Point Guard Chauncey Billups has decided to hang up his sneakers. After 17 distinguished NBA seasons, Billups has announced his retirement. While I’m sad to see him go, there’s little doubt in my mind he’s made the right decision. Chauncey’s last 3 seasons have been ruined by injuries, and at 37, there’s no reason to believe this upcoming year would be different (assuming he could find a team to play for).
There aren’t a whole lot of us who remember Chauncey’s brief tenure as a Raptor. I do, but I’d be a liar if I told you, Rapture Nation, that I thought he was destined for greatness. Chauncey was drafted #3 overall by the Celtics, who decided he was a bust. He came to Toronto for just over half the disastrous (16-66) ’97-’98 season, during which coach Darrell Walker was excused from further service. His replacement, the estimable Butch Carter (a man we’re happy to see has stayed in our city, and doing good things), didn’t have a lot of fun either, winning just 5 of 33 starts.
Anyway, this isn’t intended as some sort of a walk down Memory Lane. It wasn’t a happy time; going to watch losing games at Skydome (now the Rogers Centre) was infinitely depressing. My point here is that Chauncey needed time to find himself in the NBA, as do so many others. The Celtics didn’t give him a serious opportunity (how can you give up on a #3 pick after 51 games, Rick Pitino? No wonder you flopped in the pros.), nor did the Raps. He then was bounced to Denver and the T’Wolves before finding a home in Detroit. He won a championship with the ’03-’04 Pistons, and was named Finals MVP.
The list of players who persevered despite early failure and the cry of “bust” is long and distinguished. Did anyone see DeMar DeRozan emerging as a star (or even staying in the league) two years ago when his shooting was unspeakably bad? No, but he believed in himself and kept working. Sometimes I think the worst thing that can happen to a player is early success. Look at Tyreke Evans, Rookie of the Year in ’09-’10. That was his best season as a pro to date.
I’ll miss Chauncey. He was a class act, always, and proof positive that giving up too early on a young player can be a dreadful mistake. Come on, Terrence Ross.