Welcome to the holiday season, a time of giving, receiving, and being nostalgic. Whole everyone else thinks about when it was alright to wish people a Merry Christmas or some other form of political correctness, we're sticking to sports and talking about the NBA. Specifically, let's discuss players you may have forgotten are still active and some you forgot signed their retirement papers in recent years.
There's not many ground rules for this list, but one of them is that we're going to stay away from American and foreign players who are overseas. That's nothing against those players, but there are way too many of them to count and it'd be too easy of a list. We like challenges. Players in the G-League or who recently played in Ice Cube's BIG3 are eligible, however, because the foreign game is different than what passes here in America.
If the players participated in BIG3, they need to have obviously not signed their retirement papers, so a free agent that played under Allen Iverson or another former All-Star works. The only other ground rule is that any player who passed away before retiring isn't eligible; these are only living ex-players.
If you're ready to visit days gone by and think about some of the more nostalgic players from your childhood, let's get to work!
15 Still Active: Damien Wilkens
Potentially the most intriguing players on this list, Wilkins went undrafted in the 2004 NBA Draft and was out of the league from 2013-17, spending most of his time either in the D-League or overseas. Now 38 years old, Wilkins returned to the NBA this season and has mostly played garbage time for the Indiana Pacers, providing veteran presence to a team which traded Paul George over the summer.
This probably wasn't the start to this list you likely expected, but that's the fun and intrigue of Wilkins' career. We hear about guys attempting NBA comebacks all the time - including some of the later players on this list - but rarely do they actually make it back to the game's highest level. Not a bad comeback for Dominque's cousin!
14 Retired: Ron Artest/Metta World Peace
Of course Metta World Peace - AKA Ron Artest - was bound to make it on this list, having retired after this past NBA season to take a job with the Lakers as a player development coach. Artest being the one who gives advice? During his final years with the Lakers, Artest had been doing precisely that, so him taking a role with the South Bay Lakers shouldn't have come as much of a surprise.
This all raises a very interesting question of what will potentially happen if Lonzo Ball spends time in the G League for the Lakers. Will LaVar Ball and World Peace come into conflict? Who would win in a fight? Let's hope for everyone's sake Lonzo will build on his current positives so we don't run into the fight of the century.
13 Still Active: Udonis Haslem
Not unlike what Artest/Metta World Peace was doing over his final seasons with the Lakers, Heat lifer Udonis Haslem has taken an unofficial coaching role with his teammates despite not playing much. Through this season's first month, Haslem only played three minutes a year after playing 16 games while serving as that 15th man, No. 1 mentor.
Even if he's not officially retired and still takes up a seat on the bench, the 37-year-old Haslem's playing days are mostly behind him and it's not unrealistic to think we'll see him go into coaching within a year or two. Or, if the Heat were to make a coaching change following this season, would they be alright with immediately promoting Haslem? Given how crazy the NBA has become, who are we to doubt that happening?
12 Retired: Nazr Mohammed
After years of serving as the wise, not-fully-retired mentor on several teams, longtime center Nazr Mohammad is retired...again. After cutting his first retirement in 2015 short, Mohammad called it quits after the 2015-16 season and said earlier this year that he's unofficially retired - but, with that said, is actually as retired as it gets.
“I realized a long time ago, seeing other friends and teammates go through it. Only the great ones actually retire. The rest of us get retired,” Mohammed told The Undefeated. “I don’t feel like I need to officially retire, but I am retired. ... My dream is to one day run my own organization, whether it’s GM or as the president of an organization. I think I can manage and help build a championship team."
11 Still Active: Richard Jefferson
Should Richard Jefferson have just stayed retired after winning an NBA Finals in 2015? Given he's playing garbage time minutes for a middle-of-the-road Nuggets team while giving sagely advice, the answer may potentially be yes, but at least he's continuing his well-loved Road Trippin' podcast. At his current rate, Jefferson is going to play his fewest games since an injury-plagued 33 for the New Jersey Nets in 2004-05, but if the Nuggets wind up turning it around and making a playoff run, will he really regret one final NBA season?
If the Nuggets are struggling around the trade deadline or need to clear roster spots, we should probably expect Jefferson to land with a contending team? Is it too early to rule out a return to the Cavaliers?
10 Retired: James Jones
You'd think Jones is another one of those barely-playing-and-instead-serving-as-a-mentor 15th man type of player, right? Well, Jones actually took a job with the Phoenix Suns front office and explained to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel earlier this season why he went that route instead of coaching or broadcasting.
"I was still in the mode of playing, but, also, I wanted to take some time away from the game and kind of reflect and kind of catch up at home. This opportunity presented itself and it was too good to pass up, just because, one, the direction the franchise was going, the talent that they have here, the young guys who are prime for a breakout, and then my relationship with [Suns owner] Robert Sarver from 10 years ago when I first came here in 2005."
For what it's worth, the Suns are outplaying any and all expectations after firing Earl Watson in October, so maybe Jones has something to do with it.
9 Still Active: Jason Terry
Yet another member of the 15th man group, Terry is among the league's oldest players at 40-years-old and could still probably drain a three if need be. But under former teammate Jason Kidd, Terry's role is simple: sit on the bench, give advice, don't do anything stupid, give more advice, and help us win a title. Not a bad job, right? When you're making $2.3 million to do exactly that and play maybe a minute or two a week, it's hard to better. This is America!
When Terry does wind up retiring, we very well may see him go into broadcasting instead of coaching, but he at least is getting that unofficial coaching experience now. How much longer is Terry going to keep playing for?
8 Retired: Amar'e Stoudemire
Really the only player on this list to have any type of glamorous retirement ceremony - like we said in the intro, there's a reason the Tim Duncans and Kobe Bryants aren't on here - Stoudemire makes this list because it'd be easy to think he's still playing in China or Israel. After years of injuries and diminishing play while healthy, Stoudemire finally retired from all basketball in September 2017 after ending his NBA career in 2016. Two retirements without technically coming back?
Stoudemire didn't really unveil a potential post-retirement plan, but continuing his role as a global ambassador for the NBA seems like a job that might appeal to him. Factor in the Suns eventually retiring his number and a mini-documentary on MSG and all will be well for the former Rookie of the Year.
7 Still Active: Baron Davis
After attempting to make a comeback and even tweeting how much he wanted to return to the NBA, you'd think Baron Davis would have simply retired and moved on. Well, Davis never tried such a thing, so he makes this list. Will we see him return to the NBA level as a player? No, probably not, but the G-League provides an opportunity for ex-NBA stars or role players to make one final comeback attempt. Don't believe me? Just prepare for some of the other names on this list.
It is interesting though that no one ever really took a chance on Davis, but that may have been because of what teams look for in point guard depth. Does Davis really have the athleticism needed at this point?
6 Retired: Elton Brand
Like Davis, Brand attempted a comeback and came fairly close, but those days are likely over. Unlike Davis, we know they're likely over because Brand officially retired earlier this year in a ceremony with the Philadelphia 76ers. Brand was robbed of his athleticism and elite ability after an Achilles injury in 2007, but never gave up his love for the game and never stopped tutoring younger teammates...although we wonder if Brand explained to Joel Embiid the importance of professionalism and social media.
And, if you ever played the older NBA 2K games, you knew how much of a beast in the paint Brand could be even in his final years. The days of Elton Brand int he NBA are gone, but maybe we'll see him in the Big3 next year.
5 Still Active: Emeka Okafor
Are we counting G-League players for this list? Given that they're not officially retired and are balling in some form, we are still indeed counting players like Emeka Okafor of the Deleware 87ers. Through his first month, Okafor was averaging a double-double in about 26 minutes per night over four games with the 87ers (the 76ers' G-League affiliate) and making 65 percent of his shots. Not bad!
At 35 years old, I can't guarantee we'll see Okafor back in the NBA, but at least he's playing for the affiliate of a team with a big man who is always struggling to stay healthy. Emeka may not be Jahlil, but the possibility of one Okafor replacing an injured Joel Embiid could become reality in the coming months if history repeats itself.
4 Retired: Kevin Martin
Wouldn't you think Kevin Martin is scoring in China or in the G-League? Believe it or not, Martin actually retired over a year ago, signing his papers in November 2016 following a stint with the San Antonio Spurs. Rather than do anything fancy for his retirement, Martin announced he was hanging his shoes up in the Zanesville Times Recorder (Ohio), his local paper;
"It was always about you! Special is just the start to describe you guys as part of my journey from day 1. Honestly, there isn't enough pages or enough days in a year for me to name everyone that has had a positive impact in my life. Every little kid that loves basketball dreams about playing in the same league as Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant, but I know it's the hope that others give that can only make that dream a reality."
3 Still Active: Kendrick Perkins
Not even being 33 years old can stop Kendrick Perkins from trying to make an NBA attempt in the G-League, but when you're averaging 12.2 points and 8.2 rebounds in six games through the end of November, why would you get discouraged? Like Okafor, Perkins could very well get an NBA contract later this season because he's a big man who can take fouls, grab rebounds, and provide a change-of-pace if need be.
Don't get us wrong, we know that Perkins' best days are long behind him, but what's stopping him from contributing to a playoff contender the way he tried to with the Cavaliers last season? If Perkins was an aging, slow point guard, I'd say his NBA comeback chances were numbered, but it never ends with big men!
2 Retired: Tayshaun Prince
Like James Jones, Prince retired to join an NBA front office (Memphis Grizzlies) as a special assistant in hopes of bringing his championship expertise to a team entering a transition phase. Having not played since the 2015-16 season, you knew Prince's retirement was impending when he joined the Grizzlies this past spring, but it's also crazy to think that none of those main mid 2000s Pistons stars are left when so many other teams from that era have one player still active.
Seriously, San Antonio still has Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker; Richard Jefferson represents the Nets; Dirk Nowitzki is still going for the Dallas Mavericks; Udonis Haslem and Dwayne Wade are both still playing...only the Pistons and the Shaq/Kobe Lakers are pretty much dead. Crazy!
1 Still Active: Anthony Bennett
You knew Anthony Bennett was going to be on this list, not only because he's 24 years old and a big man, but because he'll continue to get chances so long as he's healthy. Greg Oden would have gotten opportunity after opportunity if he could've stayed healthy, so maybe that's the main difference between these two on the bust scale?
Bennett's been a mixed bag early this season in the G-League, averaging around 12 points and seven rebounds per game in 24 minutes per game. Given that he's healthy and young enough for a team to take a chance on him, what's stopping the Suns from calling him up later in the season to see what he can do? Brooklyn and Toronto both did it and they're turning out fine. Maybe Bennett is a good luck charm!