Despite his lofty accomplishments in the NBA, it remains impossible for any Colorado basketball fan to think of Chauncey Billups and not make an immediate correlation to CU Buffaloes basketball.
Yet it was the championship exploits of the football team, which put together its national title run while Billups was in middle school, that first sparked thoughts within Billups of chasing his basketball dreams while donning CU black and gold.
"My affinity started with the Buffs probably when I was in seventh grade, when CU football was winning the national championship," Billups said. "I never missed a game. I fell in love with them. When I would go away to AAU tournaments and guys would ask where I was from and I'd say Colorado, the first thing they would say was, 'Oh man, I love that Colorado football team.'
"That became my dream, to have people feel that way about Colorado basketball. I took a lot of pride in going to school here."
The Denver native and legendary local hoopster added another layer to his already lengthy list of accomplishments Thursday night at the Coors Events Center, leading a deep and prolific induction class for the University of Colorado athletics Hall of Fame.
Getting honored alongside Billups was Mike Pritchard, the big-play receiver of the 1990 national champion football team; all-time basketball scorers Erin Scholz from the CU women's teams of the mid-1990s and Scott Wedman from the men's teams of the early 1970s; former volleyball star Nicole Vranesh; and former national champion skier Stephan Hienzsch.
Also honored were national champion distance runner Mark Scrutton; former baseball player Bill Fanning; Tom Woodard, the first African-American golfer at CU; longtime baseball coach Frank Prentup; and Jon Burianek, a former administrator in the athletics department for almost 40 years.
"Everybody knows I've always fought for Colorado, not only this state but this school," Billups said. "To be recognized and honored in this fashion, it's humbling to me. I only played here for two years, but I like to think I had a major impact on Colorado basketball, not only high school-wise but at the collegiate level. To be recognized for that is a great honor."
While Billups has always kept tabs on the program that helped send him on his way to NBA glory, that attention has intensified in recent seasons with his brother, Rodney Billups, serving as an assistant coach under Tad Boyle. The older Billups is as eager as any fan to see how the Buffs respond next week in a demanding season-opener against No. 7 Iowa State.
In particular, Billups is curious to see how another guard from the Denver Prep League, sophomore Dom Collier, embraces his likely role this season as the Buffs' floor general.
"I'm looking forward to seeing what can happen," Billups said. "It's a great opportunity for Dominique Collier this year to start and play the point and not really have to defer to the older guys. I'm looking forward to watching."