The Denver Broncos repeated as Super Bowl champions.
The San Antonio Spurs won their first NBA championship.
The subject of a great song by Prince (RIP).
Also in 1999, UConn’s Richard Hamilton became the 13th draft lottery pick in Big East history. As such, Hamilton is the subject of today’s Lottery Look Back.
Born in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, Hamilton attended Coatesville Area High School. A top recruit, Hamilton committed to UConn in February of 1996. He chose the Huskies over the local Temple Owls.
Hamilton’s first season in Storrs was a personal success, as he averaged 15.9 points and 4.3 assists per game. However, the Huskies struggled overall, finishing 18-15 and missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three seasons. Fortunately for Hamilton and the Huskies, things were about to improve.
In 1997-98, Khalid El-Amin joined the Huskies as a freshman. Immediately, Hamilton and El-Amin became a force, as the duo combined for 37.5 points per game while Hamilton won Big East Player of the Year and El-Amin won Big East Freshman of the Year. The Huskies made it back to the NCAA Tournament as a 2-seed, and disposed of Fairleigh Dickinson and Indiana in the first weekend.
In the Sweet Sixteen, UConn matched up with Washington. With Washington leading 74-73 with seconds to go, Hamilton missed a shot, got his own rebound, and scored at the buzzer to send the Huskies to the Elite Eight.
UConn fell to #1 seed North Carolina in the Elite Eight, but Hamilton and El-Amin were firmly on the national radar.
UConn entered the 1998-99 season as the #2 team in the nation. They won their first 19 games, eventually jumping up to #1 along the way, before falling to Syracuse on February 1. UConn would lose again to Miami a couple weeks later, but that was it. Hamilton won his second straight Big East Player of the Year and UConn won the Big East Tournament to head into the NCAA Tournament at 28-2. They were awarded a 1-seed, and blew out UTSA and New Mexico, then took out Gonzaga and Iowa to advance to their first Final Four in school history. The Huskies shined on the big stage, as they defeated Ohio State to head to the National Championship. Awaiting them was the #1 overall seed, Duke. Hamilton scored 27 points and grabbed seven rebounds en route to the first title in UConn history, and Hamilton was named Final Four Most Outstanding Player.
It didn’t come as much of a surprise when, following his great season, Hamilton declared for the NBA Draft. With the seventh pick in the 1999 NBA Draft, the Washington Wizards selected Richard Hamilton.
Hamilton ended up in Washington for three seasons, playing with Michael Jordan for a couple years and averaging 20.0 points per game in the 2001-02 season. The Wizards never made much noise, though, and Hamilton was traded to Detroit for Jerry Stackhouse in September 2002. In three season with the Wizards, he averaged 15.6 points per game.
For Hamilton, going to Detroit was an absolute blessing. He went from a downtrodden Wizards team to a Pistons team on the rise. With Chauncey Billups and Tayshaun Prince joining the team, as well, the Pistons reached the conference finals for the first time since 1991 before falling to the New Jersey Nets.
2003-04 saw the debut of Hamilton’s trademark facemask, which he would later call his “Superman cape”. Hamilton led the Pistons with 17.9 points per game, and the Pistons won their first NBA title since the Bad Boys era, defeating the Los Angeles Lakers. Thanks to Hamilton and Company, basketball was back in Detroit.
Over the next four seasons, the Pistons appeared in the Eastern Conference Finals four times. They had a chance to repeat in 2004-05, but those hopes were dashed by the San Antonio Spurs. In 2005-06, Hamilton was named an all-star for the first time in his career, and the Pistons fell to the Miami Heat in the Conference Finals. In 2006-07, Hamilton was named an all-star again and the Pistons fell to the Cleveland Cavaliers. In 2007-08, Hamilton was, yet again, an all-star, and the Pistons fell to the Boston Celtics.
By the fall of 2008, the Pistons’ reign was over. Chauncey Billups was dealt for Denver for Allen Iverson, and Hamilton moved to more of a bench role.
By the time 2010 rolled around, the Pistons were in the cellar. Hamilton was frustrated with coach John Kuester, and publicly voiced his frustrations. The Richard Hamilton Era in Detroit ended with a series of DNP-CD’s before the Pistons bought his contract out.
In nine seasons with the Detroit Pistons, Hamilton averaged 18.4 points per game and made three all-star teams.
In December 2011, Hamilton signed with the Chicago Bulls for three years, the third of which was a team option. While not the player he was in Detroit, Hamilton averaged a serviceable 10.5 points per game in two seasons in Chicago. His option was declined for a third year and his career was effectively ended, though he didn’t “officially” retire until 2015.