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Blockbuster Trade’s Biggest Loser: The Centennial State

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Chauncey Billups is Colorado... and now he's gone.

While Carmelo Anthony stole all the headlines in Monday's blockbuster trade, the departure of Chauncey Billups should be felt as a crushing blow to basketball in the state of Colorado.

We are by no means a basketball hot bed. In fact, I can count on one finger how many basketball ambassadors have come from the Centennial State, and that player just got shipped to New York, leaving the well dry.

Chauncey is Colorado basketball.

Now I understand the business of the NBA, and I get that the Nuggets are looking to better their product and their team, and the livelihood of basketball in the state is the furthest thing from their mind, but Chauncey... Chauncey WAS basketball in the state.

Chauncey's green and white high school jersey hangs in a display at George Washington High School in Denver, his bigger than life sized portrait adorns a corner of Coors Events Center in Boulder, and if it weren't for this trade, his jersey would also one day hang from the Pepsi Center rafters. If everything went according to plan, after retirement he'd move into the front office of the Nuggets and become a spokesman for the team, the community and for basketball in the state of Colorado.

Chauncey is Colorado basketball.

Now I would never have written this article in 2000 when Denver dealt Chauncey to the Orlando Magic in his first tour of duty with the Nuggets. Billups was admittedly immature and unrefined at the time. He would tell you when he was a Nugget the first time around, from 1998-2000, that he wasn't the same guy everyone now knows as Mr. Big Shot. No, he was still a kid. A 22-year old kid doing what 22-year old kids do.

Then he grew up, in Detroit of all places. It was in the Motor City that Chauncey became the Chauncey fans throughout the Front Range now know and love. It was in Detroit that he became Mr. Big Shot.

Then there was the trade back to Denver. To paraphrase NBA commercials, Amazing Happened when the Pistons essentially traded Billups for Allen Iverson.

The Prodigal Son had returned. Screams of joy could be heard from Fort Collins to Pueblo, Grand Junction to Burlington and everywhere in between.

In a 2009 New York Times (ironic, eh?) article  Lonnie Porter, a longtime coach at Denver's Regis University and friend of the Billups family says, "He's ours. He didn't come from somewhere else. He's ours. It's a miracle story."

Chauncey is Colorado basketball.

In the aftermath of the trade, even Nuggets coach George Karl admits to Chauncey's relationship with Denver, and Denver's relationship with Chauncey, telling the Denver Post "I think there are many people, including myself, that will be sad for Chauncey. I know he loves Denver and we love him."

Besides being a basketball ambassador, Billups is an active member of the community, donating his free time with a variety of community organizations, including Denver Public Schools. His face is a beacon of light around the Front Range, and when word of his appearances spread, attendance at community events skyrocket.

Chauncey is Colorado. Now he's gone. I can only hope that one day, Lonnie Porter can re-tell the "miracle story' in the present tense.