Today marked the end of Shareef Abdur-Rahim's career, and the end of a saga that has brought me great inner-turmoil over the years.
The Kings are no doubt breathing a sigh of relief at this particular moment, as they'll likely get off easy for (at least) the last year of 'Reef's deal. That makes sense, considering the fact that he barely even hit the court at Arco last season. But it wasn't always that way.
Shareef started his career on some truly awful teams, and of course didn't quite get the respect that he deserved. He was always a good scorer and a solid rebounder. He didn't quite have the hyper efficiency that most pivots are accustomed to in terms of his field goal percentage, but he also had a usage rate that rivals Dirk and KG. He wasn't a superduper star, but he made sure you knew his name. Maybe you just knew him as "that hyphenated guy," but his play made damn sure he didn't go unnoticed. And yet, in the midst of being traded to Portland as the Blazers attempted to shed their "Jail" moniker, Abdur-Rahim rode quietly into the sunset. Some people inexplicably tagged him with the injury-prone label, despite the fact that, excluding his final year where he only played 6 games, he played 95% of all his games (including a rare 85 game season in '03-'04). This is a guy who played for the Grizzlies, Hawks, and Blazers (pre-great new hope), and he never mailed it in. He never shut it down. He never complained. He just put on his jersey, laced up those sneaks, and hit the floor with a career PER of 19. Nineteen! Just to put that in perspective, that's 77th on the all-time list. That's higher than Chauncey Billups, Jason Kidd, Jermaine O'Neal, Marcus Camby, Antawn Jamison, Tony Parker, Rasheed Wallace, and Dikembe Mutumbo. While some people may point to that list as a reason of why PER is broken, I call it a piece of significant evidence to the cause that this guy was severely underappreciated.
But while I maintained that thought, that image of Abdur-Rahim as a star and a consummate professional, in my ear were these whispers that he could only do it on a bad team, that he was plagued with injury problems, and that he wasn't good enough for our admirations. He wasn't a fluke on bad teams (and on that note, there is still something to be said about players who can put the ball in the bucket, no matter the team), just like he wasn't any of those other things. No, he wasn't a champ and he won't be a Hall of Famer. But Shareef Abdur-Rahim is a mother f*ckin baller who deserves your attention and your respect.