AUBURN HILLS, Mich., June 16 -- The M-V-P chant started as Chauncey Billups stood at the free throw line with 47 seconds to go in the third quarter. And in true MVP form, Billups nailed them both.
Chauncey Billups joins Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars as Piston guards who won Finals MVPs.
Jesse D. Garrabrant
The 6-3 guard averaged 21 points per game during The Finals to lead the Pistons to the title, missing only three free throws over the course of the five games. Billups also added 5.2 assists per game and 51% shooting from the field.
Here's the breakdown of Billups' MVP performance:
| 1 || 22 || 4 || 3 || 4-4 |
| 2 || 27 || 9 || 4 || 13-14 |
| 3|| 19 || 3 || 2 || 7-7 |
| 4 || 23 || 4 || 4|| 7-9 |
| 5 || 14 || 6 || 3 || 8-8 |
Billups now joins the company of Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal
, Tim Duncan
and Hakeem Olajuwon on the roster of recent Finals MVPs
“It's unbelievable. Really, I'm just speechless, man,” said Billups after the game. “I've dreamed of these opportunities all my life, and the way my career had gone, it seemed like my chance was kind of drifting away. But I never gave up. I never gave up on what I felt I could do. And what I felt could I do is win the Championship and have a chance to win this trophy right here.”
Billups, who has spent time with six NBA teams since being drafted by the Celtics with the third pick in the 1997 Draft, certainly picked the right time to raise his game up another notch. Prior to Billups, the last player to earn Finals MVP honors before making the All-Star team was Joe Dumars, who earned MVP honors in 1989 as the Pistons defeated the Lakers.
“You know, I got on him a lot,” said Pistons Head Coach Larry Brown. “I challenged him a lot and I hope that he would feel that this is the reward of all of that. I certainly feel that way."
Who Needs a Superstar?
The names are synonymous with recent great championship teams. They seem to roll off the tongue.
Lakers-Magic. Celtics-Bird. Bulls-Jordan. Rockets-Olajuwon. Spurs-Duncan. Lakers-O'Neal & Bryant. Superstars all.
Much talk had been made during the series that the Pistons would be the first team since the 1979 Seattle SuperSonics
to win the NBA title without a genuine superstar. They seemed more like a team that relied on each player to lift them up, rather
than to jump on the shoulders of one guy.
Conventional wisdom says you need a superstar to be the go-to guy who will hit big shots in crunch time.
One go-to guy, that's what you need. But the Pistons didn't have one. Rather, in this series, they seemed to have many.
Chauncey Billups won The Finals MVP, but cases could be made for Richard Hamilton (21.4 ppg) and Ben Wallace (13.6 rpg)
at the very least. If the Pistons needed a shot, anyone seemed to be ready to take it. All five Piston starters averaged
at least 10 points per game in The Finals.
Billups felt that that team attitude is exactly what got them to the title. "We just felt we were a better team and they got --
maybe better individual players, but as far as the team and team work,
we felt we had the best cohesiveness in the League this year. "
Other teams had tried to fit the superstar label on Rasheed Wallace. In Detroit however, he just fit in and took his place.
"I think I just added a little bit of defense to this team but they were already a great ballclub," Wallace said. He never felt he had to come in and
be that superstar. "I never thought of this Piston ballclub as my team. It's a band of guys, it's veteran guys. I think when you have veterans who are hungry and are willing to sacrifice things to win, you don't necessarily need to be a leader because everyone knows what they have to do."
Prior to Game 5, Pistons president Joe Dumars addressed the no-superstar point. "These guys aren't like 10th, 11th or 12th men that we brought here. These guys were lottery picks,
good players that took two or three years to come into their own. They're not superstars, but they are really really good players."
And that was definitely enough to win.
On The Outside, Looking Out
Sitting on the bench in street clothes as another team celebrates the championship was not how Karl Malone
pictured the season ending when he signed on with the Lakers as a free agent this summer. And instead of the coveted ring, Malone instead finds himself in sole possession of first place on the most playoff games played without a championship list. Prior to this season, both Malone and John Stockton were tied with 182 games. Malone's line now stands at 193 games, zero rings. After Malone and Stockton on the list are Sam Perkins (167), Charles Oakley (144) and Derrick McKey (142).
After the way Detroit dismantled the Lakers, the result can scarcely be considered an upset, as the Pistons proved that they were clearly the better team.
Still, Detroit was a decided underdog when the series started, and now they join this short list of perceived longshots who ended up winning The Finals:
• 1977: The young Portland Trail Blazers played a team game of cutting and passing to perfection, rallying from a 2-0 series deficit to beat a Philadelphia 76ers team featuring Julius Erving, George McGinnis, Doug Collins and World B. Free. Portland was led by the exquisite all-around play of Bill Walton, the wise guidance of coach Dr. Jack Ramsay, and an intense wave of Oregon fan loyalty known as "Blazermania".
• 1975: The 48-34 Golden State Warriors narrowly swept through the 60-22 Washington Bullets, winning the four games by a combined 16 points. Rick Barry was the unquestioned catalyst and leader for the Warriors, averaging 29.5 points and five assists.
• 1969: Bill Russell willed the aging Celtics dynasty -- which had limped to a 48-34 regular-season -- to a miraculous series win over the Lakers in seven games. Much like this season, L.A.'s offseason addition to its star-studded lineup then -- the acquisition of Wilt Chamberlain, joining Jerry West and Elgin Baylor -- had seemed to make it invincible. However, Boston's old war horses fought for a 108-106 Game 7 win on the road to clinch the most improbable of their 11 championships in 13 years.
It's been an amazing month of June for Pistons managing partner William Davidson. In addition to the Pistons' NBA
Championship, Davidson's Tampa Bay Lightning won the 2004 Stanley Cup in the NHL on June 7. Add that to the WNBA Championship
Davidson's Detroit Shock won last September, and Palace Sports and Entertainment currently holds championships in three
End of an Era?
Even more so, it seems an era has passed. The Pistons were the first team since 1979, and the fifth all-time, to win the
Championship without a member of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players
list on their roster. Shaquille O'Neal and Karl Malone
of the Lakers and Scottie Pippen
of the Chicago Bulls
are the only active players remaining from that list, which was created in 1996. The Lakers had a chance of extending that streak in The Finals, but as the Pistons sealed the championship, it might be time to start working on a new list.
Wait ‘Til Next Year
Or maybe not. Since the NBA’s inaugural season in 1946-47, nine of 55 runner-ups in The Finals have followed their near-championship season by winning the NBA Finals. Fittingly, the last team to do so was the Detroit Pistons who defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in 1989 after losing to the Lakers in the 1988 Finals.