Tim Duncan and 10 NBA Players Who Will Retire with the Team They Began with
It is a rarity in the life of a sports fan to be able to stay with a single star player and have him or her be there throughout the major events in both of your lives. NBA stars jump from team to team either during their youth or to chase championships in their later years, but players like Tim Duncan have remained constant.
New teams offer changes of scenery, new teammates, opportunities outside of basketball and on occasion, more money. Those are the major reasons for players choosing the free-agency route and moving from city to city.
Another cause of players switching jerseys is trades. The NBA is very much a business and loyalty is not often valued by either players or front offices. This leads to players being swapped, sometimes with regularity.
It is a different kind of honor to play out a full career in one place. An honor that differs from individual awards or championships. This is something that can never be discredited or debated. Staying in one place for an entire career means always having a second home where you will forever be a hero.
Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
Earlier this week it was announced that the San Antonio Spurs had resigned Tim Duncan to a three-year deal worth around $36 million. The 36-year-old Duncan has almost assured himself to retire wearing the same black and silver he did on draft night.
The 1997 NBA draft was a fateful one for San Antonio. After winning the draft lottery despite multiple teams having better odds, it was a forgone conclusion that Duncan would be their selection. He paired with David Robinson his rookie year to average 21 points and 12 rebounds per game.
From there, Duncan was a model of consistency. In a 15-year career, his averages are almost identical to that of his freshman season, 20 points and 11 rebounds per game.
Duncan has helped bring the city of San Antonio to the playoffs every season, including four NBA championships, two MVP awards and a list of memories longer than his 6'11" frame. He has always been the consummate professional and when this contract expires, he will retire the way he started, as a San Antonio Spur.
Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
On July 1, 1996 Jerry West made possibly this single best decision in NBA history when he dealt Vlade Divac to the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for the rights to the 13th overall pick, Kobe Bryant.
That deft move was followed by the franchise making the playoffs in 14 of the next 15 seasons and winning five NBA championships. Kobe Bryant became one of the most recognizable athletes in the world, and always in purple and yellow.
There were some issues along to way. Bryant was involved in trade talks, mostly of his own design, but through it all remained a Laker.
He has two years remaining on the lucrative three-year extension he signed in 2010. After earning more than $30 million in 2013, Bryant will be nearing 36 years old. While it is entirely possible he signs elsewhere in free agency, I cannot fathom him playing outside of the Staples Center.
Kobe Bryant has been the Los Angeles Lakers, and the Los Angeles Lakers have been Kobe Bryant for a long time now.
Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics
Paul Pierce has become synonymous with Celtic pride over the past 14 seasons. The Truth's path onto this list was rockier than most, but he has earned all the respect in the world.
Pierce has had moments of immaturity in the past and been the subject of trade rumors most recently a few months ago. Through it all, Pierce has remained loyal to the city of Boston and is one of the most popular athletes the city has ever seen.
Pierce fell to Boston, who grabbed him with the 10th pick of the 1997 NBA draft. It took him till 2002 to lead the Celtics to the playoffs. He pushed them all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals while averaging 25 points, nine rebounds and four assists per game. Finally, in 2008 Pierce earned Finals MVP and was able to hoist banner No. 17 into the rafters in Boston.
The 35-year-old has two years left on his contract with the Celtics. After persevering through a lot of odds, it is almost impossible to see Paul Pierce wearing any other jersey but the green and white.
Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs
With all the loyalty we've learned from San Antonio regarding the Tim Duncan situation, it is hard to see Tony Parker ever playing for another team.
Parker was selected with the 28th overall pick in the 2001 NBA draft by the Spurs. Head coach Greg Popovich wanted Parker from the get-go and was ecstatic that the point guard fell to him. The 30-year-old has been a part of three championships with the team, including being named finals MVP in the 2007 series.
Parker will be 33 before his current contract comes due in 2014. He is making a modest $12.5 million per year right now and it would not surprise me in the least if San Antonio inks him to an extension at some point in the next three years. You just don't trade away elite point guards in the NBA today. Especially ones who may have submitted their finest statistical season at age 30.
I see the Spurs loyalty playing a massive role in Parker's future. He will follow in Duncan's footsteps and retire as a lifelong Spur.
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
At just 23 years of age it is impossible to say that Kevin Durant will play his entire career with the Oklahoma City Thunder franchise. However, it is difficult to see him play elsewhere right now.
He just doesn't seem to be in the mold of a LeBron James or Dwight Howard. He feels a lot more Tim Duncan-like. He is massively appreciative of the Oklahoma City community, which accepted him and his team when they moved from Seattle.
Durant is an elite player and will be a consistent MVP candidate for years to come. He has found himself on an up and coming franchise and already made his first NBA finals appearance. With the young core developing in OKC, it is easy to see them being contenders for a long time. This will keep Durant happy in the coming years as he continues to build a legacy with the Thunder.
Currently he is under contract through 2015 and will turn 28 before the start of the 2016 NBA season. By that time, if he has won a championship and fully become intertwined with the city, then he will enter into the territory of the older players on this list.
While impossible to predict, it is pretty easy to see.
Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
With a monstrous brand new contract extension, the Los Angeles Clippers made is very well known their intentions for Blake Griffin. The extension, which will earn Griffin $95 million over five seasons, will hold him away from free agency until 2018.
The first overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft, like Durant is difficult to predict. However, this new deal and Griffin's personality and talent make it hard to believe a rift is possible between he and the city.
The Clippers want Griffin to be their Kobe Bryant. They want him as their franchise player for the next decade-plus and to rule the city of Los Angeles.
All the things are in place for Griffin to spend his entire career in one place. He is a likable superstar, thrilling player to watch and root for and he plays in a very desirable city to live in. This is not like trying to get out of Cleveland, Milwaukee or Minnesota. Superstars generally pine to leave their current situation to be in one like the one Griffin has found.
In 2018, Griffin will be nearing his 30th birthday. We will have to review the situation at that point, but of all the young stars emerging in the NBA, Griffin's situation is tops among them.
Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks
Like the man he was drafted one spot ahead of, Paul Pierce, Dirk Nowitzki struggled to lead a winning team in his first few NBA seasons. Also like Pierce, he figured it out and eventually led the Dallas Mavericks to an NBA title.
Nowitzki was traded on draft day to the Mavericks at the behest of head coach Don Nelson. That move eventually panned out to create 12 straight playoff appearances, including a 1-1 record in the NBA finals.
Since his third season in the NBA in 2000, Nowitzki has no averaged less than 21.6 points or 6.8 rebounds per game. He has had remarkable consistency shooting the basketball and earned the league's MVP award in 2007.
Nowitzki's contracts the past 12 years have come in intervals of four years. The most recent of which expires following the 2013 season. At that point, Nowitzki will be 36 years old.
Mark Cuban has shown he is a very loyal owner and essentially created the brand of the Dallas Mavericks around Dirk Nowitzki. He will more than likely offer him a short-term extension to allow Nowitzki the opportunity to retire in Dallas where it all began.
Tayshaun Prince, Detroit Pistons
When thinking back to the 2004 NBA championship-winning Detroit Pistons, Tayshaun Prince is the last starter that comes to mind. However, he is the only one still remaining with the team eight years later.
For 10 years now, Prince has been the ultimate role player for the Detroit Pistons. He has started every game he has played for the blue and red since the middle of 2003. He even won a gold medal at the 2008 Olympics as part of the "Redeem Team."
Prior to last season, Prince signed a four-year, $28 million contract that will keep him in Detroit through 2014. He will turn 35 during that season and at that point will have spent 13 seasons in Michigan.
Never a superstar or even an All-Star in the NBA, Prince seems like an unlikely candidate in comparison to most on this list, however he has meant a lot to his city just the same. During his time in Detroit, Prince was a starter on a championship team and helped the Pistons to the playoffs in seven of his 10 years.
Prince is still a quality three-point shooter and great defender. He never scored more than 15 points or grabbed more than six rebounds per game. Still the 6'9" forward appears to be spending an entire career in Motor City, giving fans plenty of time to remember this pivotal block of Reggie Miller.
Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
No matter who's team the Miami Heat now are after LeBron James won his first title, it cannot be forgotten that Dwyane Wade brought superstars to Miami, not the other way around.
Wade has been the backbone of the Miami Heat franchise since he was drafted fifth overall in 2003. He contributed immediately to the success of the Heat and has taken them to the playoffs in all but one of his nine NBA seasons. This includes the two championships Miami has won since he arrived.
The Heat were just 15 years old when Wade came aboard and he has meant the world to the franchise over the past near decade. With career averages of 25 points, five rebounds and six assists, it is hard to see Wade leaving the Heat.
Wade turned 30 in the middle of last season and has a contract with a player option through 2015. If the Heat continue winning and earn another championship, I can't see Wade opting out or being dealt.
By the time his contract comes due, he will be nearing 35 years of age. If at that point he has three or more rings for the the city, I see them being loyal and allowing him to finish out his career on South Beach.
Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs
Not to continue harping on the loyalty of Greg Popovich, R.C. Buford and the San Antonio Spurs, but they honestly deserve having all three of these players on this list. Manu Ginobili has been with the team since 2002 and doesn't appear to be going anywhere.
Helping Ginobili get onto this list is the fact that he didn't come to the NBA until he was already 25 years old. Drafted in 1999, he didn't join the Spurs until 2002 after spending a few seasons in Italy.
Upon his arrival in San Antonio, Ginobili contributed right away. He played 27.5 minutes per game, scoring 9.4 points during the Spurs run to the 2003 championship. All-in-all he has contributed to three Spurs titles, been a two-time All-Star and won the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year award in 2008.
He has been the most malleable star in the league for ten years, doing whatever the Spurs needed him to. Now, at almost 35 years old, he will be in the final year of his contract.
He has done a lot for San Antonio. If he wants to continue playing in the U.S. at 36, they will offer him a deal to close his career out with them.
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