The NBA will enter the 2015-16 season without one of the most memorable dunkers in its history. In truth, though, Jason Richardson became a fan favorite at several stops in his 14-year career due to the effort he put in to ensure that he would be known for more than just his aerial ability.
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The 34-year-old Richardson announced his retirement from the NBA on Instagram on Wednesday night. Take a look at the post here:
Today is a bitter sweet moment for me. I'm officially announcing my retirement from pro basketball. I like to thank the organizations and fans in Charlotte, Phoenix, Orlando, Philly and especially The Bay Area for their loyal support the past 14 years. Walking away was the hardest decision I had to make but choosing my health and spending time with my family is more important to me! God bless!
Yahoo's own Marc Spears reported in mid-August that Richardson had signed a non-guaranteed deal with the Atlanta Hawks, but it appears that the veteran wing will not attempt to play for his sixth different NBA team:
"I didnt want to limp the rest of my life. I still have my whole life in front of me," @jrich23 told Y."I want to be able to play w/my kids"
— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) September 24, 2015
J-Rich played 19 games for the Philadelphia 76ers in 2014-15 following a more than two-year layoff due to a series of serious injuries. Those issues looked serious enough last October that I wrote what was essentially a retirement reminiscence of his career. True to form, Richardson worked his way back to play when simply collecting a paycheck from a tanking organization would have been the easier path.
Richardson retires with more than 14,644 points, a 17.1 per-game scoring average (for both the regular season and playoffs, oddly enough), and a 16.3 PER.
Any discussion of Richardson must start with his leaping ability. The No. 5 pick in the 2001 draft joined the Golden State Warriors from Michigan State with a reputation as a highlight-reel dunker and did not disappoint, putting up amazing slams in games with regularity and winning the 2002 and 2003 dunk contests at All-Star Weekend with some of the best showings the basketball world has ever seen. But his best contest dunk came on this off-the-backboard and through-the-legs entry in 2004:
Nate Robinson won that year in a controversial choice, but there's no question that Richardson put forth the more impressive performance.
Around this same time, Richardson had developed into an able scorer with an expanding set of skills. Although he never developed much of an ability to create off the dribble, Richardson carried several questionably talented Warriors squads and became a laudably committed player for fans without much else to cheer. He averaged a career-best 23.3 ppg with 38.4 percent shooting from beyond the arc in 2005-06.
The next season saw Richardson make the postseason for the first time as a member of the still-beloved "We Believe" team. Although J-Rich took a backseat in the offense to Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson, his outside shooting aided in the team's first-round upset of the heavily favored Dallas Mavericks. Fittingly, he also sealed the deal in Game 6 with this cathartic dunk:
The Warriors shipped Richardson to Charlotte in an unpopular move that June, but he found greater team success after another deal to the Phoenix Suns the following season. The aging J-Rich was more a shooter than a dunker, and he helped stretch the floor for the Suns as they reached the West finals in 2010.
Richardson was traded yet again the following season, this time to an Orlando Magic team losing its status as a conference contender. He signed his last big contract (a four-year, $25-million deal) after the lockout in 2011 but was traded one more time the next offseason in the blockbuster that sent Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers and Andrew Bynum to the Philadelphia 76ers. Richardson played just 52 games in all with the Sixers.
His dunks will survive a long time, as they should. But Richardson's professionalism was always the most persistent aspect of his career. From the court to interactions with the media, it's almost impossible to hear a negative word from anyone who spent time around the guy. Richardson adapted his game to new circumstances and always came out more respected than before.
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