With the 2016 NBA Finals now underway and millions watching around the world, Source Sports had the opportunity to chat with NBA champion and current NBA analyst for ESPN Chauncey Billups. Very candid, Mr. Big Shot spoke on his approach to analyzing the game from a broadcaster’s perspective, his takeaways from Game 1 of the Finals and more.
RR: You had your jersey retired by the Pistons earlier this year. How did that feel and do you have your sights set on the NBA Hall of Fame?
CB: Having my jersey retired was one of the most humbling feelings that I’ve ever had. I remember looking up before every game as I prayed during the national anthem, which is one of my rituals, looking up there and seeing Isaiah Thomas and Joe Dumars, Dave Bing, Bob Lanier, all the legends, real life legends. It never really crossed my mind that I could be up there. Having the opportunity for them to hang my jersey up and to be honored that way by the Pistons was one of the best days of my life. It was a humbling experience and something that I’ll never forget.
The Hall of Fame is obviously basketball heaven for any player that ever played. When I’m eligible, just to even be mentioned would be an honor for me. just to know that people even seen me in that class would be an honor. When you dream as a kid, my dreams never even got that big. I feel like I’ve done some things that are definitely worthy of that but there are a lot of worthy people that have never been able to get over that hump. All in all, I feel blessed that other people would even feel me to be in that class.
RR: This is your second time being an analyst for the NBA finals. What’s your process going into a broadcast? Are there any similarities to when you use to prep for a game as a player?
CB: I approach it the same way I did when I was preparing to play in a game. My assignments, who I had to guard, what their tendencies are, what their deficiencies are, I put myself in that mind frame. These are the things that [teams] have to be prepared for. When they watch film, these are the things that they’re looking for. So for me, when I prepare I’m watching film of previous games, I study trends and different players, I’m looking at body language, not just stat sheets because I have to be able to bring that viewer into the mindset of the players, some of the things that go into a series, subtle adjustments that may become a big deal.
RR: During your playing days, you were praised for having a very high basketball IQ and your ability to be a floor general. With that said would you ever consider getting into coaching full time or do you prefer media?
CB: Well I never say never. I think that I could be a very good coach. I’ve played for some of the best and I’ve played for some coaches that weren’t very good. I know what works, I’ve seen it done the right way and the wrong way so I can pull from a lot of those experiences as a player. I have been every player. I’ve been a high draft pick coming in with a lot of expectations and failed early, didn’t meet those expectations. I’ve been a sixth man before, I’ve been the eighth and ninth man before, I’ve been the number one scorer on the team. I’ve sat on every seat on that bench so I’d be able to relate to any and everybody on a team.
As far as basketball IQ, I didn’t think there were many people that were smarter than me. A lot of people took pride in their jump shot or their handle for me I took pride in being smart and a forward thinker out there so game planning and things like that would be my strength. I think I could be very good in the front office as well. Putting teams together knowing what egos mesh and what skill sets mesh and don’t mesh, managing different personalities. I think I could do a very good job at that too but I love the media thing, it’s been fun. it’s been a good transition but I’m not sure maybe I can jump back into the NBA in a year or two.
RR: The way you just broke that down, I don’t know why Phil Jackson didn’t call you [Laughs]
RR: What was your biggest takeaway from game 1 and what do you feel the Cavs need to do to avoid a repeat of game 1?
CB: I don’t think the competed very hard. I don’t think they competed at a level that you need to compete at in the NBA finals, they kind of let the game come to them. It’s all about being the aggressor. I don’t think they were the aggressor at all. The Cavs made some huge strides this year playing fast but I thought when they slowed it down, it was to their detriment. Even though you’re on the road against one of the best offenses in the game, you have to be who you are, you have to keep doing what got you there. When they play fast everybody eats, everybody plays well, everybody gets good shots.
LeBron James has to be aggressive, he has to come down hill. He let his feet off the gas a little bit too much in the game. Defensively they gave up so many split actions. I don’t think they respected their bench enough and we’re too worried about Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. They didn’t show the other guys proper respect and that’s what happens. It’s the NBA, its the finals, everybody wants to be a star, everybody wants to eat. Even the guys on the bench, at this point they don’t feel like they’re bench players, they’re looking to show that their starters. You can never let your guard down.
RR: You being an elite point guard whose game do with admire more Steph Curry or Kyrie Irving? Purely from a point guard perspective?
CB: Ah man! I love both of those guys but out of those two I would probably say Steph. I love that he is able to dominate the League, not just play great but dominate. Just sheer superior talent and skill set. He’s not the fastest, biggest or strongest but his skill-set is superior and I love that. I’m still a huge Kyrie Irving fan too.
RR: Some folks don’t like the fact that Steph and the Golden State Warriors made the long-range game popular, shooting at 3 all the time. They feel it encourages younger kids and players to focus more on shooting instead of the fundamentals. What’s your take on that?
CB: I was a jump shooter, so I love that they’ve expanded the game. You have to look at the game from the whole scope, you’ve got to have it all. The best players are able to shoot the ball, that makes you able to keep the defense off balance. There have been some great players that can’t shoot it well, instead they put pressure on the rim and finish in the paint. The Warriors play unselfishly, the 3-point line is their biggest weapon and they have two of the best shooters that ever played in the NBA so you play to your strengths.
RR: You were in the league when David Stern instituted the dress code, which has evolved into what we have now. What was your stance on the dress code when he first implemented it and do you still feel the same way now?
CB: When the dress code came I was one of the guys that wasn’t affected because it wasn’t different from what I was doing anyway. There was no big adjustment for me. In this league, basketball and Hip-Hop are intertwined. dressing down, wild or just dressing the way Hip Hop culture dresses that’s all good but that’s good for their craft, that’s good for their art, that’s what they do. For us, it’s a different profession. I don’t necessarily want people in the public to treat me like I’m a hip-hop artist. How you dress is how you will be addressed. I’ve always been one to try to dress sharp and clean, not a suit to every game but just sharp.
Most of communication is nonverbal. I might not meet someone but they might be watching what I’m doing, who I’m doing it with and how I’m moving around, my body language and they’re going to have a perception of me. I want that to be one of who I really am. if I’m dressed with the braids and the pants all the way down to my knees, that’s not really who I am, so someone might take me for someone that I’m not. Now for some players and some people that is who they are and that’s 100% fine. So I felt it was a good thing for the league, everybody has their own personal brand though you have they have the ability to chop and screw that however they want. To each his own.
RR: Nobody wears suits at the office besides the boss, now you have me feeling like I need to come in looking more presentable.
CB: No, no, no. I’m not on that [Laughs] you don’t need to do all that.
RR: It’s game though, what you’re saying is very valid. You have to present yourself in a way that you want people to see you and respect you.
CB: Exactly! I’ve always been a dude that’s comfortable everywhere. Anywhere from the White House to the crackhouse [Laughs]. I’m comfortable anywhere.
RR: Of the new class of MCs, who would you say is your favorite?
CB: I would say Kendrick Lamar and Drake. Those are my two favorites.
RR: You don’t care about the ghostwriting allegations?
CB: No i’m not on that. Drake gives it up. Dude is nice and if I knew who that who might writing with him, i’d be a fan of his too. I don’t care.
RR: Who is your favorite MC of all time?
CB: 2pac. Pac 1A, Jay Z 1B.
RR: No B.I.G? Ok fair enough.
CB: Biggie is right up under there. He got cheated he didn’t have enough time, that’s all. But dude was serious!
RR: Now that game 1 is in the books. Who do you have winning the series and in how many games?
CB: Well I’ve got Cleveland winning the series. I’m a little bit worried about how they came out Thursday night but I think there’s a lot that can be changed. I’m taking Cleveland and I’m taking Cleveland in 7 games.
You can watch the NBA Finals exclusively on ABC and stay locked to ESPN’s SportsCenter to catch Chauncey Billups providing on-stie coverage throughout the series.