In 1999, Rip Hamilton led the Uconn Huskies men’s basketball team to their first National Championship in team history. Hamilton was named the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player in Uconn’s run to the national title, and was a two-time Big East Player of the Year at Uconn.
Coming out of college as a junior at 6’7" 195 pounds, Hamilton was poised to be the next great NBA shooting guard.
Believing that Rip was the future, the Washington Wizards selected him 7th overall in the 1999 NBA draft, only to put the preeminent talent on the trading block three years later.
Washington's decision to put Rip on the trading block garnered great interest throughout the league, especially from Joe Dumars and the Detroit Pistons.
Following Detroit’s elimination in the 2001-2002 NBA playoffs, Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars decided that it was in the team’s best interest to part ways with superstar shooting guard Jerry Stackhouse.
During the ‘02 offseason Pistons fan favorite Jerry Stackhouse was traded to the Washington Wizards in a six player deal that would bring Rip Hamilton to Detroit. In essence, Joe Dumars decided to trade the present (Stackhouse) as an investment for the future (Hamilton.)
But I don’t think anyone expected the Hamilton acquisition to make the immediate impact that it did.
Hamilton exploded in his first year in Detroit, maturing into a team leader virtually overnight. He averaged nearly 20 points per game for the Pistons in 2002.
His high motor and win by all means necessary mentality allowed him to excel in the Pistons offense.
Hamilton was the leading scorer of the Detroit Pistons 2004 Championship team.
The Detroit Pistons were legitimate championship contenders for nearly a decade, before the team’s inability to manage vastly inflated contracts became too overbearing.
On November 3rd, 2008, Joe Dumars and the Detroit Pistons essentially traded Chauncey Billups and his over-sized contract to the Denver Nuggets for the expiring contract of Allen Iverson, in an effort to create cap space. The trade marked the end of an era in Detroit and the team was obviously in rebuilding mode.
Hamilton attempted to carry the team, but would struggle through two more seasons before mentally shutting down.
In Rip's eyes, his greatest opponent was Pistons head coach John Kuester.
Hamilton and Kuester were never on the same page, which resulted in Kuesters decision to bench one of the greatest players in the history of the Detroit Pistons organization.
Rip took the benching personal and began to show great insolence towards the organization.
He even coordinated a player boycott of a team practice in protest against Kuester. Veterans Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Tracy McGrady, Ben Wallace and Chris Wilcox were all absent from the practice.
Kuester was undeterred and responded by saying "We'll go with the group that was here. We got a number of guys that have a bug, but these guys went through shoot around the way it was supposed to. We have some things, some excuses, not excuses, but absences because of headache and stuff like that. We'll go with this group right here because they went through shoot around."
The once proud Detroit Pistons organization was in shambles. Something had to be done to rectify the situation. Joe Dumars was on the hot seat for the first time in his administrative career.
So Dumars chose to do what was best for the team, just as he did in 2002 with Stackhouse. He instituted procedures to put Rip out to pasture.
Hamilton became the center of various multi-team trade proposals throughout the league.
I was almost certain that Hamilton would be dealt during the draft, but that time came and went.
However, the Pistons did select the young prodigy out of Kentucky, Brandon Knight, with the eighth overall selection in the 2011 NBA draft. The selection of Knight is an expressively blatant indicator that the post Rip era in Detroit has begun.
Enter the NBA lockout.
For now, as long as the NBA lockout is in place, it looks as if the Pistons will be stuck with the cancerous, completely self absorbed, FORMER Detroit great.