Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nick Collison recently hung it up, and he published an outstanding retirement letter on ESPN.
I’ve played with some incredible players, future Hall of Famers, and had the unique experience of spending my entire career with one franchise, but in two different cities.
I started in cold gyms in small towns in Iowa and ended up playing in more than 1,000 games over 15 years in the best league in the world. I’ve had an incredible run. I’m proud of my career.
I’ve had the privilege of being one of the guys on a basketball team for a long time. I’ve loved the friendships and appreciated the camaraderie. There is nothing better than being on the road and going on a run in the fourth quarter to put a game away, then going out with all of the guys after.
I’ve had a lot of those nights.
I won’t get to feel that fire or that rush anymore, but I do get to keep the memories, the stories and the relationships. That’s what I will cherish the most. Things worked out for me.
I got to stay here a long time, but now it’s time to go.
I don’t know how any sports fan could read his full letter, which is well worth the time, and not get a shade emotional. These are common feelings shared among athletes that tend to stay in a sport for extended periods of time. I grew up playing hockey and basketball, and spent part of my time in college on the staff of a division one college basketball team. It’s an experience like any other. I will cherish those memories and experiences forever. There’s a bond built between men during stressful and crazy times that is tough to even put in words. The early morning practices, the late night wins and all the stuff behind the scenes is what makes the entire experience worth living.
Now, multiply that by about a billion and that’s the bond Collison has with the people around him.
Collison was never a star player at any point in his career. He was a guy who knew he role and excelled in it. He didn’t need to showboat, be the center of attention or do anything crazy. The University of Kansas product just did what was asked of him and he kept a low profile. Most athletes couldn’t dream of having a career a decade and a half long. That’s borderline unheard of these days, especially for guys who aren’t star players. (RELATED: DAVID LEE’S RETIREMENT PARTY INCLUDED FIREWORKS AND CAROLINE WOZNIACKI)
It’s also equally important to recognize when to hang it up. Sometimes we don’t have a say in when the party ends. This goes for a lot more than just basketball. Luckily, Collison is leaving on his own terms and after having earned nearly $60 million in his career. You can’t ask for much more than that.
He left his mark, made his money and is leaving in on his own terms. That’s a win every single day in my book.