Richard Allen Jefferson (born June 21, 1980) is an American professional basketball player for the Cleveland Cavaliers of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He was also a member of the USA men’s national basketball team at the 2003 Tournament of the Americas and the Athens 2004 Summer Olympics.
Jefferson played seven seasons with the New Jersey Nets and was a key element of their back-to-back Eastern Conference Championship teams of 2002 and 2003. In addition, Jefferson was a member of the USA Men’s Olympic basketball team in the 2004 Summer Olympics. Jefferson competed in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest in 2003.
Jefferson began his career as a substitute small forward for Keith Van Horn and showed great defensive skills and all-around ability. Because of his potential, and Van Horn’s conflict with power forward Kenyon Martin, the Nets traded Van Horn to the Philadelphia 76ers and trusted Jefferson as a starter. Jefferson blossomed in the role, becoming a good mid- and long-range shooter in addition to his slashing ability. On August 13, 2004, Jefferson signed a six-year, $78,000,000 contract extension with the Nets.
Jefferson missed the majority of the 2004–05 regular season after rupturing a ligament in his left wrist, an injury he claimed occurred when Detroit Pistons guard Chauncey Billups purposely undercut him on a layup attempt during a game on December 27, 2004. Jefferson ended up missing 49 games, but returned to action for the first round of the playoffs against the Miami Heat. Prior to suffering the injury, he had missed only five games in his three NBA seasons. Jefferson had been enjoying his best professional season, averaging 22.2 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 4.0 assists per game. Through the 2005–06 season, Jefferson continued to perform at a high level and established himself as one of the NBA’s most versatile players. On January 21, 2007, Jefferson decided to have ankle surgery. After missing around six weeks, he was back in the lineup. His absence proved to be a major setback for the struggling Nets, who surged back into playoff contention once Jefferson returned.
In August 2007, Richard Jefferson pledged $3.5 million toward the University of Arizona’s then-planned basketball and volleyball practice facility, which was eventually named in his honor. UA officials believe it is the largest donation ever from a former player.
On June 26, 2008 Jefferson was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks for Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons. He was not happy with the trade at first because he planned on being a Net until retirement. However, he later expressed enthusiasm about playing alongside Michael Redd.
On June 23, 2009, Richard Jefferson was traded to the San Antonio Spurs for Bruce Bowen, Kurt Thomas, and Fabricio Oberto. On June 30, 2010 Jefferson opted out of his contract with San Antonio and became an unrestricted free agent. On July 23, 2010, Jefferson re-signed with the Spurs.
On March 15, 2012, the Golden State Warriors traded the newly acquired Stephen Jackson for Jefferson, along with a conditional first-round pick.
On July 5, 2013, the Warriors reportedly agreed to trade Jefferson to the Utah Jazz, along with teammates Brandon Rush and Andris Biedrins, in an attempt to clear salary cap space to acquire coveted free agent Andre Iguodala. The trade became official on July 10.
On July 21, 2014, Jefferson signed with the Dallas Mavericks.
On August 5, 2015, Jefferson signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavaliers finished the regular season with a 57–25 record and made it through to the 2016 NBA Finals with a 12–2 playoff record. Jefferson started Game 3 of the NBA Finals in place of the injured Kevin Love. Jefferson gave the Cavaliers a huge boost in 33 minutes, scoring nine points with eight rebounds, as the Cavaliers cut the Golden State Warriors’ advantage in the series to 2–1 with a 120–90 win. Despite going down 3–1 in the series following a Game 4 loss, the Cavaliers won the series in seven games to become the first team in NBA history to win the championship after being down 3–1.
After initially considering retirement following the championship win, Jefferson re-signed with the Cavaliers on July 28, 2016
Career highlights and awards
NBA All-Rookie Second Team (2002)
Bronze medal – third place 2004 Athens Team
FIBA Americas Championship
Gold medal – first place 2003 San Juan