It was in Detroit where Billups finally established himself as an NBA star. The 6-foot-3 point guard was drafted with the No. 3 overall pick by the Boston Celtics in 1997. However, he failed in Boston, and bounced around with four other teams before landing in the Motor City in 2002.
And, it was in Detroit where he settled in.
“I came to this city when I didn’t have a home,” said Billups, in an open letter to Pistons fans in the Detroit Free Press. “I bounced around the league the first five years of my career, but this city, and its die-hard fans, took me in with open arms and accepted me as one of its own.”
Billups was the architect of the Pistons attack, which included Rip Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace, Tayshaun Prince and Ben Wallace, whose number was retired last month. That starting rotation was nicknamed ‘The Best Five Alive’.
The Pistons made it to six consecutive Eastern Conference Finals, and beat the Lakers 4-1 to win the 2004 NBA title.
Playing before sellout crowds night after night, the Pistons were beautiful to watch, especially for those who appreciated the finer points of the game. They played great defense, and it was total team play on the offensive end. It was Billups at the controls, operating the Pistons’ offense as if he were a master orchestra conductor. In the Detroit, which was coached by Larry Brown during its championship run, it was known as ‘playing the right way.’
And while critics said the Pistons didn’t have a true super star, such as LeBron James, or Dwyane Wade, fans in Detroit knew better.
That’s because down the stretch they could always turn to Mr. Big Shot, to make winning plays and buckets. He was a clutch performer who almost always made the right plays, or the crucial shot.
Below are highlights of Billups’ eight year stay in Detroit, during his amazing, 20-year career.