10 notable NBA players who could retire in the next year
It’s always sad watching once-great athletes enter the twilight of their careers. For sports fans, it feels like we’re losing a piece of ourselves. Father Time doesn’t discriminate, and though some athletes push the envelope into their 40s, we all sadly have a shelf life.
In the past two years, fans have seen notable figures like Tim Duncan, Amar’e Stoudemire, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce retire. Here are 10 well-known players who may follow in their footsteps in the next year.
10. Vince Carter
I sat down with V.C. on draft day to discuss his future, and at the time it was uncertain. He was waiting for LeBron to announce his decision so the rest of the league could react and adjust their free-agency plans accordingly. Once LJ finally did so, the Hawks scooped Carter, signing him to a one-year deal. Atlanta wanted “Carter around its young locker room,” per Woj. The 41-year-old will receive $2.4 million for the season — keep getting them checks! Carter is no longer the Vinsanity we all knew and loved, but he’s had a heck of a career, and he’s still a valuable piece. Last season, with Sacramento, he played in 58 games, averaging 17.7 minutes, 5.4 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game while shooting 34.5 percent from beyond the arc. The former No. 5 overall pick (1998, Golden State Warriors) has now played for eight teams.
9. Luol Deng
The Lakers paid Deng handsomely (four years, $72 million) after he had a mini career revival with the Miami Heat from 2014-16. L.A. coach Luke Walton and Deng, however, mutually decided it would be in their best interest for the former Duke star to step away from the team, so he was nothing more than a cap hit and roster spot last season. The Sudan native, 33, is under contract for two more years, but the Lakers may get creative, opting to stretch his contract over five years or send him to another team looking for a buyout option (like the Carmelo Anthony-Atlanta deal this summer). Don’t be surprised if Deng retires in the next year but keeps getting paid for years to follow.
8. Udonis Haslem
That’s right – Haslem is still in the league. Like Nick Collison, who recently retired, Haslem has spent the entirety of his career with one franchise: the Miami Heat. Haslem appeared in only 14 games last season, averaging 5.1 minutes, 0.6 points, and 0.7 rebounds per game. The season prior, he played in only 17 games. The 38-year-old is essentially an additional assistant coach for Erik Spoelstra. Miami’s all-time leading rebounder, Haslem is a beloved figure in South Beach. Though he’s currently an unrestricted free agent, it is widely expected that Miami will sign him to another one-year deal at the veteran minimum.
7. Tony Allen
Allen spent the first six years of his career with the Celtics and next seven with the Grizzlies, so it was a bit strange to see him in a Pelicans uniform last season. New Orleans sent him to the Chicago Bulls in exchange for Nikola Mirotic and a 2018 second-round pick before this year’s trade deadline – the Bulls were just desperate to offload Mirotic. Chicago waived Allen before he appeared in a game. Allen, 36, is currently unsigned, and if he doesn’t get a chance to compete for a roster spot this season, he’ll likely call it quits. A defensive terror, Allen won a ring with Boston in 2008 – and he still says “Ubuntu” to his former teammates.
6. Joakim Noah
Noah is still playing for the Knicks — sort of. A two-time All-Star and one-time Defensive Player of the Year, Noah has fallen off quickly. New York handed him a four-year, $72 million contract in 2016 – the same deal Deng received – and, like Deng, he has since become estranged from the team. Noah had a falling out with coach Jeff Hornacek, but the team has changed its leadership, bringing aboard David Fizdale. Still, the Knicks reportedly plan to waive Noah sometime after Sept. 1, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. New York would like to free up a roster spot and move on from this terrible experiment, and Noah seems intent on playing again. Could a change of scenery possibly facilitate a Joakim Noah rebirth?
5. Richard Jefferson
R.J., like several of the guys on this list, is currently unsigned. The 38-year-old occupied a minor role for the Denver Nuggets this season, playing in only 20 games, averaging 8.2 minutes, 1.5 points, and 0.8 rebounds per game. Really, Denver called on him to mentor its young core. Jefferson is one of the most beloved teammates in the league. He may get one more shot to suit up this season, but if not, he’ll likely devote his attention to pursuing a media career. Jefferson is a hilarious and entertaining co-host of the Road Trippin’ podcast on LeBron James’ Uninterrupted network, and if teams don’t come calling, media networks will.
4. Jason Terry
Terry is also unsigned. Though he’ll soon turn 41, Terry actually got minutes for Milwaukee last season. He played in 51 games, averaging 16.0 minutes, 3.3 points, and 1.2 assists per game while shooting 34.8 percent from downtown. The former No. 10 overall pick (1999, Atlanta Hawks) is best known for his time with the Dallas Mavericks. Playing Robin to Dirk Nowitzki’s Batman, Terry won a title in 2011. “The Jet” is a valuable locker room presence. Terry wants to return to Milwaukee. “For sure, 100 percent, my goal is to play 20 seasons,” he recently said, according to the Associated Press. “The organization understands that and I think the league is on notice.”
3. Manu Ginobili
The last one standing – San Antonio’s Big 3 has nearly fallen apart…but Manu is still hanging around. Tim Duncan called it quits in 2016, and Tony Parker left San Antonio to join former Spurs assistant James Borrego, who’s now the head coach in Charlotte. Ginobili, who turned 41 this summer, played in 65 games last season, and his numbers actually increased — 20.0 minutes (up from 18.7), 8.9 points (up from 7.5), and 43.4 percent shooting from the floor (up from 39 percent). The former No. 57 pick has spent his whole career in San Antonio, and though he’ll miss Parker, he’s probably relieved to have Kawhi Leonard off his hands. Don’t be surprised if he retires when Gregg Popovich does — a simultaneous ride into the sunset would be appropriate.
2. Dirk Nowitzki
There are only three players remaining in the NBA who played in the 1990s: Terry, Carter, and Dirk. The German big man has never lost his jumper. He can’t move very smoothly (well, he can’t really move at all), but he can still stroke it. Last season, he knocked down a stunning 40.9 percent of his three-point attempts and still contributed 24.7 minutes and 12.0 points per game. Dirk has spent his entire NBA career with Dallas, and Mark Cuban will probably let him play as long as he wants. The 7-footer has blossomed into one of the most entertaining personalities in the league. It will be a sad day when the 13-time All-Star hangs ’em up — but, thankfully, he’ll do so as an NBA champion and Finals MVP (2011).
1. Dwyane Wade
One thing is clear: Dwyane Wade is staying in Miami. He doesn’t want to leave South Beach again. “Heat only,” Wade recently said. “If I play the game of basketball this year, it will be in a Miami uniform.” The question now, however, is: Will the Heat re-sign him? Or will his career die? Wade had a rough time during the first half of last season with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but the 36-year-old got in shape with the Heat. He played in 21 games for Miami, averaging 22.2 minutes, 12.0 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game. He even looked like vintage Flash at times in the playoffs. It would be surprising if Miami didn’t offer him at least the veteran’s minimum. There’s no rush on his end to get a deal done. Expect one more NBA season from arguably the greatest two guard of all-time.
Aaron Mansfield is a freelance sports writer whose work has appeared in Complex, USA Today, and the New York Times. You can reach him via email at [email protected]