On Tuesday, Detroit Pistons point guard Chauncey "Mr. Big Shot" Billups announced he would retire from the NBA after an illustrious 17-year run. The career of Chauncey Billups has been filled with up and downs the likes of which just about any NBA player can relate to. Drafted in 1997 with the 3rd overall pick in the draft by the Boston Celtics, Billups would quickly be shipped out of town in a trade for fading All-Star Kenny Anderson when former head coach Rick Pitino lost faith in his experiment to turn him into a pure point guard as opposed to a combo guard. But the former standout at the University of Colorado never gave up on himself or his dream.
After one year in Boston he would spend time with the Toronto Raptors, his hometown team Denver Nuggets and two seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He would finally hit his stride as a member of the Detroit Pistons from 2003 to 2009. His average would jump from 12.5 ppg in his final season with the T-wolves to 16.2 in his first season with the Pistons. He would average 17 points per game over the next six seasons in Motown, ultimately winning an NBA Championship with the Pistons in 2004 over the heavily-favored Los Angeles Lakers and earning an NBA Finals MVP Award for his efforts.
He would lead the Pistons to the 2005 NBA Finals before being bested in their bid to repeat by the San Antonio Spurs. Three seasons later he would return to Denver where he would average a career high 19.5 ppg in his second season with the team. That three year stint would be followed by a trade that brought him to New York City in 2010 before a knee injury ended his season. He would play in two injury-riddled seasons as a Los Angeles Clipper before returning to the Detroit Pistons in 2013. Chauncey Billups is the NBA everyman. He never put his head down when Pitino and the Celtics’ brass rejected him. He didn’t stop working. He just kept getting better.
Trades to Toronto, Denver, Minnesota did not break his desire to succeed and achieve, as reflected by his steadily improving statistics. The man who they said did not have the court vision of a true point guard became a better passer while maintaining his lethal touch from the outside. Even when he made the first of five All-Star games, became an NBA Champion, Finals MVP and earned a cool nickname, Chauncey Billups always remained humble and true to the game. His 89.4 free throw percentage is fifth in NBA history. Respect due to Mr. Big Shot. Did he do enough to become a Hall of Famer? Only time will tell, but regardless of that vote, Chauncey Billups was a class act and easily one of the best guards of his generation.