Richard Jefferson credits the Spurs for extending the life of his NBA career

San Antonio Spurs v Golden State Warriors
San Antonio Spurs v Golden State Warriors / Ezra Shaw/GettyImages

Richard Jefferson has developed a bad reputation with San Antonio Spurs fans over the last few years. Between a lackluster two-and-a-half season stint with the franchise and sarcastic remarks about former teammates and coaches that were mistaken for genuine contempt, the retired small forward isn't exactly the most celebrated figure in the 2-1-0.

Despite occasionally riling up the Silver and Black faithful on social media, Jefferson gained a handful of brownie points after his latest appearance on The Old Man and the Three. When JJ Redick asked how he adjusted his game to stick around in the league for nearly two decades, Jefferson credited the Spurs and their developmental staff for extending his basketball career.

San Antonio added Jefferson during the 2009 offseason, trading legendary perimeter defender Bruce Bowen to the Bucks in return for the much younger and more offensive-oriented wing. While he was a virtual lock to average 20 points per game before joining the Spurs, Jefferson struggled to fit in as the fourth wheel behind established scorers like Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili.

Eventually, an honest conversation with Gregg Popovich about his role and countless hours working with world-class shooting coach Chip Engelland to revamp his mechanics helped Jefferson find his way in Alamo City. But after the front office pulled off a draft-night deal for Kawhi Leonard, who quickly exceeded expectations on both ends of the court, the aging veteran became expendable.

The Spurs moved on from Jefferson at the 2012 trade deadline, kickstarting his transition into a full-fledged role player. He would go on to mentor up-and-comers like Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Gordon Hayward, and Chandler Parsons before becoming an instrumental contributor off the bench for a Cavaliers team that brought the city of Cleveland its first NBA championship in 2016.

Next. 7 Players the Spurs gave up on too soon. dark