It has been a big week so far in the NBA. All-star weekend is coming up and the Warriors are getting closer to eclipsing 70 wins. The other big story is the Heat’s announcement of the retirement of Shaquille O’Neal’s jersey and the Pistons officially retiring Chauncey Billups’ number last night. Two great superstars from the 2000’s who will always be remembered for their great performances.
Let’s start with Billups. Chauncey Billups was part of the group that helped to revive a pretty much dormant Pistons franchise around 2002 and began what became a dominant stretch for the franchise as they went to the Eastern Conference Finals for six straight years, with Billups as the starting point guard for every team. His most memorable stretch came in the 2004 NBA Finals, where his Pistons were facing the heavily-favored Lakers who featured none other than Shaquille O’Neal. Billups ended up winning the MVP as Detroit beat the Lakers in 5 games, winning their first title since 1990. He was part of the resurgence of the tough Detroit defenses of old and brought the old chant “DEETROIT BASKETBALL!” back into fruition.
Shaquille O’Neal will most likely have his number retired by three teams (LA already did, and Orlando probably will in the future). That is an impressive stat that speaks volumes about how dominant he was and how big of an impact he had on those teams. The Miami Heat were a very unlucky team at the time they acquired Shaq. Three years earlier, the team’s franchise player, Alonzo Mourning, had to temporarily retire due to a kidney ailment. They had been through two horrid seasons, but had a future star in second-year guard, Dwyane Wade. Shaq helped the Heat win their first title in 2006 and also was a big part of Wade developing into the player he would become. In my opinion, the Shaq trade to Miami is a prime example of just how good Pat Riley is at building a team.
Both of these players are very respected, and are rightfully being etched into those franchises’ histories.