooting percentage ranks third behind only Hall of Famer Magic Johnson and someday Hall of Famer and perhaps best their ever was LeBron James. Billups' win shares ranks 14th behind 11 Hall of Famers, Kobe Bryant and James.
His assists numbers put him at No. 48 of players with at least 750 games sandwiched between Avery Johnson and Sleepy Floyd. But Billups was masterful at protecting the ball, turning it over just 2 times per game.
Billups had a nomadic career before coming to Detroit (do yourself a favor and read this terrific Grantland piece about his amazing career). He was always a good player but former Pistons general manager Joe Dumars stole him away from the Minnesota Timberwolves for the mid-level exception (the best MLE in NBA history, I might add). The Pistons gave him a chance and he ran with it. Billups was a true floor general -- a leader both on and off the court. And without Billups guiding a locker room of combustible coaches and headstrong players the Pistons never would have experienced all of the success they had from 2002 to 2008.
The Pistons have eight retired numbers hanging at the Palace -- six players, one coach and one owner. Billups deserves his No. 1 hanging alongside his mentor Dumars and joins the storied history of great NBA guards to don the red white and blue in Detroit -- Dumars, Isiah Thomas, Dave Bing and Vinnie Johnson. And he should one day join the 162 players enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
He's earned it.