But like so many times in his illustrious career, Billups couldn’t dictate his own future.
The Pistons declined Billups’ team option this summer, and though the Cavaliers were looking at him, time had run out. Billups has missed 169 games the last three years. He just couldn’t do it anymore.
Chauncey Billups, the 2004 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player and former Detroit Pistons star, told Yahoo Sports on Tuesday he is retiring after 17 NBA seasons.
The five-time All-Star had interest in playing with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers after a workout this offseason and said he had "a couple of opportunities to play" if he wanted to continue.
"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 was drafted No. 3 in the 1997 draft by the Celtics, who gave up on him during his rookie year. Boston traded him to the Raptors, and that led to other brief stints with the Nuggets and Magic.
Finally, in Minnesota, Billups had a chance to show his promise when Terrell Brandon got hurt. The Pistons gave him a sizable contract in free agency, and Billups reached an All-Star level in Detroit, even winning Finals MVP in 2004.
Though he thought he finally found a home after a career as an NBA journeyman, Billups was traded to the Nuggets. This time, Billups actually was home. The Denver native excelled in his second stint with his hometown team, leading the Nuggets to matching their-best ever finish, a trip to the conference finals.
But again, he was traded, getting sent to the Knicks in the Carmelo Anthony deal. By then, Billups’ best days were behind him. He hopped to the Clippers and then back to the Pistons for his final seasons.
Through it all, Billups became one of the best point guards of his generation. I try to avoid predicting who will make the Basketball Hall of Fame, which has an awkward and illogical selection process, but Billups is definitely a candidate.
He established himself as a team leader and class act, a reputation that will carry him into retirement. Whatever Billups decides to do next, his future is bright.