No one can tell the future. No matter what any clairvoyant might claim, it just cannot happen; we can’t even predict with total accuracy what the weather will be like tomorrow. And that uncertainty is never truer than in the NBA. You simply cannot guess what will come… and yet we’re going to anyway.
In all of sports, there is perhaps nothing more precious and admirable than a one-team player, someone who stays loyal to one team for his entire career. It is then that they show that they are more than just professionals, they are passionate fans as well. Think of recently retired guys, like Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant, and you will see that it is special when a great player is true to his team.
Yet it’s a rare feat and it’s becoming rarer. Kristaps Porzingis has recently said that he intends to be a Knick for life but the Knicks are the Knicks. Earlier this summer, KP was trade fodder. This summer we’ve also seen Gordon Hayward, Jimmy Butler and Paul George all change teams, leaving the franchises that drafted them and moulded them into the elite players they are today. Then this past week Kyrie Irving was traded, in a move which defied all normal NBA logic. That’s not a criticism. I’m just saying that it would be nice to see more Duncans, more Bryants, more Nowitzkis and certainly more Ginobilis. So, let’s look at the current NBA rosters and take a potentially meaningless guess at nine players who might stay with the same franchise for their entire careers.
Steph Curry- Golden State Warriors
In Golden State, Curry has become a legend. He has won two championships, two MVPs (one of which was unanimous) and he has firmly cemented his position as the best NBA shooters of all time; a player who has changed the very game he plays.
With Curry alongside Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, Golden State have a potential dynasty. Yet, despite those names, no player is more central to the teams success than Curry. His insane range, the spacing he brings, none of that is replaceable. Barring an unforeseen split up of the ‘Superteam’, Golden State will have no desire to move Curry and with the adulation he has already earned there, Steph will be a Warrior for life.
Giannis Antetokounmpo- Milwaukee Bucks
The Greek Freak will quite possibly be a Buck for life and that is great news for Milwaukee. Antetokounmpo has quickly established himself as one of the most all-round and exciting players in the league, boasting insane length and athleticism and a great work ethic.
And, having arrived from overseas as an 18-year-old, Milwaukee is not only the franchise that drafted him, it is his American home. The city where he grew as a person and became an NBA player. Whereas American players will always have the lure of their home city, for Giannis and any young overseas player, that lure is non-existent.
From the moment he nearly ran all the way to a game in his rookie season (but thankfully got a lift from a fan), Antetokounmpo and Milwaukee have been a match made in heaven. With the Bucks building a solid young core, Milwaukee may well be competitive for years, especially with the Greek Freak at the helm.
Some Greek gods wear winged sandals, some wear laurel wreaths. Giannis, will surely wear rings.
Damian Lillard- Portland Trail Blazers
Portland is a very different NBA team. Its market is quite small and players have even complained about the weather. But perhaps no one has become a more devoted Blazer than Damian Lillard.
With a chip on his shoulder (for life) after being overlooked throughout high school and college, Lillard has really integrated with the underdog devotion of Portland. His number 0 is even partly for Oregon, the state to which Portland belongs.
For as long as Lillard and McCollum are together in the backcourt, there will be trade rumours. The defence there is almost invisible and while the gap between the two players is shrinking, Damian is surely the guy Portland would keep for his leadership, if not his elite play (on the offensive end).
Karl-Anthony Towns- Minnesota Timberwolves
Another guy, like Giannis, with the potential to be truly special. Minnesota might not seem like a natural fit to be a one-franchise player (see Kevin Love), but the franchise is changing for the better. With an outstanding core, the Timberwolves will be surging into contention now and for the foreseeable future.
And a big part of that is Towns. To list his skills would take too long, but Towns can do it all. He is very nimble and athletic for a big man and his scoring is incredible and varied, rising up from mid-range or the arc or working in the post. Basically, Towns is great.
And, where some players express their desires without restraint, it has been all quiet from KAT. With the new CBA, Minnesota will likely get him locked down to a massive contract at the first opportunity. With the T’wolves looking like a competitive outfit and being able to offer the most money, Towns has little reason to want to leave.
John Wall- Washington Wizards
An immediate benefactor of the new CBA, John Wall recently signed a contract that will keep him in Washington until 2023, though the last year is a player option. He’ll be 33 by then.
Wall has emerged as one of the premier point guards in the NBA. Aside from his explosive athleticism, speed and dunking, Wall is perhaps the league’s best passer, putting up highlight-reel-worthy passes on a weekly basis. He’s a strong penetrator and his shot is always improving.
And in D.C., Wall has grown into a leader. He’s also a very marketable and connected star, noted friends with DeMarcus Cousins and, with his ability to make his teammates better, is likely a pull for free agents.
Locked in till 2023, growing alongside a core of Bradley Beal and Otto Porter, Wall seems likely to be a Wizard for life.
Blake Griffin- L.A. Clippers
Blake Griffin had his chance. The Clippers were ready to implode. After narrowly keeping DeAndre Jordan from Dallas, the Clips have now lost Chris Paul to Houston. A rebuild made sense.The Lob City era was ready to end. Perhaps it did.
And yet the dunk-tastic Blake Griffin re-signed. You’ve got to ask yourself, if Blake Griffin is staying with the L.A. Clippers now, will he ever leave?
Kawhi Leonard- San Antonio Spurs
Did you notice something about the intro? Two of the guys I mentioned were Spurs. Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili. That is no coincidence. Once a player becomes a Spur, they might never leave.
And that all starts with Gregg Popovich and the culture he has crafted in San Antonio. Aside from his longevity, Pop has brought stability and consistency and has been so remarkably successful with the Spurs that he might well be among the great coaches of all time.
And Kawhi is a star. In the post-Duncan era, Kawhi is San Antonio. The Claw is a monster, a juggernaut on defence and a threat on offence, and the exact kind of player that will stay in San Antonio for life.
Joel Embiid- Philadelphia 76ers
It took two years for Joel Embiid to make his debut this year but he made quite the impression. In fact, he was a dead cert for Rookie of the Year before he went down injured again. With Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz ready to go, Embiid is a central piece of the new, revamped Sixers roster. ‘The Process’ paid off.
And he too is endlessly likeable. Before he had even played a game, he was recruiting LeBron James to Philly and trying to woo Rihanna over Twitter. He even gave himself his own nickname- Joel ‘the Process’ Embiid. His entire nickname is about the rebuild the Sixers went through to get him.
It’s hard to imagine Embiid anywhere else. Philadelphia is his team now; it’s where his friends are, it’s where his most ardent fans are and it’s where his heart is. And with the Sixers able to pay him well in future, as well as contend, Embiid will likely be staying.
Lonzo Ball- Los Angeles Lakers
This one, actually, isn’t that brave. Whether it was Lonzo himself or Lavar, Ball has painted himself into a corner. Throughout the build-up to the draft, Ball’s camp made it very clear that his preferred destination was the Lakers. There was even doubt as to whether he would play anywhere else.
That shows either a lack of respect for 29 of the 30 NBA franchises or a passionate love for one. Fortunately for Ball, the Lakers took him second in this summer’s draft, starting a partnership that will likely last until his retirement. After all, how could Lonzo possibly go elsewhere now?
It’s strange to say it, Lonzo Ball probably made himself a one-team player before he was even drafted.
Ross is our resident Phoenix Suns fan, having been a fan of basketball and the NBA since seeing the Dream Team back in 1992. Over the past three decades he’s seen some of the most phenomenal players in the history of the game. As a result he has a vast knowledge of franchises, players and all sorts of useless NBA trivia.