August 2005: Shareef Abdur-Rahim
In September 2008, Shareef Abdur-Rahim retired as a basketball player. He was only 32. He immediately joined the coaching staff of the Sacramento Kings, his final team. But they were still paying his contract as a player.
Shareef started his career with the Vancouver Grizzlies, spending his first five years there and appearing in 375 out of a possible 378 games. Even more impressively, he played in 14,237 out of a possible 18,144 minutes in that span, 78.4% of all available minutes. Playing in over three quarters of almost every game for five years is a pretty Herculean effort for any man. But Reef didn't stop there.
In the 2001 offseason, Shareef was traded to Atlanta in a one-sided deal for Brevin Knight, Lorenzen Wright and the draft rights to Pau Gasol. (Wright, Knight and rights. I see what they did there.) Abdur-Rahim kept up his warhorse approach, and played in 77 and 81 games over the next two years, averaging over 38 minutes per game both times.
(Bonus trivia; the Grizzlies GM at the time of that Pau trade was the much maligned Billy Knight, whose next job was going to Atlanta to clear up the mess his fine trade had put them in. Tough break.)
Even more impressively, Shareef was traded to the Blazers partway through the 2003/04 season, and wound up playing in an emphatic 85 regular season games that year due to the two team's schedules not quite matching up. Reef came off the bench for the Blazers, and the 2,684 minutes that he played that season were a career low for a non-strike shortened season, but he still featured heavily. In total, Shareef had played 618 games and 22,988 minutes in his first 8 years, averages of more than 77 games and 2,873 minutes a season.
Shareef played one more year for the Blazers in 2004/05, playing in 54 games and being back to a 35 minutes per game player. He missed 28 games that year, more than his career missed games total until that point, most of which were due to elbow surgery. At the end of the year, he became a free agent, and agreed to a sign-and-trade deal to the New Jersey Nets. (Them again.)
Then it got weird. The Nets rescinded the trade, due to some bad times that they foresaw in Shareef's physical examination results. A scan of his right knee revealed a build-up of scar tissue, and despite the fact that Shareef had not missed a single game in his career until that point with any injury with his right knee, the Nets found the prognosis sufficiently bad to rescind the trade, and to miss out on the high scoring big man that they needed so badly.
The Nets were roundly denounced as scaremongering pansies for this. Shareef wasn't happy, feeling that his name had been besmirched, and New Jersey's subsequent acquisition of Marc Jackson instead didn't quite bring with it the same stench of quality that Shareef did (who averaged as-near-as-is 20 points and 8 rebounds for his career at the time).
But in the end, they were right.
Only three days after the trade was rescinded, Shareef signed a five year full mid level exception contract with the Sacramento Kings, making basically the same amount of money that he would have done under the original Nets deal. His first season with the Kings was solid, averaging 12.3 points in 27 minutes of 72 games, posting a PER of 17.2 and a true shooting percentage of .588%.
However, it then started to go wrong; his second season was a career worst, with averages of 9.9 points and 5.0 rebounds in 25 minutes per game, along with a troublesome 3 fouls a contest and a true shooting percentage of only .524%. Shareef still managed to appear in 80 games with 45 starts, but he had started to drop off rapidly.
From there, it capitulated; Reef appeared in only 6 games and 51 minutes the following season, missing almost the entire shaboodle with knee trouble, and he never recovered. He retired in the 2008 offseason with two guaranteed years left on his contract, and with only 158 games played to show for the $29 million that the Kings spent on him. The knee, which hadn't been a problem early in his career, had broken down in exactly the way that the Nets doctors predicted that it would.
So you can see how the Nets were correct not to give him a six year contract.