The seemingly exorbitant contracts handed out this summer piqued the interest of several former players who have been on the periphery of the game. Transitioning to retirement can be daunting, and a shot at one more large contract caused former players like Stephen Jackson and Richard Hamilton to mull an NBA comeback. And there there are other players like Ray Allen and Jermaine O’Neal, who haven’t officially retired and continue to drop hints of a return return.
But should these and other former players actually make a comeback? Let’s investigate.
Call it a comeback:
Ray Allen: Shooters are also on heavily coveted by NBA teams and with his history, Allen won’t have any trouble finding a team in his need of services. He has been pretty coy about a comeback, dropping hints but never fully committing. However, he has made it clear that he hasn’t officially retired.
But after two years of rumors, it’s time for Allen to finally make a decision since he’s not getting any younger. Even at 41, Allen is perhaps the player that is best suited for a comeback. He’s only two years removed from his playing days, is a health nut and judging by the plethora of shirtless photos on his Instagram account, appears to be in an excellent shape. He’s one of the greatest shooters of all time and with his perfect form, his skills likely haven’t eroded since he stopped playing for the Heat in the 2014.
Emeka Okafor: It is almost shocking that the former No. 2 overall pick and Rookie of the Year lasted only nine seasons. Despite an auspicious start, Okafor never blossomed into an All-Star, but was a solid rim protector, around-the-rim scorer and excellent rebounder. He averaged nearly a double-double (12.3 points, 9.9 rebounds).
But after suffering a herniated disc in his neck, Okafor was forced to stop playing in 2013. Coming back after three seasons off and a serious injury seems daunting. At 33, he’s not terribly over the hill. An athletic big man who can defend and rebound off the bench is definitely a valued league commodity, so if Okafor is healthy, he could be a nice addition.
Xavier Henry: Not as old as Allen or Okafor, Henry is only 25, but hasn’t been in the league since the 2014-15 season. A ruptured Achilles caused Henry’s quick exit when Lakers waived him. The injury came at the most unfortunate time. Averaging 10 points on 41.7 percent shooting in 21.1 minutes off the bench, Henry was coming off his best season when injured. He spent last season in the D-League.
Coming back from an Achilles injury is a tough, though Henry seems to be back at full strength, playing well in a nine game D-League stint (averaging 15.6 points on 44.8 percent shooting in 18.8 minutes). But with a lot of athletic wing players in the league, it may prove difficult for Henry to find an NBA roster spot. But Henry was just starting to show why he was lottery pick before his devastating injury. If he continues to play well in the D-League or overseas, perhaps the NBA will call.
Jermaine O’Neal: Like Allen, O’Neal has refused to say he has retired. But after playing for 18 seasons and not playing since 2014, a comeback at 37 seems unlikely. O’Neal though has been linked to the Warriors since he last played for them two seasons ago.
Having another big man on the bench could benefit Golden State. Plus, O’Neal was a fine player in his last season, averaging 7.9 points and 5.5 rebounds in 20.1 minutes a game. O’Neal is also a solid rim protector and defender and his experience could be beneficial.
Ben Gordon: Once an electric scorer, his NBA career fizzled in 2015 after a limited role in Orlando. He was part of the Warriors’ training camp roster last season, and suited up for Great Britain in the Rio Olympics, so he’s not far removed from pro basketball. A comeback definitely seems possible for Gordon, considering his age (33) and his commitment to his health.
But his 3-point shot, which was hovering around and above 40 percent, needs to be a big part of his arsenal, but in his final three seasons Gordon’s 3-point shooting dipped considerably. A comeback doesn’t seem likely for Gordon yet he probably still has some gas left in tank, so a team needing experience could take a chance on him.
Don’t call it a comeback:
Baron Davis: With his final NBA memory marred by a serious injury, he has been attempting a comeback for a couple of years. It is a noble aspiration for the once-electrifying performer. Davis even played in the D-League for a few games last season to prove he can still play at a high level. He also remains a fixture in the hyper-competitive Drew League in Los Angeles. Davis likely could still play in the league but he is a point guard, a position that doesn’t have a lot of openings. Plus he is 38, coming off major knee surgery and no longer has the explosiveness he once had.
Stephen Jackson: Similar to Davis, Jackson is an aging player whose NBA chances are slim to none. Jackson is 38 and hasn’t played in the league since 2014. And that 2014 experience was only nine games for the Clippers. He doesn’t lack confidence, though, and believes he can actually not only make a comeback but play a significant role.
But based on his final seasons with the Spurs and Clippers, that is lunacy. Despite his bravado, Jackson should concentrate on his sports-personality career, where he has excelled since his NBA career ended in 2014.
Richard Hamilton: Another former player who should stick to expert analysis (on CBS Sports!), Hamilton is likely too far removed from his playing days to make a comeback. Hamilton is 38 and hasn’t played since the 2012-13 season. Coming back from three seasons off seems highly unlikely, especially since in his final season, his waning athleticism was apparent.
Hamilton though, has the right attitude. He is training this offseason and sending out feelers to teams. If nobody bites, he will hang it up for good. It is tough to let a dream die but at least Hamilton is well aware that he may have to do that with his NBA comeback.
Kwame Brown: Although he never lived up to expectations as the No. 1 overall pick in 2001, he had a fine 12-year career. Playing for the Wizards, Lakers, Grizzlies, Pistons, Charlotte, Warriors and 76ers, Brown averaged 6.6 points and 5.5 rebounds in 22.1 minutes a game. Those are fine journeyman numbers but nothing that should excite any NBA teams.
Plus, Brown hasn’t played since 2013 which coupled with his age (34), his chances ofdrawing any NBA interest is very slim.
Derek Fisher: Earlier this summer, Fisher flirted with the idea coming back. He posted videos of his basketball workouts on social media and even told the media that he was “exploring options.” Fisher then quickly retracted everything by saying he was simply open to playing again but wasn’t going to pursue it. Which is the right thing for him to do. Fisher hasn’t been away from the NBA that long, last playing in 2014.
But he was the coach of the Knicks for a little over a season, so it would be quite strange for a coach to go back to playing after retiring to coach. He’s also 42 and really has nothing to add on the court. Coaching best suits Fisher now. However since nobody wants him in that role, Fisher wanted to keep his name in NBA circles with comeback talk. But that is all it is, because his playing days are far behind him.