The year was 2016, and the record-breaking 73-win Golden State Warriors were leading the Cleveland Cavaliers 3-1. Then, the unthinkable happened.
The Cavaliers became the first team in NBA Finals history to come back from a 3-1 deficit to win the series and the championship. This series has gone down as one of the greatest NBA playoff series of all time.
Most fans, when they think about the Cavaliers championship team, they think of LeBron James or Kyrie Irving, as they were the stars of the team. But the Cavaliers wouldn't have won without their role players.
This includes a player who averaged 5.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per game in the Finals. The player I'm speaking of is Richard Jefferson.
The Life And Basketball Career Of Richard Jefferson
Richard Allen Jefferson was born on June 21, 1980, in Los Angeles, California. He was the son of Richard Jefferson Sr. and Meekness LeCato. Jefferson's parents were separated, and his mother raised him alone in Phoenix, where they moved to.
Jefferson's mother eventually remarried, and she and her new husband became Christian missionaries who would travel to Africa to help the people. This led to Jefferson traveling around a lot as a child, but he would end up attending Moon Valley High School in West Phoenix.
Jefferson had a successful high school basketball career, as he led his school to win the 1998 State Championship. After high school, Jefferson attended the University of Arizona for three years, where he averaged 11.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game.
In the 2000-01 season, Jefferson's Arizona Wildcats reached the championship game, where they'd lose 82-72 to the Duke Blue Devils. Jefferson was an All-Midwest and All-Final Four selection during the 2000-01 season.
After the 2000-01 season, Jefferson entered the 2001 NBA Draft. The Houston Rockets selected Jefferson with the 13th pick in the first round, but this pick was then traded to the New Jersey Nets.
Richard Jefferson was now an NBA player, and his rookie campaign would be spent in New Jersey with Jason Kidd and the Nets. In Jefferson's rookie season, the Nets finished with a 52-30 record, which was the best in the Eastern Conference.
Jefferson averaged 9.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game as a rookie. He was named to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team.
Jefferson's numbers didn't jump off the stat sheet when looking at them, but he played solid defense during his time on the court. His play helped the Nets achieve success that they haven't seen in their NBA days.
Jefferson would see two NBA Finals in his first two seasons, but unfortunately, the Nets would lose in both (4-0 in 2002, 4-2 in 2003). After seven seasons in New Jersey, the Nets traded Jefferson to the Milwaukee Bucks before the 2008-09 season.
Jefferson would only spend one season with the Bucks before being traded to the San Antonio Spurs in 2009. The Spurs were a dynasty, winning titles in 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007, and 2014.
Unfortunately for Jefferson, he wouldn't see a title with the Spurs, as he spent two and a half seasons in San Antonio before being traded during the 2011-12 season to the Golden State Warriors. Jefferson would bounce around from Golden State to the Utah Jazz in the 2013-14 season to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2014-15 season.
Finally, Jefferson signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers on August 5, 2015. Jefferson's first season with the Cavaliers resulted in the heroic comeback championship win.
Jefferson would play one more season in Cleveland before signing with the Denver Nuggets. After just one season with the Nuggets, Jefferson announced his retirement from the NBA on October 13, 2018.
Jefferson finished his career as the perfect role player. Even if he didn't light up the scoreboard on a nightly basis, he did his job, and he did it well.
Jefferson finished with career averages of 12.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game.
Jefferson may have wanted to retire, feeling it was the right time anyway. But there was a terrible incident that may have led to his decision.
Jefferson's father, who he finally grew close with in his last few years in the NBA, was killed in a drive-by shooting in Compton, California. This occurred in September, one month before Jefferson decided to call it a career. Jefferson put out a heartfelt message on Instagram about his late father.
“In the last month I’ve dealt with two life changing events back to back. My decision to move on from basketball and the tragic passing of Big Rich. The support of my family and friends have been huge. This video was taken after he bbq’d for about 20 people, something he would do a few times every summer. All I would do is tell people that I was having people over to my house and the next question was ‘Is Big Rich on the grill?’ He really was a true OG. I’m going to miss all his one-liners, his cooking and his ability to make a whole room laugh. Until next time!!!!”
Of course, it's a terrible thing to lose a father, especially in a violent way. But I think I speak for all fans that we're glad Jefferson was able to gain a relationship with his father before his passing.
Richard Jefferson Finds Post NBA Success As An Analyst
After an NBA player retires from playing basketball, they often struggle to find the next career in their life. Many NBA players have gone broke because of these struggles.
Richard Jefferson hasn't had to worry about that as he's not only found a post-playing career but he's found success in this career. Only three days after retiring from the NBA, Jefferson joined the YES Network to work on Nets games as a game and studio analyst.
In 2019, Jefferson joined ESPN as an NBA analyst on shows like First Take, SportsCenter, NBA Countdown, Hoop Streams, Get Up!, and NBA Today. Jefferson also calls NBA games for ESPN.
Fans enjoy hearing Jefferson's takes on the game, and this led to Jefferson starting a popular podcast called Road Trippin'. Jefferson is also very popular on all forms of social media, from TikTok to Twitter. Fans love his tweets, especially when he tweets at other basketball players:
Jefferson's work on Snapchat was so good that he actually won For The Win’s Best Sports Snapchatter of the Year award in 2016. On top of winning awards on social media, Jefferson recently worked as a referee in a Summer League game between the Knicks and the Blazers.
Of course, fans decided to get on Jefferson by booing his calls. Fans also trolled him on social media, as well as other sports media.
Richard Jefferson truly is a joy to watch on TV and on social media. We hope whatever he decides to do next, he's successful at it and has fun while doing it.
Before you go, enjoy Jefferson dancing on TikTok:
The Best NBA Player For Every Scenario: Stephen Curry Will Not Miss The 3-Point Shoot, Kevin Durant Would Beat Any Defender 1-On-1