Most players would have given up and likely retired.
Not Jason Richardson. No way. No chance.
The 34-year-old veteran guard refused to stop working. He wanted to go out on his terms, in his own way.
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If his body officially wilted, then he might have considered the idea of hanging up the uniform. Richardson knew there was more left.
He was correct.
Going through an astonishing 763 days between NBA games because of injuries to his left knee and right foot, Richardson finally came back on Feb. 20 against the Indiana Pacers, scoring seven points in 18 minutes. He has since posted double figures in scoring four times, including a 29-point outburst March 4 at Oklahoma City.
The Sixers (15-52) are going nowhere but the lottery once again.
So a natural question arises as to Richardson’s pursuit of playing time.
“I love the game,” Richardson said. “I just love the game. I respect the game. I feel like I can still play. As long as I feel good, I’m going to play. The game has given me so much. I really didn’t play for two years. My body feels good. My legs are good. I feel like I’m getting my rhythm back in my shot. I’m going to keep going. When I’m on the court, it’s such a great feeling.”
Richardson acknowledged that he’s not the same player as he once was when he won consecutive slam dunk titles during All-Star Weekend.
He believes that there’s plenty of basketball remaining to help the Sixers.
“Oh yeah, absolutely,” Richardson said. “I can shoot the ball. I’ve always been able to shoot the ball. I’ve worked at it my whole career. When I was rehabbing from injuries, I would start shooting when the doctors gave me the green light. I never stopped working on the court and training and rehabbing off the court. I wouldn’t stop. I just kept going and going. I didn’t just want to get back. I had to get back. I had to prove it to myself. Through it all, my love for the game became even stronger. That tells me I’m not ready to stop. I have miles to go.”
Sixers coach Brett Brown remembered the wonderful feeling of telling Richardson he was going to start against the Pacers last month.
“He’s a fantastic story and even a fantastic example for myself at 54 years old,” Brown said. “For our young guys to see the work he put in … he just wouldn’t go away. How many people would have given him the chance to play NBA basketball again? And for me to bring him in my office and say, ‘Jason, we’re going to play you and I want to start you.’ To look at him, you just get goose bumps.”
While the Sixers have 15 games left this season, Richardson has 15 more chances to play the game he loves.
“I give it everything I’ve got,” Richardson said. “I’ll do that until I can’t do it anymore. I hope that’s down the road because of my passion for this game.”