Loyalty isn’t a common trait among basketball, well actually most professional athletes these days, especially where a lot of money is involved. But still, like in our best one-club men in soccer we did a couple of months ago, there are those rare occasions in which great players in this modern age stay with their teams for their entire career. Mind you, the guys on this list are still active, but it’s really hard picturing most of them playing for anyone else. Plus, they get paid quite a lot of money. So here are the best one-team players in today’s NBA, with at least a decade of NBA career behind them. Sorry Jeff Foster, couldn’t put you on a best of something list.
Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics
Pierce has been with Boston since 1998, drafted by the Celtics at the 10th position after three successful seasons playing for Kansas. Pierce led the Celtics, along with Antoine Walker, to their first playoff appearance in seven years in 2002, making it to the Eastern conference finals (first time since 1988). Pierce endured the bad seasons between 2005-2007, including a 24 win season which seemed to involve the Celtics tanking. After Danny Ainge became the C’s GM in 2003 Pierce was linked with numerous trade rumors even after he signed a new contract in 2006. Eventually, bringing Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett in 2007 changed the fortunes of everyone involved, as Pierce won the Finals MVP in 2008, leading the Celtics to their first title since 1986, pretty much certifying his place among Celtics greats.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Cleveland Cavaliers
One of two Europeans on this list, big Z has been with the Cavs since 1997. Ilgauskas struggled with injuries in the early part of his NBA career, playing only 5 games in 1998-1999, missing the entire 1999-2000 season and 24 games in 2000-2001. After several surgeries, he finally found his form and fitness, becoming the Cavs’ starting center in 2002. The problem was the team was, well, crap. Then came Lebron James, and everything changed. Ilgauskas was never an elite big man but he’s always giving solid numbers and a soft touch from mid-range. He’s got two All-Star games in his resume and one NBA finals appearance. It’s hard to imagine Ilgauskas won’t be ending his career with the Cavs, probably not too far away in the future. Will a title ring be on his finger when he retires?
Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks
Well, what else can we write about the fantastic German who’s trying to lead the Mavs yet again to that elusive NBA title which was snatched from their fingers in 2006? Nowitzki came to Dallas in the midst of the rebuilding project under Don Nelson and really broke out, like the Mavs, after the turn of the century. Nowitzki has since become the all-time leader in most major categories for the franchise. In every off season there are a lot of trade rumors flying around involving Mavericks’ players, but Nowitzki is hardly involved in any of these, and it’s hard to believe he’ll be going anywhere with him still being among the elite forwards in the league.
Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
The best player in the league? Maybe. He is the reigning finals MVP and it seems he won’t be happy with anything less than a fifth NBA championship when 2009-2010 comes to an end. Bryant wasn’t even drafted by the Lakers but by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996, straight out of high school. Bryant had no intention of playing for the Hornets and was soon traded for Vlade Divac to the Lakers. The rest, as they say, is history. But for those of you who don’t remember, Kobe wasn’t always LA’s chosen son. After Shaq left in 2004, there were a few rough seasons for Kobe and the Lakers, with Kobe seemingly on the verge of leaving LA in 2006 and 2007. Probably the Bulls’ inability to put together an attractive enough package kept Bryant away from Chicago, and Pau Gasol heading to the Lakers in February 2008 changed his and the franchises direction towards the end of the decade.
Michael Redd, Milwaukee Bucks
Only recently back from injury, Redd seems now to be overshadowed by the Brandon Jennings show, but for most of this decade, this has been Redd’s team, especially after the departure of Ray Allen. Redd has been with the Bucks since 2000, making the playoffs three times, never making out of the first round. Redd was twice close to signing with other teams, once with the Mavs in 2002 and once with his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers and the chance to play with LeBron. He chose to stay with Milwaukee for more money (1oth highest paid player in the NBA). My guess is Redd won’t be a Buck forever.
Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
The big fundamental has been with the Spurs since 1997 and pretty much right away became the best player on the team with an aging David Robinson on his side. Twelve seasons later, Duncan is a four time NBA champions with 2 MVP awards. He is the greatest player ever to wear a Spurs uniform and is probably the greatest Power Forward to play the game. He is the San Antonio Spurs. Efficient, experienced, a bit boring, but good, still very good. No chance he’ll end up anywhere else till the day he retires.