Did you know Richard Jefferson has asthma? If so, did you know his struggle with asthma got so bad around 2012, while he was a member of the Golden State Warriors nobody gave a damn about, he actually thought about retiring? Luckily for him, he didn’t hang up the sneakers because he ended up winning a championship four year later against the 73-win Warriors. Then he retired…and came out of retirement before most knew he was retired.
I recently got to chat with the 36-year old defending champ/podcaster/snapchat king about his 16-year and counting career, which should have started in my current hometown of Houston. In 2001, the Houston Rockets drafted him with the 13th pick. Later that night they traded his rights, along with two other first-round picks (Brandon Armstrong and Jason Collins) to the Nets for their 7th pick — the late Eddie Griffin.
Why weren’t you at the draft?
“This is what happened. I was projected to go 10-15. I worked out with the Rockets and they bad mouthed me. ‘I didn’t do this. I do that.’ It went up the food chain to other teams. I remember working out with the Hornets and they asked me how did I shoot in Houston. I thought I did pretty well and they said the Rockets told them I couldn’t shoot. Then on draft night, I was picked by the Rockets and was the first player drafted that wasn’t invited to the green room”
Jefferson wasn’t exactly thrilled about going from Arizona to New Jersey either but felt a lot better the next day when his agent called to tell him Nets President Rod Thorn was trading Stephon Marbury for point God Jason Kidd.
I pulled out a 2001 issue of Slam Magazine with the always awesome “Rookies Most Likely To” feature and read off every instance related to Jefferson, which was just two. Once for “Be better than you thought” and once for “prove Rod Thorn is out of touch.” Both got a laugh out of him before mentioning Thorn ended up winning Executive of the Year that season.
What exactly is in that New Jersey water that helped you and Vince Carter maintain your hops for so long?
“Vince is just unique and my opinion the best dunker of all-time.”
What was your thoughts when Nike pitched the idea of you having a dunk-off with Vince in that 2003 commercial?
“They didn’t have to pitch anything. Vince was a superstar and I was a young up and comer so they just had to tell me what time to be there and I was there. It was a lot of fun and I was all smiles trying not to be a fan boy around him.”
Like Vince, Richard participated in the McDonalds High School All-American and NBA dunk contest; unlike Vince, Jefferson didn’t do that well in either of the contests. But, he has had some great in-game dunks.
You have had a lot of memorable dunks. Which one of these three are you most proud of: Young RJ on Kobe, I’m sure Kobe fans will say you didn’t dunk on him (Jefferson interrupts and says, “Oh, I did!”)? Young RJ on Kevin Willis? Or 36-year old RJ on Klay Thompson?
“Klay Thompson for a bunch of reasons! I lost both of those other NBA Finals and I know Klay personally since he was a rookie when I was on the Warriors. It was funny and a such a high since it was Christmas day and I was having a terrible game before that dunk.”
How much has your dieting, exercise and lifestyle changed since your rookie season.
In years 9 and 10 I had to reevaluate my lifestyle. I changed what I was eating, started doing Yoga and other forms of exercise like biking and volleyball. But I was still struggling with my asthma and didn’t have the lungs to play how I wanted. After a quarter I felt like I played a double overtime game. While looking for a solution, I found hat’s when I found the Bronchial Thermaplasty procedure and it helped me regain my mojo.
How serious of an issue is asthma in the NBA? I know its bothered guys like DeAndre Jordan and supposedly hurt the stock of Kevon Looney.
I thought about retiring five years ago because of it. And that’s why I swear by this procedure and wish it was available 10 years ago.
Your a big believer in Yoga. Are players more receptive to trying it now than they were 10 years ago.
Yes! We know how it can help with our longevity and help us be healthier at a later age. Look at Lebron at 32 and how well he takes care of his body with improved treatments, icing, massages. etc.
Speaking of Lebron, the resting issue?
Guys that have issue with rest are stupid. This is how you stop the conversation. Popovich is the most successful coach in modern day sports. Look at his accomplishments (Jefferson impressively rattles off Pop’s resume as if he was reading a checklist in front of his face) and the success of the Spurs, if they do it then they are probably doing it right.
I’m not for this at all but do you think shortening the season is a possible solution?
No, don’t shorten the season. Add four to five days. No resting on nationally televised games. Give a 24-hour heads up.
Jefferson then went off on the NFL’s laughable injury report and left me completely speechless while asking why it’s an issue when winning teams rest but not when losing teams do it for tanking purposes.
The Lakers rested Mozgov and Luol Deng and nobody cared. What about the Russian Dad who brought his son to see Mozgov?
Mozgov!? I personally loved his local Cleveland bar commercials as much as any Cavs fan but I can’t imagine one father in the entire world proudly taking his son to a Lakers game just to see the overpaid center on a team full of guys who can’t even legally drink yet. But, I get what Jefferson was saying.
I then gave my thoughts on why LeBron James is arguably the most valuable player every single season (just not this one) for the same reason I thought Shaq and Michael Jordan could have been the MVP for stretches of their career. As expected, Jefferson agreed with my statements about his teammate.
“People always look at stats and every year people are going to get excited over this year’s sexy numbers. Pop could be coach of the year, every year, but so and so did this or that or something unexpected, so that coach wins. People have gotten used to seeing LeBron’s greatness (he then rattled off a list of recent accomplishments longer than Pop’s resume).”
Those “sexy numbers” belong to Russell Westbrook this year. And I’m not taking anything away from him, but I’ve been pretty vocal about fans who are acting like his triple-double average isn’t the result of a team decision and effort and how the triple-double — a term that wasn’t even acknowledged until the 80s, when the Lakers PR team had to find ways to brag about Magic Johnson averaging half a assist less than a triple-double for a season — is a tad overrated.
Anyways, back to the topic of people getting numb to something they consistently see and not appreciating something until it’s gone. Richard Jefferson is a player I’m going to miss when he’s gone. He doesn’t fall under the category as “great” but his 16-year basketball journey from a guy who wasn’t invited to sit in the green room to an underrated player who overcame health issues to am eventual NBA champions is a great one.
Thanks to the people at Boston Scientific for setting me up with Jefferson for the chat. You can read more about them and get information about Bronchial Thermoplasty at BTforasthma.com.