Early Birds: NBA Players Who Retired Early
No one likes to leave the game early. Sometimes unfortunate situations get the better of the player and the player is no longer able to move forward.
Many players feel that when the time is right, they will retire at peace.
For many in the game of basketball ending on a high note not only leaves a lasting impression on the game, but helps them carry on throughout life.
However, for the hand selected on this list leaving the game could have came at a better time.
Click through the slides of the NBA's early birds; NBA players who have left the game early.
Danny Ainge called him "the most underrated player of all time." He also referred to him as "one of the greatest Celtics acquisitions."
Dennis "DJ" Johnson fought through the ranks of the NBA to become a key piece to the Boston Celtics' success.
Johnson might not have made a lasting impression during his rookie season, but he bounced back with a vengeance to make a name for himself in Beantown.
Drafted 12th overall in the second round of the 1976 Draft, Johnson was known as one of the most consistent player at the time.
He averaged 19.0 points per game and 4.1 assists per game in his fourth year. At the end of his fourth year, Johnson only missed five games out of 328 games.
He retired after the Celtics decided not to offer him a contract before the 1990-1991 seasons. Johnson was 35 years old and spent 13 years with the league.
He averaged 14.1 career points and 5.0 assists.
Known for his dramatic finish of Game 5 in the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals, Johnson received much praise from his teammate Larry Bird: "...he was the best teammate I ever had!"
God bless you DJ!
Larry "Grandmama" Johnson did not disappoint anybody when he entered the league first overall back in the 1991 NBA Draft.
His 6'6" and 250 lbs. made it capable for him to last in the NBA. During his first two seasons in the NBA, he played all 82 games and averaged 20.7 points per game along with 10.8 boards per game.
And just to show you how valuable "Grandmama" was, Charlotte Hornets inked him for what was, at the time, the most lucrative contract in NBA history. Johnson signed a 12 year, $84 million dollar deal with the Hornets.
Although much success came his way, he injured his back which sidelined him for 31 games.
Nonetheless, Johnson was a perfect fit for the Charlotte team. He tested his skill with some different faces in the 1996-1997 season. He was traded to New York for Anthony Mason and Brad Lohaus.
He continued his strong play with New York. He averaged 12.8 points per game. Although his average in New York was his lowest in his career, he became a fan favourite in the Big Apple.
Johnson retired from the game after ten years in the NBA; he was 31 years of age.
Jamal Mashburn; an NBA All-Star and first round draft pick who left the game early.
Jamal Mashburn might have travelled with many teams in his ten year career, but he was nothing short of consistent.
Growing up in the Bronx and coming straight out of the University of Kentucky, Jamal Mashburn was a established himself as an overall player who could get the job done on either end of the floor.
His career average was 19.1 points per game and 5.4 boards per game.
His professional game collected together during his sophomore year with the Dallas Mavericks. Along with Jason Kidd and Jim Jackson, Mashburn would turn the Mavericks into contenders.
With Dallas, he was the third youngest player to score 50 points in the NBA. Mashburn also broke many franchise records for the Mavericks.
But if there was ever a time in which injures were not welcomed, Mashburn's 2004-2005 season would make a perfect example.
Problems with his right knee caused him to sit out for the season. Mashburn would have to undergo micro fracture surgery.
Mashburn will always be recalled for his team play in Dallas and leadership in Charlotte.
He is easily one of the most consistent players to date who has the whole overall package.
Antoine Walker's face has been pretty busy these past couple months.
Run-ins with the law has marked him as a bad influence for youngsters, but many of this propaganda blind many who are not aware of his basketball skill.
He has played the full NBA season (82 games) five times in his career and being tightly chained to the Boston franchise seemed to work in his favour.
Walker entered the Celtic organization at the worst time. The Celtics finished the 1996-1997 season (Walker's rookie season) with a 15 - 67 overall record; the worst in franchise history.
But despite his team's terrible play, Walker seemed to compose himself with his 17.4 points per game and 9.0 rebounds per game.
The years he spent with Boston are easily his greatest years; his time with Miami, Atlanta, and Dallas not so much.
In Miami he was not the same star as he once was due to the talent the team attained in Dwayne Wade and Shaquille O'Neal. He did have a role in the Heat's championship success, but as big of a role like the one in Boston.
Although multiple meetings with the law have brought Walker to a standstill, he is still a note worthy player in NBA history.
Known to many as Stevie Franchise, Steve Francis was an elite a guard in the NBA during the early part of this decade.
He had an outstanding rookie and sophomore year with the Houston Rockets. He was a facilitator who knew when to score and when to pass. The Rockets would only finish the 1999-2000 season with a 34-48 record.
But to show how much Francis was to his Rocket team, when he went out with a foot injury during the 2001-2002 season, the Rockets finished with a 28-54 record.
It is really unfortunate to know that Francis really never had a moment in which he was stable; too many things had occurred that threw his game off.
The adjustment to Jeff Van Gundy's style of play, the disappointment of not being able to play with Cuttino Mobley and the reoccurring right knee injury held him back from achieving maximum potential
Maybe leaving the NBA on his own terms might have been a smart idea for Francis, but I would I loved to see him elevate his game to the next level. Unfortunately for us Francis' plan of a perfect NBA career to not match realities take.
Francis will always be seen as that explosive guard who take his opponent to the hoop, but for now he'll be remembered as an early bird.
Jason Williams - He's back, but booked it too early. His recent role with the Magic will be perfect for him.
Shareef Abudl-Rahim - Entered the league as a 20 year old rookie. Left as 31 year old underutilized veteran. He worked hard on and off the court.
Sam Bowie - Injures seem to limit this man's play. Bust or not, he was a decent big man.
Michael Jordan - Retiring in 1993 at the ripe age of 29? MJ what were you thinking!
*did I miss anyone? Please comment and share the good word!*