Billups Talks Denver, Colorado Pride In Induction Speech
Last Thursday, April 2, Chauncey Billups became the 47th sport legend associated with the University of Colorado to be inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame. He was the eighth connected to CU's men's basketball team, joining the likes of Burdette Haldorson (inducted in 1977), Harry Simmons (1982), Sox Walseth (1998), Jack Harvey (1999), Dave Logan (2000), Scott Wedman (2007) and Frosty Cox (2014).
Becky Hammon (CSU basketball), the late Warren Mitchell (Limon High School), John Gagliardi (Trinidad, St. John's, Minn., football), Roy Halladay (Arvada West baseball) and John Dikeou (Denver Zephyrs owner) were inducted prior to Billups. Logan, who co-emceed the event with his KOA on-air co-host, Susie Wargin, introduced Chauncey as the evening's final inductee.
"Sometimes, you just know," Logan began. "Whether he or she, no matter what they do or what they put they mind to, or what they decide to do, you just know they're going to be a success. I remember calling a couple of ball games late in Chauncey's high school career, and I was amazed at his ability and what he could do on the court. Then, a young guy who could have gone anywhere he wanted to go to play in college, decided to go the University of Colorado. That, for former Buffs, especially for former Buff basketball players, was a big day. It renewed interest in that program, and they made the NCAA tournament for the first time in, I don't know how many years (28).
"You follow Chauncey's career because he's a Denver kid," Logan continued. "And there aren't a lot guys like that because it's a small state, like Roy Halladay, there just aren't a lot of guys like that who make it to that level. So you follow his career in the NBA. You would hear him talk after games, see how he conducted himself. I love how he played the game, he played it the way that I thought the game should be played. He was selfless, he got the ball to who had to have it, it wasn't about him.
"But the one trait that Chauncey had the most, he had it at GW, he had at CU, and he had it throughout his career in the NBA. We've all played sports at various levels, with guys who don't want, at the end of the game, to be at bat in the bottom of the ninth, with two outs and the bases loaded and their team down one - with guys who don't want the ball thrown to them on third-and-12 with 15 seconds to go, down three - they run away from the shot. That's something I never ever saw Chauncey Billups do," he concluded, referencing the nickname Chauncey earned for his career, "Mr. Big Shot."
Billups lettered at CU during the 1995-96 and 1996-97 seasons, averaging 17.9 points and 5.5 assists per game as a freshman. As a sophomore, he led the Buffaloes into the newly formed Big 12 Conference, leading CU to its first NCAA tournament berth since 1969 and a first round upset over Indiana (and CU gave 1-seed North Carolina all it could handle before falling in the round of 32).
That season, Chauncey averaged 19.1 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists per outing, along with a 21.8 scoring average in Big 12 games as CU finished 11-5 and in second place behind Kansas. Overall, the Buffs were 22-10, and Billups, a first-team All-American and unanimous All-Big 12 performer, declared for the NBA Draft and was selected third overall by the Boston Celtics. He played 16 seasons in the league, the pinnacle coming in 2004 when he was named the Finals MVP in leading Detroit to the title.
After thanking God, his parents and immediate family, Chauncey soon addressed the roots of his pride - the city of Denver and the state of Colorado. And forever put to rest that he only chose CU because a top school or two didn't have a scholarship remaining for him. After all, who wouldn't have had a scholarship for Chauncey Billups?
He started his acceptance speech with, "I want to speak a little bit about my pride." He admitted that at a young age, he played football and it was his favorite sport, and is still his favorite to watch on television.
"I really only started playing basketball because I liked hanging with my dad," he continued. "He would take me to his rec leagues, and I needed to do something when football was out of season. So I started playing basketball, and I fell in love with it right away. You start in the PAL league, you continue to get better, and then you make an AAU team.
"My first time going away, we went to Phoenix for this BCI tournament, and I'm playing with local Denver kids. We're playing against teams from everywhere, our first game, we're playing against a team from Chicago, and then a team from Houston, and then in the championship a team from New York. We won all our games except that last one.
"Our coach is telling us about who we're playing, and that this kid is ranked the best sixth-grader, the best seventh-grader - and I'm like, 'who's ranking seventh graders?' We lost to the New York team by three. After every single game, the opposing coach, and between games, other coaches would come up to me and say something like, ' know you play with that Denver team, but where are you really from?'
"I am from Denver, what do you mean? I didn't really get it, but when we were driving back home, I figured it out and thought, 'I am from Denver, and why can't I be great?' They thought that since I'm from Denver, and all I do is ride horses and ski ... which is cool, but I've never done (either).
"From that tournament on, I always played with this unbelievable chip on my shoulder. In being from here, I'd hear, 'Yeah, he was good, but he is from Denver.' It was like a handicap, so I played with that chip knowing that I needed to be twice as good as the kid from Detroit, or the kid from Los Angeles. Or that I had to be two times as impressive because of where I was from and we hadn't had a ton of pros or great players from here.
"There was no real blueprint for me to follow, so I was blazing my own trail in a lot of aspects. I went to George Washington, and every single game I'm playing with that chip on my shoulder, and I loved it.
"So I go from there and I go to CU. Nobody ever knew why I went to CU. To this day, people still ask me, and if they were here tonight, they would understand. It was just that pride that I always had. So now, I'm playing with that chip on my shoulder from being from Colorado, but now I can slip that jersey on and I've got Colorado across my chest. So you can imagine the pride that I felt playing for CU, and being able to prove it every single night. I can be great, I can be like everybody else, and that was a big, big deal for me. Then I go on to the pros and do the same thing every single time.
"That's the reason I became who I became, because nobody thought I should or nobody thought that I would. As an athlete, whatever motivation you could pull, you pulled from that. In all actuality, I was always playing for a different cause and a different purpose. Having George Washington, or having Colorado across my chest, or even coming back here playing with the Denver Nuggets. That's what drove me to be great, I'm happy and blessed that I was able to do that here. Everyone knows how I feel about this city."
He closed by talking about how he had never met Halladay until the induction ceremony, and how they graduated the same year and went on to have similar (pro) careers, struggles early on before reaching the top, and then he congratulated the night's other basketball honoree, Hammon, for her accomplishments, how proud he was of her, including being the first woman to coach full-time in the NBA.
Since the inaugural class in 1965, which included Byron "Whizzer" White, CU has had at least one inductee 37 times in the 51 classes, including multiple selections on several occasions.