At Game 5 of the 2004 NBA Finals, I stopped by a gift shop on the way inside the Palace to pick up a hat with a popular Pistons player on the front. I had the choice of the entire starting five, and ended up choosing one of the team’s most exciting leaders from that season. With that infamous plastic shield preventing future broken noses, he quickly became a fan favorite for his blue collar mentality.
Richard “Rip” Hamilton symbolized the Pistons’ success that season. Today, he demonstrates all that is wrong with a once sterling NBA franchise.
Where did it all go wrong for Hamilton? A spiral that began with the trade of Chauncey Billups and continued through the Michael Curry era, seems to have found its lowest point as of late. There’s no doubt that he played a major part of the team’s ridiculous stunt in Philadelphia. With the rest of the team placing together a fantastic output against the Utah Jazz on Saturday night, the result demonstrated that Hamilton is no longer the man he used to be.
The winning ways of Hamilton seem to have left around the time his primadonna ways showed up. With media reports about how he blocked a trade that would have potentially placed him starting in Chicago for a top team, the #32 we’ve all grown to love looks a lot like the one that Michael Jordan retired from in Washington. He no longer wants to play, seemingly still bitter from the Allen Iverson saga.
The finale of Hamilton’s chapter in Detroit will undoubtedly end with his last moments spent in a suit and not on the floor where he became such a local legend. For a city that loves its hard working athletes, this is really a slap in the face of all Pistons fans.