Jefferson helped the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Golden State Warriors, 93-89, in Game 7 of the NBA Finals on Sunday with two points, nine rebounds and one steal. He then said on Fox Sports Ohio (via Keith Britton of 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland): “I am retiring.”
Michael Grange of Sportsnet shared some more of Jefferson’s reaction following the game:
Fox Sports Ohio passed along the extended version of his interview, where Jefferson even discussed his plans to write essays during his spare time in retirement:
However, at the Cavaliers' celebration parade, Jefferson told the crowd he will play next season, per Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal.
Jefferson initially hinted he may be backtracking on his decision to retire on The Dan Patrick Show, per Andrew Perloff on Wednesday:
Jefferson was solid for Cleveland in seven games against the 73-win Warriors, averaging 5.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals per night behind 51.6 percent shooting from the field. He primarily came off the bench as part of the second unit, but he started Game 3 when Kevin Love couldn’t play because of a concussion. Jefferson nearly tallied a double-double with nine points and eight rebounds in a 120-90 win.
The 36-year-old would get to do what many dream of and go out on top after his performance.
Jefferson entered the league in 2001 as a first-round draft pick out of Arizona and played for the New Jersey Nets, Milwaukee Bucks, San Antonio Spurs, Golden State Warriors, Utah Jazz, Dallas Mavericks and Cavaliers in his career. He appeared in 1,082 regular-season games and averaged 13.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists per contest.
He also reached the Finals twice with New Jersey but lost both times (2002 to the Los Angeles Lakers and 2003 to the San Antonio Spurs).
While he was a role player for the Cavaliers, he was a primary piece during his prime on the Nets. He averaged more than 22 points per game twice in his career and was a matchup problem with his athleticism:
|Richard Jefferson's Prime Years|
|Season||Team||Points per Game||Assists per Game||Rebounds per Game|
|2002-03||New Jersey Nets||15.5||2.5||6.4|
|2003-04||New Jersey Nets||18.5||3.8||5.7|
|2004-05||New Jersey Nets||22.2||4.0||7.3|
|2005-06||New Jersey Nets||19.5||3.8||6.8|
|2006-07||New Jersey Nets||16.3||2.7||4.4|
|2007-08||New Jersey Nets||22.6||3.1||4.2|
Jefferson also proved to be a difference-maker as a crafty veteran who helped the Cavaliers eclipse the best regular-season team of all time.
Regardless of his playing future, he will forever be an NBA champion.