Former San Antonio Spurs small forward Richard Jefferson formally retired from the NBA on Saturday afternoon. He averaged 11.2 points per game during his three seasons in the Alamo City.
The first NBA game was played on November 1, 1946 between the New York Knickerbockers and the Toronto Huskies. In the 72 years since the league began, no individual personality has stood out the way that forward Richard Jefferson does.
During his early days in the league, Jefferson was known for his distinctive athleticism and sky high potential. He developed into a more well-rounded player and became a consistent scoring threat, averaging 16 or more points over a six year stretch in the mid-2000’s. His scoring-run came to an end when he was traded to the Spurs in 2009.
While Jefferson’s impact on the court caught the attention of the NBA world, his off-court antics made him notorious amongst players and coaches. His three seasons in San Antonio were certainly interesting. On paper, he was an ideal wing to compliment the style of play instituted by head coach Gregg Popovich.
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Instead, Jefferson regressed as a Spur and butted heads with Pop because of their clashing personalities. He didn’t live up to his potential in the silver and black, but remained an important complimentary piece through his time in San Antonio.
He didn’t end up winning a championship in San Antonio, but he earned a ring later in his career. Jefferson was a crucial veteran presence for the Cleveland Cavaliers during their title run in 2016. Jefferson took on smaller roles for multiple teams including Dallas, Golden State and Denver. His experience and mentorship have proven valuable for a multitude of locker rooms.
The decision to move away from the game coincided with an unthinkable tragedy for the Jefferson family. Midway through September, Jefferson’s father was murdered in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles. He addressed both his decision to retire and his father’s passing in an Instagram post on Saturday afternoon.
Over the last few years, Jefferson has shown indications that he’ll enter the realm of media in retirement. He currently hosts a well-received podcast with his longtime friend and former teammate Channing Frye called “Road Trippin’: Richard vs. Channing” where the duo share stories and discuss random topics. He’s also made appearances on many sports talk shows including ESPN’s “The Jump” and FS1’s “Skip and Shannon: Undisputed.”
Many players stray away from the spotlight once they end their playing careers. This most likely won’t be the case for Jefferson.
Jefferson’s legacy will fall somewhere in between good and great. He didn’t do quite enough to warrant an induction into the Hall of Fame, but he’ll be remembered for his lasting impact on each of the teams he played for. At his best, Jefferson was an excellent scorer with a wide skill set and underrated explosiveness.
Although the Richard Jefferson experiment in San Antonio didn’t quite pan out as fans may have hoped, he finished with a long and impressive career.