There’s some debate about his Mr. Big Shot moniker — particularly among the young on Twitter, who weren’t around during his prime — but Chauncey Billups really was one of the best at his position in the NBA, and his 2004 NBA Finals MVP is pretty conclusive proof. That said, the 37 year old has decided to call it quits, telling Yahoo’s Marc J. Spears last night, “It’s just time.”
Billups was a free agent this summer after the Pistons declined to pick up their $2.5 million option on him for the 2014-15 season. He flirted with the idea of going to Cleveland to join LeBron James, but after 17 NBA seasons, five all-star game appearances, one Finals MVP award and countless big shots, the ultimate professional is saying goodbye to the game.
“It’s just time. I know when it’s time,” Billups told Yahoo Sports. “My mind and my desire is still strong. I just can’t ignore the fact that I haven’t been healthy for three years. I can try again and get to a point where I think I can go, but I just can’t sustain. Me not being able to play the way that I can play, that’s when you kind of know it’s that time.
“It’s just time. I’m happy, excited. The game was very, very good to me. I felt like I was equally as good to the game the way I played it and the way I respected it and the way I carried myself through the process.”
Billups played for seven teams during his 17-year career, and appeared in five consecutive all-star games from 2005-2010. He was named to the All-NBA second team during the 2005-06 season and named to the All-NBA third team during the 2006-07 and 2008-09 season.
Perhaps his most lasting legacy on the game was his ability to knock down shots in crunch time. While there’s some overlap with Robert Horry‘s “Big Shot Bob” moniker, Billups is “Mr. Big Shot,” unless you’re under the age of 20 and missed his stretch of dominance in the first decade of the millennium and put way too much stock in his below average career numbers shooting the ball. He’ll always be best remembered for his time with the Pistons from 2002-2008, and the 2004 NBA Finals MVP award he won after his Pistons took a Lakers team loaded with future hall of famers four games to one.
For his career, Billups averaged 15.2 points, 5.4 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 1.0 steals in 31.5 minutes per game. His career player efficiency rating is 18.8, but he was over 21.0 during his three prime seasons. He shot 41.5 percent from the field for his career and an elite 38.7 percent from beyond the three-point line.
Billups’ career took a myriad of turns after he was drafted by the Celtics with the No. 3 pick in the 1997 Draft. The best way to grapple with all of his early-career moves and the trajectory of his journey that reached an apogee in the half dozen years he spent as the helmsman of the Pistons from 2002-2008 before returning to Motown to finish out his career last season, is to read this superior profile by Grantland’s Jonathan Abrams, entitled “Mr. Professional.” The piece details the halcyon years right after Billups was drafted, finding a place in Minnesota to develop as a starting guard and finally reaching his full potential surrounded by those smart, tough teammates in Detroit under Larry Brown.
While it might be easy to look at his 20.5 percent Hall of Fame probability on basketball-reference.com, that dreadful-looking career shooting percentage and a prime that came a little later than most hall of famers, we think he deserves to be inducted into Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible in six years.
We can still remember his calm and efficient play in that 2004 Finals, and how he played his heart out the next season when the Spurs beat the Pistons in a seven-game series only around four people watched. He truly was a point guard, staying calm and working the ball around to a collection of pieces in Detroit that fit perfectly together, similar to last year’s Spurs juggernaut.
He will be missed on the court, but don’t expect to say goodbye to him just yet. He intimated to Spears he was hoping to do television or radio work now that he’s retired before joining one of a multitude of teams hoping to nab him as an assistant coach.
Should Billups make the Hall of Fame?
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