Chauncey Billups built up a Hall of Fame-caliber career. He was one of the few players who got the better of Kobe Bryant in the playoffs.
Currently the head coach of the Portland Trail Blazers, Billups was at one point among the league’s best floor generals. He also had the propensity to take and make clutch shots, which led to him being nicknamed ‘Big Shot’.
His Pistons made it to 6 straight Eastern Conference Finals from 2003 to 2008 when he was inadvertently dealt to the Denver Nuggets in exchange for Allen Iverson.
While AI struggled to lead Detroit to their previous heights, Chauncey helped Carmelo Anthony and the Nuggets make their only Conference Finals appearance till a decade later.
The 2009 NBA Western Conference Finals were a bloodbath
This was a high-voltage series between 2 physical teams. The Lakers had Kobe, Pau Gasol and Andrew Brynum playing in a triangle offense. This system allowed their shooters like Trevor Ariza and Derek Fisher the spacing they needed to get open shots from the corners and the 3-point line.
The Nuggets, meanwhile, had a deep lineup filled with athletic, powerful players. The likes of Carmelo Anthony, Kenyon Martin, JR Smith and Nene flanked Chauncey, who’d been acquired at the start of the year.
Billups’ presence afforded a lot of easy buckets for the Nuggets’ big men all season long. But the Western Conference playoffs of that time were as brutal in competitiveness as any in recent memory.
These were the times when 7 of the 8 teams out West had 50 wins or more on the regular. And thus, reaching that stage while battling past Dirk’s Mavs and the New Orleans Hornets was no mean feat for Denver.
Chauncey Billups threw an inbound pass off Kobe Bryant in the second quarter of Game 2
The Denver Nuggets had the ball to inbound with just 0.6 seconds left in the half. Kobe Bryant was on Chauncey duty at the time, but he had his back turned in an attempt to stifle the passing lanes into the paint.
Being the fox that Chauncey was, he used the angles against the 2008 NBA MVP to devastating effect. A perfectly-timed and placed pass came off of Bryant’s backside, which Billups caught fluidly on the move.
He waltzed into the lane for a nice finish and one to hit the highlight reels in years to come.