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Richardson's 14-year NBA career included back-to-back dunk titles and a career scoring average of 17.1 points per game, but was also riddled by injuries, most notably to his left knee. Richardson, 34, told Yahoo Sports that an MRI on Monday revealed he had bone spurs in his previously healthy right knee. After talking to his wife, Jackie Paul, on Tuesday, Richardson made the decision to retire on his own.
"I didn't want to limp the rest of my life," Richardson told Yahoo Sports in a phone interview. "I still have my whole life in front of me, God willing. I sat alone at a park in Atlanta thinking and no one said anything to me because they didn't recognize me since I just got there. I talked to my wife for an hour on the phone and then I sat for five hours thinking while listening to music before deciding that retiring was the right thing to do."
The Golden State Warriors selected Richardson with the fifth overall pick in the 2001 NBA draft out of Michigan State. He averaged 18.3 points with the Warriors from 2001-07, including a career-high 23.2 points during the 2005-06 season. He also played for the Charlotte Bobcats, Phoenix Suns, Orlando Magic and Philadelphia 76ers from 2007-15. Injuries caused him to miss the 2013-14 season and play in just 52 games the past three seasons combined.
While Richardson scored 14,644 points during his NBA career, he believes he will be most remembered for his dunking that included his signature windmill 360-degree slam.
"The dunk contests are what people know me for," Richardson said. "I played on teams with Golden State that I was scoring 17 to 18 points a game on, but we weren't winning. So I will always be known for the dunk."
Richardson signed a make-good contract with the Atlanta Hawks during the offseason and felt they offered the best opportunity to win an elusive NBA title. He started having pain in his right knee four or five days ago because he was compensating for his long-ailing left knee. Richardson said he told Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer on Wednesday morning that he had decided to retire after they discussed his MRI.
"Coach Bud was really cool," Richardson said. "He respected my decision and we wished each other well."
Richardson said he plans to immediately move back to his offseason home of Denver and focus on spending more time with his wife, daughter and two sons. He said his 9-year old son, Jason II, took the news of his retirement hard while his 7-year-old son, Jaxson, is happy dad is coming home. Richardson plans to stay involved in basketball as a coach – perhaps in the NBA.
The Warriors are expected to honor Richardson this upcoming season during a home game, a league source said.
"I worked hard and had love and passion for the game," Richardson said. "But I didn't want to be that guy who was just there collecting a paycheck."