Detroit Pistons: Chauncey Billups’ Leadership Beat Lakers, Kobe Bryant In 2004

Kobe Bryant Lakers LeBron James

Getty Former Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant

Chauncey Billups was the real deal and underrated during his 17 NBA seasons in the NBA.
The third pick in the 1997 NBA Draft, Billups was seen more as a 2-guard than a point earlier in his career.

He changed everyone’s perception of him when he was THE MAN as a member of the Detroit Pistons, the team he had the longest tenure with.

The five-time NBA All-Star, led the Pistons to every Eastern Conference Finals from 2003-2008. During that run, the Pistons won an NBA Championship over the Lakers super team of Karl Malone, Gary Payton, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant in 2004 and lost to the Spurs the following year in the 2005 NBA Finals.

Some believe that Pistons rookie,Tayshaun Prince, who drew the defensive assignment against Bryant in the Finals wasn’t given enough credit on how he handled Kobe Bryant defensively.

“I had nothing to lose guarding him,” Prince said back then.

“Everyone was expecting him to pretty much do his usual.This could really be a time to put a stamp on my career.”

For those keeping score at home: Prince fleeced Bryant, who shot just 38 percent from the field and 17 percent on 3-pointers.

Tayshaun Prince shuts down Kobe Bryant – 2004 Finals Game 3Arguably the worst playoff game of Kobe's career as a starter. The Pistons allowed Prince to play Kobe mostly straight up, and his length continued to give him problems throughout the series.2016-04-14T01:55:09.000Z

This begs the question: Was Kobe off of his game?


“Tayshaun should have probably got more credit,” former San Antonio Spurs guard Devin Brown told me on the Scoop B Radio Podcast.

“But i’ll tell you what, Detroit’s team defense as a whole is what really got them through that series.”

Brown won a championship with the Spurs alongside Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. He’s also the University of Texas at San Antonio’s all-time leading scorer with 1,922 career points. He left the school with career averages of 18.3 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.75 steals in 32.0 minutes.

While Prince didn’t get the credit that he deserved in guarding Kobe Bryant, the proof is in the pudding.

Bryant’s true shooting percentage was 45.6, his second-lowest in any series during his career. “I’ll tell you what, not only was it Tayshaun Prince’s responsibility, you know, maybe he started off on Kobe, but the one thing that you have to give Detroit credit for, having played against them, is that they communicated very well,” Brown told Scoop B Radio.

“And I’m not talking just the back guys with Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace, I’m talking about Chauncey, you know, knowing the scouting report, knowing what he liked to do, telling Tayshaun: ‘send Kobe my way,’ whether he was right or left, ‘send him my way’ and you got Rip [Hamilton] on the other side, Rip’s communicating with Tayshaun Prince, you got the two Wallaces [Rasheed and Ben] in the back communicating with him. So Detroit did a great job, just with that unit, letting him know where everybody was.”

Billups retired after the 2013-14 season and is now an analyst on ESPN.The Pistons retired Billups’ jersey in 2016.

“I just remember watching Isaiah [Thomas] and Joe [Dumars] and those Bad Boys just dominate,” Chauncey Billups told me.

“I never knew that I could make it to that level to one day have my jersey in the rafters and be neighbors with them in the arena. I never thought that was possible for me, so you could imagine how I feel.”

“You have to give a guy like Chauncey credit,” Devin Brown told Scoop B Radio. “Because, you know, whatever he got criticized for the first couple of years in the league, he definitely worked on it, got better, and found his niche and was able to become one of the top point guards in history.”

Added Brown:

“You give credit to LeBron for what he’s done throughout his career, but guys like myself, guys like Chauncey, it’s not always going to be an easy road for you. You’re going to be on one team and it may not work out and you may be on another team, but what you do is you stay with it and you find your niche. And that’s what Chauncey did with Detroit.”

“He’s a blue collar guy,” Andre Drummond told me. “Everybody loves him in Detroit. I enjoyed playing with him.”

“His perseverance, his commitment to really educating himself and learning the point guard position and becoming a leader speaks volumes from where he started from and where he ended up in becoming an NBA champion,” NBA Hall of Famer and Detroit Pistons legend, Isiah Thomas told me by phone.

“It sticks to the Detroit Pistons story of perseverance and Chauncey embodies that.”