The NBA has seen a ton of talent over the last quarter century roll in and out of the league. Some have made a name for themselves and have continued their success up until retirement or even after.. Some guys disappear or faze out of the NBA. When competing at the highest level, there is always someone out there still working harder to get that same opportunity.
This list is more for those who were great or showed signs of their dominance, only to continue to grind and work on their craft, even when the credit dwindles and the light shines somewhere else. Many of these players are NBA future hall of famers looking for a Championship, while others cannot figure out when to let the game go.
These one time high profile athletes want to make the most out of their time playing sports because before they know it, they may have to find a real job. Something that they have to work with regular hours making less than millions of dollars to entertain the rest of us with their freakish athletic abilities. This list is for the guys behind the scenes, guys that have slipped under the radar the past few seasons.
15 Jason Terry
The jet is more like a single-engine piston at this point in his career. He is still a scoring spark off of the bench for his ex-teammate turned coach Jason Kidd, providing additional learning tools and experience for the young roster to lean on.
At this point, Terry is 39 years old and is easily averaging the lowest amount of minutes in his career, but he already has his ring and wants to be the guy who the players turn to for insight or guidance. Someone who has been there and who can show the Jabari Parker’s, Jon Henson’s and Greek Freak’s what it takes to win at the highest level. Sadly, that is what his role has come to but in many’s mind, we will always remember the headband wearing, Elmer Fudd looking baller who would swish a 3 and run down the court impersonating a jet with a massive smile on his face.
14 Chris Andersen (Birdman) & James Jones
The two of Chris Andersen and James Jones have been paired together as they are part of the “LeBron Boys.” The guys who follow LeBron from one NBA team to another looking to add to their ring collection. As frustrating as it is, can you really blame these guys? They are almost guaranteed to make it to the NBA Finals and if needed, they can provide limited minutes and possibly look like a hero in the process.
Chris (Birdman) Andersen is 38 years old while Jones is 36. Both have had minor roles over the past 2 plus years, and them being a must on the Cav’s roster has begun to hurt the team’s depth. When not suffering from injury, both guys are averaging around 8 minutes and 2 points per game.. I would say that normally it would be time to hang it up, but why retire when you can hope for King James to pull off another miracle?
13 Mike Miller
It has felt like Mike Miller has been retiring for the past 10 years. The 36-year-old Florida Gator alum has made a career of dropping few but important 3 point field goals when needed in clutch or playoff circumstances, usually alongside that of a LeBron James. He was at one time good enough to take home Rookie of the Year honors for the Orlando Magic, but those days are long gone.
How Miller has managed to make it 17 years in the league is beyond anyone’s knowledge. He has been suffering from back and leg injuries for many seasons and continues to make league rosters. You have to give him respect for the tenacity and grit but to do it for the Denver Nuggets the past two years averaging merely 1 PPG, is it really worth it Mike?
12 Mike Dunleavy
How in the hell was Mike Dunleavy Jr. a 3rd overall pick? The same way that he has made it 15 total years in the NBA. His dad… Just kidding. Consistency. Mike Dunleavy was the poster child for consistency during his time at Duke University. He has a well formed jump shot and will knock down open shots from both inside and beyond the arc. Rightfully so, his nickname is “the Natural”.
Mike’s flash and flare is not what makes him special. It is his high basketball IQ and ability to limit turnovers that keeps him around. Besides making the news recently for his disapproval of the almost guaranteed NBA Final bound Cavs trading him to Atlanta, it is pretty convincing that 90% of the NBA fan base didn’t know that Dunleavy was still playing. Although this is fitting as he has been rather low-key and under the radar the majority of his NBA tenure.
11 Jameer Nelson
Jameer Nelson had a lengthy and respectable tenure during his run in Orlando. Coming out of St. Joe’s, Nelson was undersized but has always played with a chip on his shoulder; a guy who plays much bigger than his stature shows. He sees the floor well and has a unique ability to score. He is a big reason why alongside Dwight Howard (pre-diva era), that the Magic were able to make a Finals push in 2008-09 only to fall short at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Since then, it almost seems as if Nelson has disappeared. One reason being, once Dwight left Orlando, they haven’t been relevant or successful. The second is that Nelson was shipped between three teams over the past three years. Still providing quality minutes in Denver at the age of 35, Nelson is just below is career average for points and assists. This continued productivity and experience could provide useful come the trade deadline this year.. I think one team (Cavs) may be looking for help?
10 Richard Jefferson
Unlike the Birdman and Jones duo, Jefferson has only been with LeBron in Cleveland, avoiding him being involved in the LeBron’s Boys group. Richard finally received his first NBA ship last year with the Cav’s, but he had other opportunities early on in his career with the New Jersey Nets.
New Jersey had four amazing talents in Jefferson, Vince Carter, Jason Kidd and Kenyon Martin in the early 2000s and everyone was young.. Unfortunately, two straight NBA Finals reached led to two straight Final’s losses in 2002 and 2003. After that, the team lost their mojo and slowly lost the talent. Jefferson was due a ring with the work that he had put in and career that he has had. It is only fitting that he does it as a veteran wing presence on a team that continues to look for guard depth. Even at 36, RJ is working 20 MPG and continues to do the garbage work for the Cavaliers unit.
9 Marvin Williams
Would anyone guess that the one-time NCAA Champion Marvin Williams is… 30 years old?! The 2nd overall pick in 2005 is still producing double digit points that would be assumed to continue for the next few years. At 30, a lot of the NBA is just getting into their prime or in the midst of it and Marvin has been doing what he does consistently for the last 12 years.
Only playing one year at UNC, the extremely valuable and lengthy small forward showed his talents throughout the year on the way to a National Championship. He left following his freshman season allowing his body to continue to mature at the highest level and consistently turning in 11 PPG and 6 RPG for the majority of his NBA days. He is the greatest kept secret as an unheard of NBA role man. The most you see of Williams is when he shows up sporadically on ESPN Top 10 either blocking someone beyond belief or posterizing someone forgetful of his natural athletic ability.
8 David West
In a solid and durable 14 year career, David West has given steadfast and often dominant seasons in nearly 10 of them. He has been the ultimate team player, serving it up offensively and defensively for whatever team he represents at that time. At this point in his career, it is all about finding himself a ring.
At 36 years old, there isn’t exactly a lot of time left for the physically bruising 2 time all-star. He has jumped three teams in in six years after the majority of his career was spent with the Hornets franchise. He is taking substantially reduced money and positioning himself in accordance with the team he feels gives him the best opportunity in finding what every unselfish player wants, a championship. He looks to be in the right place in Golden State as they have the best record in the NBA, and he is a great mentor to the versatile yet emotional Draymond Green. We may be looking at a future head coach if everything falls into place in the Bay Area for West.
7 Al Jefferson
As one of what seems like few successful high school to professional draft picks, the veteran Al Jefferson has been killing the game for 13 years and is only 32 years of age. By being drafted so young, Jefferson seems like a thing of the past, or a has been. Some forget he is in the league as he was a part of some poor NBA teams in Boston, Minnesota, Utah and Charlotte.
Like others on this list, the aging star wanted to make a move to a competitive team and chose Indianapolis. Unfortunately, this move has resulted in Jefferson’s lowest production since his sophomore season and the talented but underachieving Pacers are only in 6th place in the East. Maybe, if this unit can figure it out, they could be deadly. The potential is there, maybe next year or the following. However, Paul George will be a free agent soon and let’s be honest, no one can beat the Cavs for the Eastern Conference Title. If Al isn’t openly shopping the market now, he should be soon if he wants to realistically gain a title before father time starts taking more of a toll.
6 Jeff Green
Everyone knows that Oklahoma City had three superstars and looking back, the potential that team had to build off of was unbelievable. You can’t help to think, what could have been. But for just less than two full seasons, Oklahoma City had their three young studs in Durant, Westbrook, and Harden, but they also had one more weapon in the versatile Jeff Green. Jeff started out hot in his career, always hanging around 15 PPG and 5-6 RPG. He was capitalizing on his opportunities and gelled nicely with the young core as everyone could learn and grow together.
This was perfect until these pieces started falling off one-by-one. Jeff was the first to go via trade, but that wasn’t the only thing that halted his success. In 2011 he was found to have a heart condition and had to sit out an entire season following surgery. Ever since then, Green has almost lost a step and has slowly declined in production. Now he is a decent bench spark, finding himself in a 24 MPG and 10 PPG role for the Orlando Magic. This high production but low minute total represents the athleticism and offensive threat Green has always been.
5 Joe Johnson
A man they call “Iso Joe” & “Armadillo Cowboy” is next up on the list. Joe Johnson has been a model for durability and consistency over a 16 year NBA career. At his worst, Joe appeared in 57 total games in 2007 but started and played in all 82 games in 2006 and 2008. For his career, the 35 year old has plugged in 16.5 PPG and knocked in 25 PPG during his first of 7 all-star seasons. Joe is the man and has been doing it under the radar and quietly for so long, he deserves some recognition.
After the awful investment/experiment in Brooklyn, Johnson has found himself a nice home in Utah during this 2016-17 season. The Jazz are young and on the rise and Johnson’s added minutes and leadership are a big part of the success. Utah is the toughest team to score on in the NBA and they currently find themselves sitting in 4th place in the West. Not a bad situation to be in during the latter part of his career, the only thing missing is the Armadillo’s ring.. Maybe the Jazz will have some luck in the next few years that they couldn’t find during the Malone/Stockton era due to some guy they call Jordan.
4 Tyson Chandler
It is hard to believe that the agile high school draft pick is now in his 16th year in the NBA and remains a highly respected big man this late in his career. The crazy thing is that Chandler is only 34. The age of 34 is not young for an NBA athlete by any means, but Tyson is still playing almost 30 minutes a game and averaging double digit rebounds.
As the 2nd overall pick in 2001, Chandler has been great on the boards and defensively for his entire career and he doesn’t look to be slowing down. He has a very real possibility of playing 20+ years in the NBA if his body can stay in good form with all of his experience. People forget that this man played an extremely valuable role on a heavily experienced Dallas Mavericks championship team. Nowadays, he is almost unheard of because he is playing for an abysmal team in Phoenix that has young players, but little hope to be relevant in the next few years in a top heavy Western Conference.
3 Metta World Peace
Metta World Peace AKA Ron Artest, will best be known either for his tenacious defensive presence or the Malice in the Palace. Metta has always been an odd individual, asking guys like Stephen Jackson if he thought they would get in trouble for fighting multiple fans and beating one with his own shoe one night in Detroit. He is certainly a character and a guy with a lot of energy.
What is not so known is that Metta is still active with the team that he once won an NBA Championship, the Los Angeles Lakers. Receiving high praise from one of the best ever in Kobe Bryant certainly kept Metta in business as Kobe loved his scrappy hustle and all around competitive nature. That same personality is now helping to rebuild Luke Walton’s crazy young and super talented Laker roster. He only plays 5 minutes a game, but his impact is more behind the scenes at the age of 37 and ironically, wearing number 37.
2 Paul Pierce
If it wasn’t for a recent trip into Boston and the TD Garden, Paul Pierce would not have been any sort of headline. “The Truth” had decided at the beginning of the 2016-17 season that it would be the last of the future Hall of Famers career. There is no arguing what Pierce has done in his time with Boston, nor just his overall impact on the league.
Pierce is 39 for the remainder of his final season, and is receiving minutes like it. He is under 12 minutes per game and averaging just 4 PPG. Despite the numbers, there is a lot to like about Pierce’s situation. With the talent, experience, and coaching the Clippers have, they will be an extremely dangerous team come playoff time assuming the core is healthy. With Pierce playing so little, his old body will be ready to go come playoff time as we saw him hit clutch shots and buzzer beaters in tough spots for the Clippers last season. If the Clippers are healthy, they are the only team in the Western Conference who present a real threat to Golden State. Best of luck “Truth.”
1 Vince Carter
One of the most exciting players ever to lace up is now 40 years old and still producing! One season away from his 20th overall, Vinsanity is exactly that. At his age, he has gained a little weight and lost a step or two, but the gritty Memphis Grizzly is still relevant despite being one of the oldest players in the league.
In his prime, Vince was a consistent scorer averaging upwards of 25 PPG. He could jam from anywhere in any form and even has been known to leap over 7 footers in international play (absurd). Now, he rakes in about 9 on a nightly basis but that is all the Western Conference contending Grizzlies require of sir Vince. The current 6th place team continues to use great defense and a well-oiled half-court offense to wear down opponents. Vince is clinging onto the hope to add another ring to his collection.