The recent retirements of Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan has changed the landscape of the NBA. Both men have been fixtures in the league since the late 90s. They could be argued as the first two Superstars to emerge following the end of the Michael Jordan era. The most fascinating realization about their retirements are knowing Bryant and Duncan each played for just one franchise throughout their storied careers. Most star players choose to leave for a new team or get traded away from the organization that drafted them. It is extremely rare for big names to remain in just one uniform for an entire NBA career.
Dwyane Wade choosing to leave the Miami Heat and Derrick Rose being traded away from the Chicago Bulls shows just how easily things can change. Rose was the hometown hero leading the Bulls back into contention but suffered horrible injuries causing him to decline rapidly. Chicago sold him out and dealt him away. Wade chose to leave the Heat after getting disrespected in contract negotiations over the past few years. The current climate of the league dictates keeping a star will be tough but there are some cases where it can happen. We’ll look at those situations now with fifteen Superstars that will most likely remain with one NBA team for their entire career.
15 Dirk Nowitzki
The most obvious choice should always be the first one off the board and Dirk Nowitzki is clearly going to end his career with the Dallas Mavericks. Nowitzki was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1998 NBA Draft on behalf of the Mavericks before the teams made the trade official. Dallas saw Dirk become the face of the franchise and put the team back on the basketball map. The relationship between the player, team and community led to tremendous results on all fronts.
Nowitzki has won the MVP Award, NBA Championship and NBA Finals MVP Award all with the Mavericks. There’s no doubt he will retire in a few years as the greatest star in franchise history. Owner Mark Cuban has a tight knit relationship with Dirk and will make sure he retires in the jersey he made famous. The current play of Nowitzki still delivers at the age of 38 and his final few years of excellence will take place in Dallas.
14 Klay Thompson
The Golden State Warriors created a special environment long before the signing of Kevin Durant. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson getting drafted by the Warriors gave the fan base a pair of exciting stars to lead the team into a surge of dominance. Thompson signed a massive contract the offseason before the Warriors won their first NBA Championship in the 2014-2015 season. The dynamic duo will have more importance to the fan base than Kevin Durant.
Golden State will likely rent Durant for a few seasons and let him walk in favor of keeping the core together. Thompson doesn’t have to worry about his spot. The shooting guard is among the best two-way players in the league. Everyone admires his supreme scoring game but he also is one of the premiere defenders at his position. Thompson’s youth and gradual improvement makes him a valued commodity to remain with the Warriors for the rest of his career.
13 Marc Gasol
NBA pundits criticized the Memphis Grizzlies for their terrible trade sending Pau Gasol to the Los Angeles Lakers. It helped the Lakers win another two rings with Pau being the missing piece to assist Kobe Bryant back to the top of the NBA. Memphis received very little back, but a lesser known Gasol acquired in that deal saved their franchise, as Marc became the new star center of the team.
Memphis would watch him progress into one of the best defenders and arguably the top overall center in the NBA. Many expected him to leave the Grizzlies last summer with an opportunity to move into a bigger market like L.A. or New York expressing interest in Gasol’s services as a free agent. His decision to re-sign in Memphis on a long term contract showed just how much he enjoys playing there. Gasol is likely going to continue to stay loyal to the only NBA home he knows.
12 John Wall
The Washington Wizards struck gold when winning the 2010 NBA Draft Lottery. John Wall was clearly the top prospect in the draft and has proved it with a tremendous career so far in the NBA. The league is currently thriving with most teams having a star point guard and Wall deserves to be mentioned in the upper echelon at his position. Wall is the leader of the Wizards team and the responsibility all falls on his shoulders to carry them to success.
Washington will have to pay big bucks to re-sign Wall when his current contract ends. The tremendous point guard has been dramatically underpaid and will want to cash in on the new NBA TV rights deals leading to bigger contracts. A player like Wall is rare and the Wizards won’t risk losing him. As long as he gets the contract he wants, Wall is likely to remain loyal to Washington for the rest of his NBA tenure.
11 Karl-Anthony Towns
This may be going out on a limb considering he has only been in the NBA one season, but Karl-Anthony Towns appears to love his new home. The Minnesota Timberwolves are on the upswing following the drafting of Towns and the trade acquisition of Andrew Wiggins. They have two of the best prospects of the past few years along with other intriguing assets to make up an exciting roster. Minnesota is bound to become a contender in the West within the next five years if they keep going along with the current plan.
Towns always seems overwhelmingly happy during public appearances about his place in the Timberwolves family. The skill set and athleticism of the big man looks like it may make him an MVP candidate one day. Towns’ potential is second to none in the NBA and he's already shown flashes of being close to All-Star territory. The relationship between Minnesota and Towns is very similar to Tim Duncan and San Antonio. This may be a scenario of a Superstar choosing to remain in the smaller market.
10 Tony Parker
The retirement of Tim Duncan has left Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili as the final members of the San Antonio Spurs legendary big three. Unlike Ginobili, Parker can still perform at a high level and is one of the better point guards in the league. The Spurs proved to be among the most intelligent organizations in sports by drafting Parker late in the 2001 NBA Draft out of France.
Parker developed into the top supporting player for Tim Duncan and played a pivotal role to four NBA Championships. The consistent play of Parker made him one of the premiere players at the position for years and will most likely allow him to enter the Hall of Fame. San Antonio is loyal to their stars. Ginobili just received a big one year, $15 million contract as a thank you for years taking less for the betterment of the team. Parker will likely receive the same treatment until his final days as a pro.
9 Paul George
Paul George has become the biggest Indiana Pacers Superstar since Reggie Miller. Indiana drafted George in the 2010 NBA Draft and no one expected him to blossom into what he currently is. George has to be considered in the top ten-to-fifteen players in the entire league. George's talents would have been better suited in a bigger market in the recent history of the NBA, but he’s getting by just fine right now.
George landed the cover of the upcoming NBA 2K17 video game and is seeing his star power grow as a member of the Pacers. His mental makeup portrays him as the kind of person that would not want to ditch his team. We are seeing more stars join up by leaving or demanding trades from their current teams, but George is highly unlikely to do that. Indiana has the advantage to keep him for the remainder of his career and can’t jeopardize it.
8 Mike Conley
The record-breaking deal set by the Memphis Grizzlies and Mike Conley ensured he would remain with the franchise for the next five seasons. Conley has been known as the most underrated point guard in the NBA over the past few years. Those days are over with $153 million and the biggest contract in NBA history making Conley less under the radar. Memphis drafted him in 2007 and he has played a huge role in their success.
The Grizzlies are currently behind the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers in the elite level of the Western Conference, but have potential to improve. Conley is arguably the most important piece of their puzzle. The need for defense at the point guard position is second to none with guys like Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul needing to be somewhat slowed down. Conley should have more responsibility over the next five years and eventually end his career in Memphis.
7 Anthony Davis
Anthony Davis has all of the skills to evolve into the best player in the NBA. The wear and tear has to catch up to LeBron James in the next few years and the next big star to pass him as the top star in the sport is undetermined. Davis shows potential to be one of the best offensive and defensive talents in the league. The New Orleans Pelicans gave him a massive $127 million contract over five seasons last summer to keep his rights for the foreseeable future.
Davis is content with the Pelicans organization and they should start to take great strides forward beginning next season. The West is in a transitional period with the conference wide open behind the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs. New Orleans can easily move up the pecking order into the next tier behind the exceptional play of Davis. The franchise having the rights to offer more money to re-sign him in the future makes them a favorite to showcase him for the remainder of his career.
6 Kristaps Porzingis
The New York Knicks have only seen one season from Kristaps Porzingis but he is already one of the most beloved stars in recent franchise history. Porzingis dominated the first half of his rookie year for the Knicks making fans view him as the next big star in New York. Carmelo Anthony is still the top dog for the Knicks but Porzingis has the fan support as a homegrown drafted prospect.
Porzingis has the physical talent and personality to become a huge star in every avenue of the sport. New York has jeopardized the future over the past decade by trading away all of their assets and draft picks. The rare lottery pick of Porzingis has Knicks fans loving the on-court direction of the team and management won’t ruin the momentum. Expect Porzingis to continue to develop with New York supporting him as the new sports Superstar of the city.
5 DeMar DeRozan
DeMar DeRozan was selected ninth overall in the 2009 NBA Draft by the Toronto Raptors and turned out to be one of the best picks in franchise history. The acquisition of Kyle Lowry pairing him with DeRozan has led to the team reaching their peak success. Toronto reached the Eastern Conference Finals and fell just two games short of reaching the NBA Finals. DeRozan re-signed with the Raptors for five more seasons as a free agent this summer to continue playing a big leading role in their future.
The growth of the Raptors fan base and overall interest in basketball among Canadian natives has led to DeRozan becoming a beloved figure. DeRozan was rumored to be leaving Toronto for a higher profile team in the Los Angeles Lakers but he didn’t even want to meet with them. The deal to stay was done right away and the loyalty shown on both sides taught us everything we need to know about the relationship. DeRozan is sticking around for the long run and Raptors fans will demand he never is traded away.
4 Kawhi Leonard
The San Antonio Spurs know how to find stars and treat them well. They lucked out once again by acquiring Kawhi Leonard during the 2011 NBA Draft in a trade with the Indiana Pacers for George Hill. Leonard instantly matured into the top defender in the NBA and won the 2014 NBA Finals MVP by shutting down LeBron James and the Miami Heat. The progression saw him evolve into an elite two-way player and one of the best talents going today.
San Antonio’s amazing track record proves they keep their stars. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili rarely even talked to other teams during free agency. Leonard is the ideal player for the Spurs organization with his soft spoken personality and very serious approach to his on-court work. Leonard is absolutely sticking around for the long haul as the true successor to Tim Duncan as the face of San Antonio sports.
3 Kyrie Irving
The luck of the Cleveland Cavaliers has completely turned around leading to their first NBA Championship this season. LeBron James was the obvious MVP of the team but Kyrie Irving’s play was equally important in the three consecutive wins to pull off the miracle. Irving was selected first overall in 2011 for Cleveland one year after James initially left the team. LeBron would have never returned if the team didn’t have Kyrie.
Both men will stick together as the Cavaliers power duo of the foreseeable future. Irving’s excellence is one thing, but his young age of 24 may be the most impressive thing about him. The superb point guard is just going to get better and is already an icon in Cleveland sports. Considering the prior bad luck, there’s no way the Cavaliers will mess around with his future. Irving will always be offered a great contract and should be positioned as “the man” in Cleveland as LeBron gets older.
2 Damian Lillard
Damian Lillard fell to the sixth overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft and the Portland Trail Blazers lucked into securing him. The relationship has been perfect for both sides. Lillard has become one of the top point guards in the NBA and Portland has their new star of the future. The Trail Blazers allowed their core of LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews and Robin Lopez to walk away last summer, but signed Lillard to a long term deal.
They were back into the playoffs this year with the roster completely changing thanks to the leadership of Lillard. A recent instance that gave us an insight into Lillard’s mental makeup saw him shut down a Warriors fan by saying “hell no” when asked about leaving Portland. Lillard is full of loyalty to Portland and the confidence of wanting to build a contender there rather than hop on a bandwagon. Lillard isn’t going anywhere unless the Trail Blazers screw it all up.
1 Stephen Curry
The NBA landscape changed when Stephen Curry started to ascend in Golden State. No one provides the excitement during any given game that Curry does with his unparalleled three-point shooting. The two-time MVP has put the Warriors in the forefront of the NBA as the hottest sports franchise right now. Kevin Durant would have never signed with Golden State unless Curry was there as the true leader of the team.
Curry’s value to the Warriors is only second to LeBron James in the NBA. The combination of exciting play, outstanding results and youth makes Curry the most valuable asset in the NBA today. Golden State fans have loved him since the injury-riddled days and will continue to show loyalty to their Superstar. Curry will always have a fat contract with the Warriors to continue what he has started and will be thanked very well for it. Don’t expect anyone to ever have a shot at signing Curry as long as Golden State is around.