The NBA playoffs is by far my favorite part of the year. Nothing beats 40 straight nights of watching the best basketball players in the world display their sometimes unbelievable talent.
But there is one guy in the playoffs who I find to be most intriguing, Chauncey Billups. In game to against the Lakers, Chauncey Billups did something that most basketball players and fans would think is quite risky. In an in-bounds play (under the basket), he threw the ball off of Kobe Bryants' back, jumped in bounds, caught it, and made a lay-up (Watch Here).
This isn't the first time I've seen Billups do this however. I had the privilege of watching him to the same thing in the Colorado 6A State Championship Game when he was a senior in high school. I just remember thinking, "I can't believe he just did that."
The closest things I have in common to Chauncey are we both are from Colorado and we both represent the graduating high school class of 1995. He played at a 6A school in inner city Denver; I played at a 2A school in the mountains of Western Colorado. But as secluded and as small of town I was from, being a basketball fan and player, I knew about the kid on the other side of the hill.
Maybe it's because Billups was the high school player of the year all 4 years, won the 6A state championship twice, and was a McDonalds All-American. Colorado hadn't seen a basketball player like this kid...ever.
Back to throwing the ball off Kobe Bryant's back.
After I watched Billups do this, I thought to myself, this is a guy you don't want to turn your back on. Chauncey has been a winner everywhere he's been. Chauncey's leadership ability has made each and every team he has played on a contender. You can't turn you back on a leader who is a proven winner; he'll prove you wrong every time.
Billups was traded to the Denver Nuggets this year from the Detroit Pistons. In the last 5 years Chauncey's team had been in the Eastern Conference Championship game, gaining one NBA Championship. Billups went to a Nuggets team who was super talented, but seemed to have personalities that couldn't mesh.
Add Chauncey to the Nuggets, and all of a sudden they are right back where he was last year, except with another team, and in a different conference.
Chauncey Billups is a great example of what great leadership will do for a team. Below are a few things that make Chauncey a great leader. These are the intangible things that help take those around him to higher levels. The lessons learned are much greater than the game of basketball and can be applied to anything in life.
1. Billups Leads with a Winner's Mindset: Whenever Billups has been in a starting line-up his impact has been nothing short of great. Billups lead his high school team to two state championships. In college, Billups lead the Colorado Buffalos to their first NCAA tournament birth in 28 years, and finally after a frustrating few years in the NBA lead the Pistons to 5 Eastern Conference finals and one NBA Championship. Traded to the Nuggets this year, Chauncey has, for the 6th, time lead his team to a Conference Final. He's a winner.
2. Billups Leads with Confidence and Courage: The team always takes on the personality of their leader. A great always diplays confidence and courage to get the job done. Formerly known as "Smooth," Billups has now earned the nickname, "Mr. Big Shot." Why, because he fearlessly takes and continues to drill shots in the 4th quarter to either win a game, or put a dagger in the heart of the opponent. When you have someone like this on your team, the team plays with a lot more confidence and fearlessness in the 4th quarter. You never believe you're going to lose, and you know if your leader gets the opportunity, he's going it happen.
3. Billups Leads as a Great Teammate: I've personally worked with some of Chauncey Billups teammates from his Piston's days. What I get from them is Chauncey is one of the best locker room guys in the league. He earns the respect of his teammates and they absolutely love him. You can't be a great leader if your teammates don't love you. And it's difficult to lead your team to anything if you do not care for them, because they won't care for you! Leadership is about people. In order to be a great leader. Before you figure out how to be a great leader, first figure out how to be a great teammate.
4. Billups Leads with a Chip on His Shoulder: Billups did not get to where he is today on a silver platter. He was drafted 3rd to the Boston Celtics (1997-1998) in the 1997 draft but was traded to Toronto (1998) halfway through the season. He then played for the Denver Nuggets (1999-2000) and then the Orlando Magic (2000) where he sat out the season with an injury. Billups was then signed to the Minnesota Timberwolves (2000-2002) in the 2000. In the 2001-2002 season he had a breakout year. Noticing his talent the Detroit Pistons signed Billups in 2002 and was put in the starting role.
Billups said this in a newspaper article about his journey, "I haven't seen somebody go through it the way I did. I came in on top, third pick, and before too long I was written off as a player. There were people who were like, 'He's done.' And to make it back to the top of that mountain, it's crazy. Especially how I did it. "I climbed that mountain. Some people get a helicopter ride up. I climbed it. It's beautiful."
There is nothing wrong with leading with a chip on your shoulder. That chip reminds you everyday where you came from and where you are going. When you lead like this, you look at everyday as an opportunity to get better. You look at every day is a blessing. You look at every failure as a stepping stong and never take success for granted. You build this and instill this into your teammates only how you bring it everyday.
5. Billups Leads as a Change Agent: Billups will probably make a great coach one day. Nuggets coach George Karl says having Chauncy is like having a coach on the floor. His leadership ability, and the capacity to develop great relationships with his teammates have turned the Devner Nuggets into a winning team who believes in themselves. He is a change agent. He can turn losers, or potential teams, into winners. You can't teach that and you can't put a value on that type of person. Leadership is about producing change. Great leaders change things for the better wherever they go. They always leave a place better then what it was before they got there. They do this by changing their team or organization into a culture of winners and develop long lasting relationships create a family.
These are just a few of the intangibles of my favorite player in the NBA. It's a privilege to write about him. I've always respected him as a player, but what I admire about him is his leadership. He's a player that many turned their back on. I bet they don't now.