Detroit Pistons: A Chauncey Billups Retrospective


Chauncey Billups is finally calling it quits after a 17 year career. Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

“The man from Colorado, standing 6’3, Chaun-cey B-b-b-b-billups!” As the words roared from John Mason’s mouth, Detroit Pistons fans stood up with a collective cheer.

The thing was, Billups was wearing a Denver Nuggets jersey. It was his first return to the Palace of Auburn Hills since being traded for Allen Iverson. The other Nuggets players were greeted with lusty boos, but Billups received a minute-long standing ovation. As the noise continued, his new teammates laughed in awe, marveling at the outpouring of gratitude.

That’s the thing about Chauncey. He has the ability to connect with people, from fanbases to individuals. This is what his former teammate, Chris Paul, had to say about the five-time All-Star. “In a league that’s filled with fierce competition and unfortunately at times jealousy, a veteran guard took me under his wing and told me and showed me what it means to be a professional and to ALWAYS help the next guy coming up behind you. One of the highlights of my career was the night that I found out I would get to play along side of Chaunce!” 

Billups has always held the respect of his peers, perhaps because of the work ethic it took for him to reach his pinnacle. As the third pick of the NBA Draft, the University of Colorado product had high expectations.

But for his first five seasons, Billups bounced around the league, falling dangerously close to being labeled a bust. He finally broke through in Minnesota, averaging 12.5 points and 5.5 assists a game. Despite his newfound success, the Timberwolves opted not to sign Billups. That’s when he signed with Detroit and his career finally took off.

It was here where Billups honed his defensive craft, being named to a couple of all-defensive teams. This was the place where the man earned the moniker Mr. Big Shot, and ice water couldn’t even begin to describe how cold-blooded Billups was. Many a Pistons’ fan can hear George Blaha calling a late game Chauncey shot: “turns, guns it, and it’s through!”

Once he started using his ability to muscle past guards and hit circus layups, Mr. Big Shot began to hit his stride. Billups helped lead the team to six consecutive Eastern Conference Finals, including two NBA Finals appearances, and one NBA Championship.

The championship against the Lakers finally validated Billups. It proved that he was not only not a bust, but an elite player. Detroit and Michigan appreciated the blue-collar feel of Billups and the Pistons, who defeated the glitz and glamour of the Los Angeles Lakers.

One of the most iconic photos to come from the series is Billups holding up the championship trophy as his teammates all try to rub his bald head. He was the leader, even with more vocal players (namely Rasheed Wallace) on the roster.

He would eventually find a few more destinations after the trade to return him to his hometown Nuggets, including the Knicks and Clippers. He eventually found his way back home, contributing mostly as a mentor to other players on the team. Pistons’ fans everywhere hoped he could instill the attitude and edge of the mid-2000s teams into the current iteration of the team.

That’s what Billups represents, besides professionalism and a knack for the moment. He is one of the relics from a time when hearing DE-TROIT BASKET-BALL was a moment of pride. That team lacked superstars; it was a team in the truest sense of the word. The roles were so defined: Billups as the playmaker and go-to-guy, Richard Hamilton as the man flying off screens, Tayshaun Prince as the gangly cerebral player, Rasheed Wallace as the brash big man, and Ben Wallace as the nastiest rebounding machine since Dennis Rodman. Only Tayshaun Prince remains an active player, so Billups is one of the last remaining from that special team.

Billups wanted to continue playing, but hadn’t been healthy enough in the past few seasons. He decided to call it quits, but has plans to continue to work in basketball. Billups said to “I have always said I had a desire to work in a front office somewhere or also do TV commentating or studio work.”

It’s something someone as likeable as Chauncey could easily do. I don’t know many people that would object to a trio of Blaha, Billups, and Greg Kelser calling a game.

But for now, fans will have to think about the memories of his playing days and The thought of Blaha screaming “Billups fires, and fills it! That’s why they call him Mr. Big Shot!”