Loyalty and Respect
It’s no secret that NBA superstars who have a long tenure with the team that drafted them are adored by that respective city, if not the whole league. Guys like Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, and Dirk Nowitzki are forever loved because of their loyalty to their teams. Heck, maybe Chicago would still like Michael Jordan had he never put on a Washington Wizards uniform. Point being, all these guys have garnered league-wide respect for their efforts in one place over the years.
The latest blockbuster trade that sent Chris Paul to the Oklahoma City Thunder and Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets shaking up the league. The trade gives Stephen Curry the title of longest-tenured active player with the team that drafted them. Westbrook was drafted by the Seattle Supersonics in 2008 before the franchise moved to OKC a year later. Curry, taken in the 2009 draft by the Golden State Warriors, is still at the helm.
With the hectic 2019 NBA free agency period coming to a close, the Westbrook-CP3 trade feels like icing on the cake. Eight All-Star appearances, two scoring titles, a Finals appearance, and an MVP award speak volumes; however, the “brodie” certainly had an impact on the Thunder franchise. Let’s look at some of the longest-tenured active players still with their original teams and how their success stacks up.
1. Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors– 10 Seasons)
Curry just finished up his tenth season in the East Bay with the Golden State Warriors. New fans of the NBA may think his tenure with the Dubs has been nothing but successful. Golden State won three of the last five NBA Finals; however, things were not all rainbows and sunshine for the baby-faced superstar.
Curry and the Warriors went just 26-56 in his rookie campaign, finishing near the bottom of the Western Conference. Then, the injury bug was relentless on the ankles of Curry. Consecutive injuries in his second, third, and fourth years in the league caused him to miss time each year. The third season, the lockout-shortened season the NBA endured in 2011-2012, saw Curry play in only 26 contests. His early struggles brought forth a promise from a young Curry.
A trade of the face of the franchise, Monta Ellis, turned the keys to the Warriors over to Curry. Steph has been the number one option for his team since that trade before the 2012-2013 season. Golden State hasn’t missed the playoffs since. Six All-Star appearances, a scoring title, two MVP’s, and three championships have solidified his status as a legend in the Bay Area forever.
2. John Wall (Washington Wizards– 9 seasons)
the Wizards drafted John Wall, one of the most underrated point guards in the league, in 2010. His contract may not reflect that, with a four year, $170 million deal set to begin next season. However, he is typically not brought up in the conversations regarding top point guards.
Wall’s averages during his tenure in Washington have been impressive, sitting at 19 points, 9.2 assists, and 4.3 rebounds a night. The latest heat on John Wall comes from the postseason failures, and now, the time missed to injury.
The Wizards are yet to make it past the conference finals with Wall at the helm. That is not entirely be on him, as his playoff averages are solid. Still, postseason miscues always get exclusively pinned on the top star of a team.
Injuries have also hindered Wall’s success, especially in the past two seasons. He played just 41 games in the 2017-2018 campaign before surgery on his left heel ended his season. Wall ruptured his Achilles after just 32 games last season, with questions about how much that will impact the 2019-2020 season still lurking.
Still, despite some playoff hiccups and injuries, Wall’s time in Washington has still been fun to watch. He’s made five All-Star games and earned All-Defensie honors in 2014-2015. His career has also brought a couple of tears to fans’ eyes.
Honorable Mention: Bradley Beal (7 seasons)
3. Tristan Thompson (Cleveland Cavaliers – 8 seasons)
Tristan Thompson is a bit of an outlier on this list. Not because he hasn’t spent a lot of time with the team that drafted him, but because he has never been the top star of that team.
Even before the return of LeBron James in 2014, Thompson was always second fiddle in terms of talent to Kyrie Irving. That was ok, though, as Thompson brought a certain level of toughness and grit that the struggling Cavaliers needed before LeBron’s return. He averaged almost twelve points and six rebounds a night in the last two years of the “LeBron-less” Cavs. Thompson also played four consecutive 82 game seasons from 2012 through 2016, something blue-collared Clevelanders were very fond of.
The 2016 postseason, as of now, is what “T-Top” will be remembered for most in Cleveland. These playoffs started rough for Thompson, too, as he failed to record a double-digit scoring game through the conference finals.
The Finals, however, is where he shined. Against the Golden State Warriors, he averaged a double-double and made his impact felt while on the floor, something he struggled with at times that season. His efforts were instrumental in helping Cleveland dethrone the Warriors that year. His plus-minus that postseason per 100 possessions actually averaged out better than Kyrie’s, with Thompson’s at +12.4 and Irving’s at +10.1.
Thompson’s status of “star” will always be questioned as the Cavs playoff appearances came and went with the tenure of LeBron James. However, his dedication to the wine and gold will never be up for debate.
4. Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers– 7 seasons)
“Dolla Dame” Lillard has become of one of the most prolific offensive guards in the game in Portland. After missing out on the playoffs his rookie season (where he won Rookie of the Year), the Blazers are yet to miss out on the postseason since that year with Lillard running the show.
A shooting machine, Dame has averaged over 25 points a night each of the last three seasons. He’s been in the top ten in three-point makes as well as a top twenty scorer every season in the league. Lillard also finished second in offensive win shares last year.
He’s made four All-Star games and helped the Trail Blazers reach their first conference finals since 2000 this past year. This last postseason was crucial for Lillard’s legacy, as doubts of him as a leader were thrown around following back-to-back first round exits in 2017 and 2018. However, this shot over Paul George that eliminated OKC helped bring Dame back to superhero status.
There’s still work to do in Rip City, but the Portland faithful should be confident so long as Lillard continues his tenure their.
Honorable Mention: CJ McCollum (6 seasons)
5. Andre Drummond (7 seasons- Detroit Pistons)
Drummond has tasted the least amount of success amongst these guys, with his Pistons only seeing the playoffs twice during his tenure in the Motor City. Both trips resulting in first round exits. Both sweeps.
The lack of success is not a knock on Drummond, however, as he has averaged a triple double every season since his rookie year. He’s finished top two in total rebounds and led the league in offensive boards every season in the league. Andre serves as the definition of a glass-eater.
On top of being an animal on the boards, his defensive numbers read extremely well. He’s finished top three in defensive rating each of the last three seasons and led the league in shares the past two years.
With the only other star in Detroit being an aging Blake Griffin, the chance of larger postseason success for Drummond seems low.
The most successful tenure of the bunch probably belongs to Stephen Curry. However, all of these superstars have displayed tons of loyalty to their respective teams while in the league. Safe to say they will all be adored by their cities, and the league, when they hang the sneakers up for good.