ESPN’s Richard Jefferson Had an Extremely Unappreciated and Lucrative NBA Career

ESPN basketball analyst Richard Jefferson is the perfect example of how multiple generations can interpret a player.

Older basketball fans will remember Jefferson for his days in the then-New Jersey Nets’ Big 3 with legendary point guard Jason Kidd and star shooting guard Vince Carter.

Another generation knew Jefferson as a veteran presence who later won a ring with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Younger fans may only know Jefferson for his broadcast work on ESPN and the YES Network.

This is the reality of things: Jefferson had a far more underappreciated and lucrative career than some people may realize.

Richard Jefferson had a lengthy NBA career

Richard Jefferson played 17 NBA seasons, going from a borderline All-Star in his prime to the wise mentor in his last years.

The then-New Jersey Nets used the 13th overall pick on Jefferson in 2001, and the rookie from Arizona State contributed 9.4 points and 3.7 rebounds in 79 games and nine starts.

Jefferson opened the next season as the starting small forward, and he averaged 17.4 points on 47.5% shooting from the field, 5.4 rebounds, and an even three assists in his seven total seasons with the Nets.

New Jersey traded Jefferson to Milwaukee in 2008-09, a deal that began the former first-round pick’s rapid journey around the league. Jefferson put up 19.6 points and 4.6 rebounds in his lone season with the Bucks, then signed with Tim Duncan and the Spurs.

Over the next decade, Jefferson played for six teams and won an NBA Finals in June 2016 with LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

Jefferson had a better career than some may remember

When Richard Jefferson retired in October 2018, it had been over four seasons since he last was a regular starter.

Jefferson averaged 12.6 points and four rebounds in 1,181 games and 809 total starts across his 17 seasons. He added 10.8 points and 4.3 rebounds in 140 career postseason games, 75 of which he started.

No, Jefferson is not getting into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame with those numbers. That doesn’t mean Jefferson didn’t have a career worth remembering.

According to Basketball-Reference, Jefferson ranked eighth among players from his draft class with a 19.4 VORP, or Value over Replacement Player. Pau Gasol led the pack with 57.5 VORP, while Tony Parker — at 30.1 — was the only other player who even topped 30 VORP.

According to Basketball-Reference, Jefferson made over $116 million for his career. Considering he spent most of his final six seasons as a reserve or sixth man, Jefferson and his bank account certainly benefited from a long NBA career.

Richard Jefferson has become a breakout broadcasting star


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Richard Jefferson briefly pursued a comeback attempt in 2019, but it appears his playing days are officially over.

Luckily for Jefferson, he has plenty of work to keep him busy. Jefferson is an NBA analyst on ESPN and appears on studio shows to discuss the sport’s latest ongoings.

The former Nets star is also entering his third season on the YES Network, where he calls Brooklyn Nets games or works from the studio, depending on the night.

Jefferson and former Cavaliers teammate Channing Frye still host the Road Trippin’ podcast. The show, which features Lakers TV reporter Allie Clifton, is NBA-centric and involves tales from Frye and Jefferson’s careers.

All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.