In a day and age full of professional athletes that have longer wrap sheets than some felons (Ben Roeththlisberger the latest), there’s almost a need for a feel-good story.
Chauncey Billups is the quintessential good guy in the NBA.
You can normally catch Billups with a smile on his face after doing what he loves to do most, assist his teammates in scoring.
Billups is a throwback—he’s the guy that is much more interested in helping his team win than bulking up his own numbers.
Make no mistake, like many of the great players in the league Billups can flat out score. Whether it’s backing down usually smaller defenders on the block, driving the hoop or splashing that arcing pull-up three, Billups is deadly when he wants to score.
But Billups is so unlike every other star in the NBA today for one reason; he only takes over a game when everyone else on his squad asks him to. Billups is pure balance with the basketball compared to all the other ballhogs of the league.
Beyond being one of basketball’s best passers, Mr. Big Shot doesn’t walk around like he’s the toast of the town—he is an ambassador of the game.
Billups speaks softly and respectfully to referees—truly a lost art of old school NBA ballers. Yes, he contests calls, but he only raises his voice when he's positive the refs missed something vital. Even then, he never upstages the referees and keeps the honor of the game in tact.
What also makes Billups unique is that he welcomes mentoring younger players, teaching them the way to respect and play the game the right way.
The most notable student is Carmelo Anthony, the young superstar that has matured greatly at the tutelage of Billups. Melo is more, well mellow now.
To wit, Anthony calmly walked up to referee Joe Crawford in Game One of the Nuggets series versus the Jazz and said, “Can I ask you a question?” Crawford replied with an emphatic no by T-ing Melo up in a hurry. The superstar walked away, smiling and battled tough until he finally drew calls later in the contest.
Beyond Melo, Billups has taught J.R. Smith to play more under control, constantly hounding him and attempting to keep him in check. Also, rookie Ty Lawson is like a sponge to Billups’ knowledge.
Lawson, the Nuggets franchise and their fans are all extremely lucky for the current situation at point guard led first and foremost by Billups, who will be followed by Lawson.
While Billups is playing at a career-high level at 33 years old, he’s continually teaching Lawson the ins and outs of the NBA game on every level. Lawson has already improved over the course of this season, and Denver looks solid at the position for years to come.
Off the court, Billups' main charity is the Porter-Billups Leadership Academy, an academic summer camp that readies kids for college and provides scholarships as well. According to chaunceybillups.com, "About 90 percent of the academy studends will be the first members of their families to attend college."
Put it this way, there’s a reason Billups has so many fans and friends across the league. He’s a great person, one any Denverite or Coloradoan should feel proud to call one of their own.
The NBA Sportsmanship Award, “reflects the ideals of sportsmanship, ethical behavior, fair play and integrity in amateur and professional basketball, a key focus of the league's NBA Cares program efforts,” according to nba.com.
Billups took the award for the Northwest division and was accompanied by Atlanta's Al Horford (SE), Boston's Ray Allen (ATL), Cleveland's Antawn Jamison (CEN), Houston's Luis Scola (SW) and Phoenix's Grant Hill (PAC).
The ultimate winner will be chosen from those six divisional winners, and last year’s winner was none other than Chauncey Billups.
Rich Kurtzman is a Colorado State University Alumnus and a freelance sports journalist. Along with being the Denver Nuggets Featured Columnist here on B/R, Kurtzman is the Denver Broncos FC on NFLTouchdown.com, the CSU Rams Examiner on examiner.com and a contributor to coloradosportsdesk.com.