NBA / Aug 20, 2009 / 9:00 am

Decision 2010: Time to retire?

Tracy McGrady

Tracy McGrady

You want to cause a splinter within the ranks of the Solar Temple of Michael Jordan followers? Ask them whether they think MJ’s second comeback with the Wizards was a good idea. It’s like if Lauryn Hill dropped an album this year: Half her fans would be thrilled to snatch up anything by L-Boogie, while the other half would be terrified of the potential damage to her legacy when she’s clearly not at the top of her game right now.

But really, the concept of “going out on top” is one that has become strangely unique to sports. Since “regular” people don’t make enough money, the prospect of retiring at 35 isn’t fathomable; plus no one is offended if a teacher or a mailman hangs on well past their prime — in fact, we usually applaud it. And because entertainers are born camera addicts and attention sluts, no one expects them to walk away at their peak. (Why else did I see Smokey Robinson squeezing into leather pants and Rod Stewart‘s reanimated corpse jamming on “American Idol” this year?) Physically and financially, athletes are the only ones in position and expected to retire early — only no one can truly determine when it’s too late.

Jordan wasn’t Chicago-style dominant in Washington, but the fact that he was able to occasionally drop 40 or 50 points proved his comeback wasn’t a bad move. For Brett Favre? We’ll find out in one of those midseason Ice Bowls in Chicago or Green Bay. Closer to home for me, Ken Griffey Jr. has been generally bad in ’09, but he’s provided enough memorable moments to make his farewell tour worthwhile. And if Griffey decides to retire at the end of the season, most Seattleites would agree it’s the right time.

This upcoming NBA season, quite a few players and fan bases will face a similar scenario.

“You may not even realize it now, but you’re gonna miss watching guys like Grant Hill, Shaq and Kidd when they’re gone. When all you’ve got left is memories and YouTube, you’ll regret not catching more actual games.”

That was the last of my 21 reasons why you need to get NBA League Pass. Several players fit that description of guys we could be seeing for the last time, and come next summer, they’ll have some tough decisions to make. Each of the players listed below has a contract that expires (or they can opt out) in 2010. Will that be the right time for them to walk away?

*** *** ***

Ray Allen — If the Celtics win a championship, Ray could conceivably retire closest to the top of his game (and healthy) as any athlete we’ve seen since Barry Sanders. No longer a threat to score 25 every night, he’s still an All-Star performer at 34 years old. And Ray will have a TV job waiting for him whenever he leaves.

Tracy McGrady — It’s not that T-Mac hasn’t been the same player since his back really became a problem in 2006; It’s that he hasn’t been the same player nearly as often as he used to be. Slated to pull down $23 million next season, Mac may want to gracefully bow out before he has an embarrassing, Iverson-like summer of 2010 where very few teams will want him.

Shaq

Shaq

Shaquille O’Neal — He’s on TV so much you’d think he’s already retired. Phoenix’s medical staff may have breathed an extra life into Shaq’s career, but I’m seeing this Cleveland thing going two years, tops.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas — A sure starter on the Cavaliers’ all-time team (sorry, Brad Daugherty), Big Z is being moved to the bench in real-life, a sure sign that the end is near. A championship or even a Finals appearance would be a nice capper on Z’s career.

Grant Hill — He could’ve signed with a title contender this summer, but either Grant thinks he still has time to chase a ring later, or he’s decided he wants to retire in Phoenix like the other 75% of the people who live there.

Jermaine O’Neal — You know how everyone says Hill is a “young 36″ because he basically took a few years off recovering from injuries? Jermaine is an “old 30,” straight from the Jamaal Magloire Academy. Even with the center position in the NBA as thin as it is, this could still be J.O.’s last go-round as a regular starter.

Marcus Camby — So long as he escapes from L.A. standing on two feet, he can still contribute to a contender. Camby has a few more years left to be the next Theo Ratliff before “he can block some shots” no longer justifies the “he only plays 43 games a year” part.

Ben Wallace — He almost quit this summer, but like Griffey, decided to go on a retirement tour with the franchise that made him famous. And just like the Mariners are sitting Griffey out of games regularly, the talk out of Detroit is that Wallace will only see about 5-10 minutes a night. He’ll almost certainly be done after this season. Next up: Is he a Hall of Famer?

Derek Fisher — Maybe he’s the one waiting for Phil Jackson to retire so he can take over. Question: When Fish is coaching the Lakers and Kobe gets on a hot streak, will he tell L.A.’s point guard to purposely jack up a three to break up Kobe’s run, or just get a wistful look in his eye?

Peja Stojakovic — Dick Vitale will pass up a chance to cover a Duke/Carolina game (at Duke) before Peja passes up his option to make $15 million in 2010-11.

Juwan Howard — He’s actually a free agent right now, but I’m foreseeing a brief stint with somebody this year (Chicago?) before bringing the Fab Five era to its official end.

Shaun Livingston — The Thunder have put Livingston in a position to succeed, as the clear backup to Russell Westbrook and the clear second-stringer ahead of Kevin Ollie, where he’ll get decent minutes on a team for which expectations won’t be too high. But if Livingston doesn’t get his game back to where he wants it to be and has to prove himself to another team just to get a contract in 2010, would he instead throw in the towel at 24 years old?

Jerome James — I’ll always remember an interview with Ray Allen back when he and Jerome were on the Sonics, when Ray said Jerome was different from the rest of the guys because he didn’t love basketball. It wasn’t even meant as criticism, just a fact: James didn’t grow up playing ball and dreaming of being in the NBA. He was plucked out of a grocery store in college by a coach who noticed his height, and literally just landed in the NBA than anything else. Bottom line, James never seemed like he wanted this. And after making $30 million more than he had any business making in the game, he might as well walk away when his contract is up and find out what he really wants to do with his life.

Brian Scalabrine — For our sake, please leave. Maybe it’ll inspire Michael Rapaport to stop with his NBA All-Star celebrity game nonsense.

Joe Smith — Here’s a question: Was Joe Smith a draft bust? He was never a star in the League, but he was an effective contributor for about 8-9 years and a decent role player otherwise. Certainly not the worst No. 1 overall pick of all-time.

Tim “Shep” Thomas — He’ll play as long as somebody will pay him. And because he looks the same as he did when he was 19, some coach/GM combo will always think there’s some potential there. Imagine Antoine Walker if ‘Toine had never aged in the face.

Devean George — You can make open shots on “Pros vs. Joes.”

Ricky Davis — Buckets may not have a choice. Really, who would sign him after the Clippers debacle and his previous track record?

Follow Austin Burton on Twitter: @AustinatDIMEmag
Follow DIME on Twitter: @DIMEMag

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  • karizmatic

    I think Ray Allen is probably one of those guys who will play until he’s 37. Dale Ellis style, after all a team always needs a shooter right? No matter what age they are. If Boston doesn’t win this season Ray is probably a guy that gets shipped somewhere else and continues to play.

    Shaq definitely doesn’t last more than two years on the Cavs, he seems kind of wishy washy about retirement but he probably should call it quits when he stops playing for the Cavs.

    I thought Grant Hill should have retired this year.

    Ben Wallace is not a Hall of Famer.

    Derek Fisher won’t retire until the Lakers stop winning championships or until they stop being a serious contender.

    Jerome James is definitely retiring as soon as his contract is up. Who would take him anyway?

    Joe Smith had a solid enough career that I don’t consider him a bust. But then you usually forget he was a No. 1 pick so I guess that might make him a bust.

  • Big V

    If you put Ray in a position where he’s the primary offensive option, he’s still capable of dropping 25 a night.

  • http://twitter.com/PoppiGEE POPPI GEE

    Ray yes if they win the trophy again he should hang them up and bow out on top.

    T-Mac Noooo no way. Him, his team and the world needs to finally see what things are going to look like from the surgery. His comments make it sound like he coming back pretty good and on a mission. And if he can still give at least 20 to 15 a night, well he might not be the start he was but he still can contribute. I always thought once the injuries started coming he should have been a robin to someone’s batman anyway.

    Shaq will always be ok as long as he is heavy enough to get in the post and dunk. He already has said in about 2 to 3 more he is out.

    I think Grant really just loves the game. Any other cat who has been through all he has might have gave up a long time ago.

    Fisher should have most def. left after his glorious moment.

    Juwan Howard ..wow he used to be the man. Now he should think about assistant coaching or getting a tv gig somewhere.

    Ben Wallace – Peace out homey, I think he honestly has nothing to do outside of playing though.

    Livingston – will hopefully do well so he should stay.

    Joe Smith – was a bust, when you are number 1 more is expected. He still contributes a little.

    Jerome James – top theif in the league and will always have video games he is in if nothing else. Time to hit the road, and hopefully you saved some of that money instead of waiting for the light to come on at Krispy Kreme.

    Tim, Devean and Ricky could all be a Pros vs. Joes squad. Sounds more like a New Edition members though.

    J.O. needs to shoot the deuces.

    Camby can still be a factor, he has years left.

  • sh!tfaced

    Alternate Title: Which NBA Player Will (Most Likely) Do A Brett Favre.

    For a while there, I thought I was gonna see Greg Oden down the list. LOL.

    Scal isn’t ready to retire, he still has to relinquish the tradition of “Cheerleading White Guy At The End Of The Bench That Gets To Win A Championship Ring” title. Boston’s current roster doesn’t have his protege yet. Think about it, ’09 Lakers had Adam Morrison, ’08 Celtics had Scal & Scott Pollard, ’07 Udrih/Barry/Bonner, ’06 Heat had Doleac.

    Time to plug-in the GRANDPA ODEN Jokes…

  • sh!tfaced

    ’05 Spurs had Sean Marks/Udrih/Rasho, ’04 Pistons had Darko/Bob Sura, ’03 Spurs Danny Ferry/(Steve Kerr?), Shaq-Kobe dynasty had Madsen/Medvedenko… Shit, the list goes on and on. LMAO. Must be a lucky charm thing…

  • Kobeef

    Joe Smith has actually had an OK NBA career which would have been much better if he hadn’t accepted that under the table deal from Minnesota.

    You have to respect Joe for coming back to the game for rookie-like contracts and giving 100% when he could have retired 10 years ago.

    Ray Allen will play forever. He stays in great shape and that jumper won’t go away. He might lose some lift but if he’s left open at 45 years old he’s gonna drain it.

  • shake&bake

    There’s only 4 players from the ’05 draft who’s careers were definitely better than Joe Smith (Garnett, Stackhouse, Rasheed, Finley). Maybe McDyess too, but I don’t think that makes him a bust.

  • jzsmoove

    If Ray Allen wants to be near-undebatable HOFer, he should retire while he is still on top. You dont want that scrutiny of playing on your last legs to jeopardize your legacy. TMac should give it another go around and swallow his ego and relinquish top dog status. Grant Hill will not retire until later on. He has fun out there and the epitome of perseverance. Let the guy play. All the others on the list, adieu!

  • Spliff 2 My Lou

    I was sure that Dime would be the one sports site I could go and not hear the name Brett Favre. Unfortunately, I was sorely mistaken.

  • K Dizzle

    Austin, you make me shake my head sometimes.
    There is NOOOOO way Big Z is the starter on the all-time Cavs team over Brad Daugherty. Daugherty retired at 28 from a bad back, played only 8 season and was still a 5 time all-star. Him, Price and Nance made Cleveland relevant while havin to battle against Jordan, Bird, Magic, Hakeem, Robinson, Ewing etc. Z’s a 2 time all star who’s best season might have been the year Cleveland was 17-65 and got Bron in the draft when he averaged 17 and 7 for the year. Daugherty averaged 19 and 10 for his career.
    Come on now…

  • Will Purdue

    Didn’t Ray Allen drop 50+ in 3OT this summer or was Bill Wennington’s bitch ass lying to me?

  • Ross

    Tracy DeGrading just had to be the pic you used, huh?

  • Pig

    Ben Wallace is first ballot hall of famer..guy was undrafted and became one of the greatest defenders of all time

  • dlee

    Jesus is chasing Reggie’s record for all time makes in 3’s. He won’t retire until then. of course, another ring would be nice too

  • High Release

    Ben Wallace is not a Hall of Famer!! Ludicrous! 6 pts and 10 boards averaged for a career doesn’t cut it. He was shit before and after Detroit! Look how he was exposed in Chicago. He was just a piece of the Piston’s defensive machine for a few years. Dude only stood out because of his afro. Really.

  • EN FUEGO

    Kwame should retire so the disappointment will finally stop.

    And if Darko still busts out in D’Antoni’s system, he deserves to retire too.

  • http://www.random-ish.com Sccob

    LOl @ the Tim Thomas and Toine comparisons. Tim is too busy running around with 50 to care about basketball. McGrady needs to find a good chiropractor. He gets one and he can give you the 20 7 7 numbers. D Fish will probably call it quits after this season.

  • Ian

    agree with dizzle and high release.
    austin comon big z over brad??

  • http://leogau.com Leo

    It’ll be a sad day when Grant Hill retires – the first NBA player I was a fan of. He could have had Kobe’s career…

  • http://luckylester.com luckylester

    None of these guys should retire if they still can get jobs doing something they love to do. A lot of these guys made it this far because of their competitive nature – so who gives a shit if a bunch of fools (without that competitive streak) who have no idea what it’s like to wake up in the morning and want to win at everything, think you should do. Save a legacy? Come on. The only guy who should retire is Jerome James – he basically won the lottery, had to serve a few years playing ball, and if he saved even a quarter of his money he’s allowed to make it rain once a week for the rest of his life.

    Ben Wallace… maybe, if a guy is just coming back to play a few minutes a night, then maybe – but if you can still ball – by all means, lace ‘em up.

  • Butcher

    Of course Smith was a bust! Remember who could pick instead of him (Sheed, KG, even Dice). I totally don’t agree Tim Thomas looks the same as when he was 19. Just take a look at his muscles.

  • jay

    feel bad for ghill but he will have a studio job..going to be weird seeing him and jalen together in studio when i remember when i was little watching he and rose go one on one in that pre xmas gmae duke vs mich back in 93! i think jalen had 34 in that game! we will see what happens with tmac…i can not see it go very well. micro fracture surgery? going to be more painful than watching penny try to come back! what i will say is..i hope kobe dont pull an mj! my lasting memory of mj was in when the wiz went to staples and kb8 dropped 55. i think he had 40 at halftime or something..it was filthy!

  • JoV

    If Dennis Rodman is not in the HOF then Ben Wallace should not be there.

  • Ansonious

    I can’t understand why you’d compare Ray Allen to the greastest running back who ever touched the football field.
    @23 Dennis Rodman was a disgrace to basketball, good defender/rebounder but he definently took the NBA down a notch like Jesse Ventura did for wrestling

  • Alee-Mo

    I don’t see any Ray/Barry comparison there. AB is saying Ray could go out on top of his game similar to how Barry went out. Just because you put two people’s names in the same sentence doesn’t mean it’s a comparison.

  • Alee-Mo

    P.S. — Of all the people who have given wrestling a black eye, you pick JESSE VENTURA as the main one? How about Vince McMahon, Chris Benoit, or any of the 200 guys that died from drugs.

  • Special Guest

    You forgot Matt Harpring.

    The Jazz are going to be a much softer team without him. Karl Malone nicknamed him “Little Jerry” (after coach Sloan).

  • ozz

    I love tmac, but i agree…dudes definetley done. hes just plain washed out. should retire before he gets humiliated by being benchd, for real.

  • Gigi

    Watch when T-Mac comes back and shock everyone and yall will be the first ones riding him.