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The Daily Wildcat

 

Richard Jefferson retires after winning NBA Championship

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Mike Cardew
Cleveland Cavaliers’ Richard Jefferson, right, celebrates to the cheers of the crowd as he exits the plane after arriving at Atlantic Aviation on June 20, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Mike Cardew/Akron Beacon Journal/TNS )

Only a select number of professional athletes get to finish their careers at that top of their field, with a trophy in hand and a championship ring on their finger, but Richard Jefferson was lucky enough to join that group on Sunday night.

The UA alum helped the Cleveland Cavaliers erase a 3-1 series deficit in the NBA Finals to defeat the Golden State Warriors in seven games and win Cleveland’s first major sports title since 1964.

“I’m done, I’m done,” an elated, but exhausted Jefferson told Fox Sports Ohio after the 93-89 Game 7 victory. “I need a cigar.”

The 35-year-old played in all seven games of the Finals and started in two of them, averaging 5.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, while providing much-needed perimeter defense against the Warriors’ highly-talented wing players.

And thanks in part to Jefferson’s final efforts, the Cavaliers were able to do what no other NBA team has done before—win the NBA Finals after trailing 3-1 in the series.

Jefferson was inserted into the starting lineup in Game 3, scoring nine points and grabbing eight rebounds in 33 minutes in a 30-point Cleveland win—a win which served as a turning point in the series, as the Cavaliers would win three of the next four to take home the Larry O’Brien trophy.

“I’m just so overjoyed with our performance, and our resilience these last few weeks,” Jefferson told NBA TV.

After 13 seasons in the NBA and three years at the UA, Jefferson finally made it to the pinnacle of the basketball world.

But it didn’t come without heartbreaking failure first.

In 2001, Jefferson, while at Arizona, lost to Duke in the National Championship game in what would be the final game of his collegiate career.
Then, after entering the NBA, Jefferson made it to the NBA Finals in back-to-back years with the New Jersey Nets in 2002 and 2003. He’d lose both times.

So now that Jefferson has achieved the ultimate goal of becoming a champion, it’s easy to understand why he’d be satisfied enough to walk away from the game.

As of now, that’s what he plans to do, but admittedly, it won’t be easy for him.

“Maybe,” he said when asked if he would re-consider his decision. “If you ask me now, yes. But we’ll see.”

His teammates certainly aren’t making his decision any easier.

“[They] keep trying to talk me out of it,” Jefferson told NBA TV. “And I’m like guys, this has been the most stressful 

month of my life.”

However, if Jefferson does stick to his plan and his playing career is truly over, he couldn’t have asked for a better end to it all.

“Hell of a way to go out,” Jefferson said.


Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter


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