New York Knicks guard Chauncey Billups(notes) received a community service award from the Basketball Hall of Fame on Thursday night, and he plans to attend Friday's formal induction ceremony for the 2011 class. But Billups also would like to make one more visit to the Hall sometime in the future – for his own induction.
"That would be a dream of mine, to be elected into the Hall of Fame one day," Billups said.
Billups likely won't be a slam-dunk first-ballot candidate for the Hall when he becomes eligible for nomination five years after he retires. But when considering a player's entire basketball rèsumè, John L. Doleva, the Hall's president and CEO, doesn't think it's a stretch to someday see Billups' name on the ballot.
A McDonald's All-American in high school, Billups led the University of Colorado to its first NCAA appearance in 28 years and was a second-team All-America as a sophomore. The five-time All-Star led the Detroit Pistons to an NBA championship in 2004, when he was named MVP of the Finals. He also helped Team USA win a gold medal at the 2010 world championships.
"The body of work is very important," Doleva said. "To think that the voters just look at a single portion of a career would be false. They do step back and take a hard look. It's not a popularity contest, the hottest name. It's a thoughtful process. It's the entire game.
"Even community work helps a candidacy. I'm not in the prediction business, but I think Chauncey would be a solid nominee."
Whether Billups has accomplished enough to sway voters remains to be seen. Even Indiana Pacers legend Reggie Miller was left off the ballot this year. Billups' career started slowly; he's played on eight teams (including two stays with the Denver Nuggets) and wasn't part of the United States' 2008 gold-medal Olympic team. During his 14-season NBA career, he's averaged 15.5 points and 5.6 assists and ranks fifth all-time in 3-pointers made with 1,735.
"From the last eight or nine years of my career I'm probably worthy," Billups said. "I know that I got off to a tough start. But I've accomplished a lot, and I accomplished a lot the right way."
For now, Billups has a place in the Hall as this year's pro basketball representative for the the Mannie Jackson Human Spirit Award. Criteria for the award includes "embracing the core values of the game through hard work, dedication and resilience" and "striving to continuously improve the community." A Denver native, Billups helps provide underprivileged youth financial aid to attend college.
"I do it to advance these kids and give them the opportunity to succeed in life," Billups said. "To be honored for that is humbling."
Billups returned to the court this week in Denver to begin individual workouts after recovering from a left knee strain he suffered in the Knicks' playoff opener against the Boston Celtics. While the Knicks were swept in the series, Billups says the Celtics would have been in a "dog fight" had he not been injured. He's also not strongly considering playing overseas during the lockout and thinks the rest could do his body some good.
"I can't really see it," Billups said. "I haven't talked to them about it. But I don't foresee that happening."
Billups, 34, was pleased the Knicks exercised his $14.2 million option for next season – the final year of his contract – instead of waiving him for $3.7 million. He believes the Knicks have a chance to be a "very good basketball team" next season.
"We'll see what happens," Billups said. "But I'm just trying to get healthy and ready to go, and hopefully next season I can do what I do. I don't give that much thought at all."
Billups was in his second NBA season as a member of the Nuggets when the last lockout shortened the 1998-99 schedule to 50 games. He described it as "ugly" and recalls a lot of players worrying that the season would be canceled with some players' careers coming to an end because they weren't in shape. Learning from the past, Billups said he will be "ready to play once they strike a deal."
Billups doesn't have a significant role with the players' union, but said he is going to become more involved starting with the next meeting. He challenged younger players to take an active role because they represent the NBA's future.
"I'm very hopeful that we're going to have some type of season; I don't know length-wise," Billups said. "I just think that there is so much at stake. The league is really thriving right now. I just hope that at some point we could come together and get in a room and start making some progress and stop all the posturing."