The look was all over Richard Jefferson’s face in the Cavaliers’ locker room after winning the title in June. It wasn’t just happiness, though there definitely was plenty of that. It was relief. Peace of mind, at long last. Hat playfully askew on his head, a beaming smile on his face, Jefferson told a reporter, “I’m retiring.”
It would have been tough to blame him, considering he was two days away from his 36th birthday and had spent the better part of a half decade bouncing from team to team, in search of a squad good enough to bring him the ring that had eluded him. It had been so close – so early in his career – back with Jason Kidd and the New Jersey Nets at the start of the 21st century. After coming full circle, you would have understood if Jefferson had walked away.
But here he is, still with the Cavaliers, still smiling after a win against the 76ers in December. Though he’s not without his regrets.
“Have you seen my shooting percentage?” asks Jefferson, laughing. “I should have retired.”
Jefferson’s scenario is a familiar one. As NBA players age, they tend to gain more control over their location as their skills and physical gifts diminish. Some choose to sign with teams who will give them a big role or more money, and some choose to find the best team they can, the one closest to the title, even if it means being a bit player and/or taking a smaller contract.