NBA PM: More Retirements Loom


Others Who May Retire

You might not have heard, but Kobe Bryant’s career is now officially over.

Bryant has made it clear all season long that he would retire at year’s end, and as a result of his farewell tour he’s received innumerable gifts, standing ovations and more than his fair share of media attention as he’s ambled his old legs toward the finish line of his career.

But we’ve talked about Bryant’s retirement enough. Believe it or not, there are other NBA legends who could be on the cusp of retirement this offseason, including at least one player who has had every bit the successful career Bryant has, if not even better.

The following is a look around the league’s mid-to-late 30-somethings who appear as though they’ll at least consider retirement in the coming weeks and months. Bryant has been great, sure, and he’s certainly deserving of the media attention he’s gotten this season, but there are a number of other worthy players we should be saying our potential goodbyes to as well including…

Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs

In terms of career accolades, Duncan is every bit the first-ballot Hall of Famer that Kobe Bryant is. Duncan has been named MVP twice to Kobe’s once, Finals MVP thrice to Kobe’s twice and an All-Defensive Team selection 15 times compared to Kobe’s 12. Both guys have 19+ seasons in the league, 15+ All-Star selections, 10+ All-NBA First Team selections and of course both men have five rings (so far).

They are impressive resumes, yet nobody’s making anywhere near as big a deal about the end of the line for Duncan, who could just as easily have played his final regular season game as Bryant has. He hasn’t said he’s going to retire, but a farewell tour doesn’t seem like his style. What we do know is that Duncan has a player option on a bargain contract at the end of this season, so should he win his sixth NBA title this summer there could be a certain ring to a narrative that ends with him walking into the sunset, gold-bedecked fingers glistening in waning daylight.

He could decide to fight for a seventh ring too, just like an early playoff exit could push him toward “I quit,” or toward “We were so close; let’s run it back!” In the past, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich has said on a number of occasions that he would retire when Duncan does, but he reportedly assured LaMarcus Aldridge that he’s not going anywhere when the Spurs were pursuing him during free agency last summer. But if Duncan does decide to go out this offseason and Pop decides to follow, it could prove a much, much bigger deal than Kobe alone (despite the fanfare). Of course, there’s enough in place for Pop to win big even without Duncan, but the possibility is a fascinating one that could end an era of basketball in a way that hasn’t really happened since Red Auerbach and (a few years later) Bill Russell called it quits in Boston.

Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs

Ginobili, who missed a ton of games this year and is now balder and grayer than ever, also has a player option at the end of the season. He will naturally consider his own career path this summer, just like Duncan, though the two swear their decisions will be made independent of each other. While nothing seems certain in terms of Duncan, Ginobili legitimately feels close to his last days as an NBA player, even with his having scored 20+ points a handful of times this season.

Should both Ginobili and Duncan retire, it would prove dire for the team if only because these two players make so little money compared to what they bring to the table that there’s almost no way the Spurs would be able to replace their value, even with the rising cap this summer. It would be Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker and LaMarcus Aldridge moving forward, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, there’s no question that adding the older guys into that mix makes them more formidable. Even in old age, Duncan and Ginobili are pretty darn good when they’re at the best, and luckily they play for a team that knows how to conserve their energy and health for the postseason.

Kevin Garnett, Minnesota Timberwolves

We already know that Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor thinks Garnett will come back to play out the final year of his contract (worth $8 million), but considering Garnett has been on the fence about retiring for each of the last two or three seasons, it wouldn’t come as a big surprise if he called it a career sometime before free agency started in early July.

His role as an on-court assistant coach in Minnesota obviously has done wonders for likely Rookie of the Year Karl-Anthony Towns, and there isn’t a single person in that organization who wouldn’t welcome him back for one more go-round. In fact, Las Vegas at one point had him pegged as the favorite among current sports stars to announce his unofficial farewell tour, which at this point is something that would need to happen next year.

While Garnett “only” has the one ring, his resume is otherwise just as decorated as Bryant’s or Duncan’s. He can get the same fanfare as Kobe if he officially names next season his last, or he could go out as quietly as Duncan presumably will whenever he makes his own decision about his career. Either way, at 39 years old Garnett doesn’t have a whole lot more to give as a player and if that means he needs to retire, then there’s a really high chance that he actually will.

As much as Minnesota loves his locker room influence, they could do a whole lot more with that $8 million in free agency this summer, not that Garnett cares about such things.

Paul Pierce, L.A. Clippers

According to Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald, Pierce may ultimately decide to call it quits whenever Garnett does, which is sort of an odd thing to declare considering the two haven’t even played for the same team for a couple of seasons now. Still, Murphy says the two have often discussed retiring together and considering the kind of friendship they’ve culled over the last decade, that has to be something we take seriously.

Regardless of what Garnett does, Pierce signed up in L.A. for one last run at a championship. If the Clippers either win that championship or don’t come anywhere close to winning that championship, Pierce could hang ‘em up with or without KG. But knowing how good the Clippers are and will be next season, he may decide to come back for one more year no matter what happens. With Garnett also apparently thinking about another season, Pierce may have more than enough motivation to return. At the very least, he’s home in L.A. and reunited with Doc Rivers so as far as being comfortable in a familiar environment, he already has one foot out the door.

Andre Miller, San Antonio Spurs

As the oldest player in the NBA, Miller’s time has come to call it a career. He actually got the start in the team’s April 14th win over the Dallas Mavericks, scoring eight points to go along with six rebounds and five assists in a finale that was just a little less exciting than Kobe’s 60-point sendoff.

There are, of course, other players who will end up retiring this summer, either by choice or through the inability to find another job. Mike Miller and Jason Terry are a couple of players who sure do feel like they’re close to the end of their respective career, but it’s impossible to know where these guys feel they are at in terms of competitiveness and health.

The clock is ticking on these players, and while none of them will get quite the goodbye that Kobe Bryant did on Wednesday, there are some more retirements coming that deserve similar fanfare.

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About Joel Brigham

Joel Brigham

Joel Brigham is a senior writer for Basketball Insiders, covering the Central Division and fantasy basketball.