Loyalty is a fickle word, with various meanings, especially in professional sports, including the NBA. But what can you call Mike Conley of the Memphis Grizzlies, the only player from the 2007 NBA Draft first round that’s still playing for the team he played his rookie year on?
The 4th overall pick in 2007, Conley has been with the Grizzlies for nine years, recently signing the biggest contract in NBA history, over $150 million for five years. He had demand elsewhere, but not that kind of money. It might not be loyalty, but it fits the storyline we’re trying to tell, and the numbers.
Greg Oden, the number one pick in the draft, isn’t in the NBA anymore, and after the Portland Trail Blazers, and hiatus, he played a little bit for the Miami Heat. Oden played in Ohio State together with Conley.
Kevin Durant, the second overall pick, joined the Golden State Warriors this offseason, ruining his chance to be part of “history” along with Conley. Al Horford, one of four All-Star players in this draft class, joined the Boston Celtics after nine seasons in Atlanta.
Jeff Green, who has also played for Memphis, has been in Boston, Oklahoma City and the Los Angeles Clippers, now signed on the Orlando Magic. Joakim Noah, the ninth overall pick and another one of the All-Stars in this group, just signed with the New York Knicks after nine years with the Chicago Bulls.
The fourth All-Star? Marc Gasol, who is still with the Memphis Grizzlies, entering his 10th season with the team. However, one of the best defensive players in the NBA over the last decade, Gasol was only the 48th overall pick, and so his “loyalty” to the Grizzlies, which was tested in the 2015 offseason, isn’t regarded as special as Conley’s.