Chauncey Billups, “CB: The Beginning” (2009)
You probably don’t remember me, but we went to middle school together in Denver. You were the number one star basketball player at the school and I was its number two spelling bee qualifier. Back then, you were already a foot taller than everyone else. And, as if to rub it in, you wore your hair another foot above your head like a crown.
I used to head out to the basketball courts at lunch to play pickup with the boys who gathered there. We were a disorganized swarm of tangled arms and legs, all of us running at once after the ball, not even attempting established formational strategies, shouting “yo momma” insults as a form of offense. You’d stroll by sometimes, dribbling your ball, heading to wherever it is that future NBA starting point guards go during lunch. One time, we saw you walking by and called out to you.
“Hey Chauncey! Play with us! C’mon, play with us, just for a little bit.”
You said no, but we begged you so you finally agreed under the condition that it would be you against the rest. The fifteen or twenty of us laughed, but then proceeded to be schooled by you as you spun around us, leapt above us, and shamed us by passing to yourself through our legs. You made all your shots and blocked all of ours. Most of the time, you stole the ball from us before we even made it to half court. We didn’t dare slag your mother, either.
That year, when I was threatened and assaulted by a kid in social studies, you took him aside and told him not to fuck with me ever again. I was afraid to come back to school until you did that. (Maybe you remember this, though I doubt it was the only time you stepped in to keep order in the school).
Now you’re a four-time All-Star, and won yourself both the MVP award and a championship ring with the Detroit Pistons back in 2004. Over the years, I’ve watched you on television when I got the chance. You can drive to the hole with the best of them and you can sink three-pointers in your sleep, but you pass more often than most players who possess those skills. I’m not the first one to mention this — it’s talked about often. You’re unselfish, a leader who brings out performance in your teammates. This is the reason you might not make the Hall of Fame, but also why the teams you play on are so good.
NBA, “Chauncey Billups: Career Playoff Top 10″ (2009)
When I watch you play, I am proud like a father but also admire you like a son. A piece of you is me when you play. Not your shooting arm or pivoting foot – I’m not that arrogant – but maybe one of your sweat glands?
Chauncey Billups, “Chauncey Billups Intro At The Palace” (2009)
You were traded back to Denver in the 2008/09 season. You’re playing for our hometown. My father and I celebrated your return by getting tickets to a game when I was home for the holidays. It wasn’t your best game. You played okay, but we got our asses whooped by LeBron James, still with the Cleveland Cavaliers. After that, though, you helped take the Nuggets on a crazy win streak and all the way to the conference Finals. And now that you’ve been with the team for longer, I think taking the Cavs down in a rematch next year will be no sweat.
Anyways, I just wanted to write a letter to tell you you’re one of my heroes. You’re two days younger than me — and you shaved off your crown — but I still look up to you.
- Micah Toub