Adam Vinatieri, perhaps the most clutch player in NFL history and the league’s all-time leading scorer, has announced his retirement on Wednesday after 24 seasons.
We could go on and on about Vinatieri’s best moments in the league, like his multiple Super Bowl-winning kicks or the time he (incredibly) chased Herschel Walker down and tackled him during a kick return. What we’ll focus on here is the fact that, by playing for 24 seasons, he holds the additional distinction of being the last NFL player who debuted in the 1990s to retire. Up until Wednesday, he was the only player still active who could have made that tackle, as Walker retired at the end of the 1997 season.
Indeed, with Vinatieri’s retirement, there’s no one left in three of the four major American sports who debuted before things like the Y2k bug or smartphones were really even things. Here we pay tribute to the last holdouts — and wonder how long the final 90’s kid will last.
Pro debut: Vinatieri scored the first points of the Patriots’ 1996 season during his NFL debut. He booted a field goal and an extra point in New England’s 24-10 home loss to the Dolphins on Sept. 1, 1996.
Teammates of note: Before he teamed with two of the NFL’s all-time great quarterbacks in Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, Vinatieri played with the likes of Drew Bledsoe (1996-2001), Tedy Bruschi (1996-2005) and Hall of Famer Curtis Martin (1996-97) in New England.
Vintage matchup: Prior to becoming a Super Bowl hero, Vinatieri showed in the 2001 playoffs how reliable he can be. Even in a blizzard. With the Patriots trailing the Raiders 13-10 in the final minute of their AFC divisional round game, Vinatieri blasted a 45-yard field goal off the snow-packed turf and into swirling winds at Foxboro Stadium. The kick hugged the right upright and sailed through to send the game into overtime. His 23-yard field goal with 6 minutes, 35 seconds left in OT delivered the Patriots to the AFC title game and helped make him a household name.
When did he retire? Vinatieri said he was calling it quits on Wednesday, May 26, 2021.
Pro debut: On Feb. 5, 1999, Carter was victorious in his first NBA game, scoring 16 points on 5-of-11 shooting as the Raptors earned a 103-92 road win over the Celtics.
Teammates of note: Wing defenders were likely wiped out after games against the Raptors from 1999 to 2000. Not only did they have to keep up with the high-flying Carter, they had to deal with the explosive Tracy McGrady, who turned 21 at the end of the 1999-2000 season. In 2001, Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon joined the Raptors for his final NBA season. He was 39 years old.
Vintage matchup: Vince Carter vs. Michael Jordan — a North Carolina fan’s fantasy. Well, the matchup between two of the most athletic Tar Heels (and players) in history actually happened four times from 2001 to 2003. Carter’s Raptors split those four contests against Jordan’s Wizards, with the youthful Carter winning the scoring battle each time. Carter, who averaged 40 minutes in each contest (11 more than Jordan), registered 23.5 points per game. Jordan scored 14 per game, including just four in their last matchup in 2003 — his final season in the NBA.
When did he retire? Carter played his last game on March 11, 2020, shortly before the NBA suspended its season due to COVID-19. He officially retired on June 25, 2020.
Pro debut: On April 4, 1997, Colon had a no-decision for the Cleveland Indians against the then-Anaheim Angels. He pitched five innings, gave up four earned runs, and struck out four.
Teammates of note: Colon pitched for 11 teams in his career, so … an awful lot of people. Just a partial list: Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, Orel Hershiser, David Ortiz, Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, Jorge Posada, and CC Sabathia. Colon also played with Julio Franco, another longtime player whose career began in 1982 and ended in 2007
Vintage matchup: All you need to know about Bartolo Colon is that, near the end of his career, he hit a home run and pretty much everyone thought i was the best thing ever.
When did he retire? He technically hasn’t, but even though Colon still yearns for a comeback, his last game in the majors was September 22, 2018.
So, who’s the last man standing from the decade that practically invented nostalgia?
Pro debut: Chara played his first NHL game on Nov. 19, 1997, helping the visiting Islanders earn a win over the defending Stanley Cup champion Red Wings. The defenseman played 11 shifts in that game.
Teammates of note: As a rookie with the Islanders, Chara likely got a lesson in leadership from Trevor Linden, who played 19 NHL seasons. Linden, who was named a captain of the Canucks when he was 21 years old, served as president of the NHL Players’ Association for eight years. He also served as Vancouver’s president of hockey operations the past four years. Playing with Daniel Alfredsson for four seasons in Ottawa likely was a thrill for Chara, too. Alfredsson had a Hall of Fame-worthy career, which included recording 100 points in 124 career playoff games with the Senators.
Vintage matchup: Chara met The Great One late in his rookie season — and Chara helped blank him. The young defender played 12 shifts in a 3-0 victory over Wayne Gretzky’s Rangers on April 4, 1998. Even spent 15 minutes watching from the penalty box that night. It was Gretzky’s second-to-last season in the NHL, but he was still great indeed. He led the league in assists with 67 — the 16th time he achieved the feat in his career.
Why he’s still valuable: Well, who wouldn’t want a 6-foot-9, 250-pound defenseman? Oh, and one who can still play at a high level. Proof of that came when the Bruins signed their 42-year-old captain to a one-year contract extension through the 2019-20 season worth $2 million, plus an additional $1.75 million in performance-based incentives. This past season, he signed with the Washington Capitals and made about $1.25 million with bonuses. Chara, who won the Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman in 2009, is considered to still have one of the NHL’s hardest shots. He won the hardest shot competition at the All-Star Game skills competition five times in a row, from 2007 to 2012. (There was no All-Star Game in 2010 due to NHL player participation in the Winter Olympics.)
When will it end? Chara said he wasn’t quite ready to retire yet back in December of 2020. With the Capitals eliminated as of Sunday, it remains to be seen whether Chara laces up his skates for one more season.
Milwaukee Bucks GM says Giannis Antetokounmpo won’t need offseason knee procedure
MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee Bucks general manager Jon Horst says Giannis Antetokounmpo doesn’t need any type of offseason procedure for the left knee the two-time MVP hyperextended during the team’s NBA title run.
“He’s fine,” Horst said Friday. “I can’t explain it, but he’s fine.”
Antetokounmpo hurt his knee in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals when he landed awkwardly after attempting to block a dunk attempt by Atlanta Hawks center Clint Capela. Antetokounmpo later said he worried that he’d be out for a year.
He sat out the last two games of the East finals — the Bucks won both contests to take the series 4-2 — but returned for the next series and ended up earning NBA Finals MVP honors. Antetokounmpo averaged an astounding 35.2 points, 13.2 rebounds and 5.0 assists to help the Bucks beat the Phoenix Suns 4-2 and earn their first championship in 50 years.
“I think when you start thinking about your knee or thinking about your toe or pinkie or whatever the case might be, you’re just making excuses in your mind,” Antetokounmpo said after Game 2 of the NBA Finals. “You’re out there, just play the game. Do whatever you can. Leave it out there on the floor, and no matter what the outcome is, you just leave it there.”
Horst didn’t speculate on a possible return date for guard Donte DiVincenzo, who tore a ligament in his left ankle in Game 3 of a first-round playoff series with the Miami Heat and missed the rest of the postseason.
“It’s too early to know,” Horst said. “He’s ahead of where he should be at this time and doing an incredible job right now, but it’s still hard to tell what the timeline would be.”
Horst was speaking the day after selecting 22-year-old forwards Sandro Mamukelashvili of Seton Hall and Georgios Kalaitzakis of Greece in the second round of the draft. The Bucks traded the 31st overall pick to land four second-round selections, including this year’s 54th pick and 60th pick. Mamukelashvili went 54th, and Kalaitzakis went 60th.
Oklahoma City Thunder get future first-round NBA draft pick, Derrick Favors from Utah Jazz
Before the move, the Thunder already had 12 first-round picks above and beyond their own — some of which they can swap — over the next five drafts.
Oklahoma City traded the No. 16 pick in Thursday’s NBA draft to the Houston Rockets for two future first-rounders — in 2022 (via the Pistons) and 2023 (via the Wizards). The Rockets then used the selection to pick Alperen Sengun.
Favors, a 30-year-old center who has played nine of his 11 NBA seasons with the Jazz, averaged 5.4 points and 5.5 rebounds last season. He has also spent time with the Nets and Pelicans during his career.
The 2027 pick heading to the Jazz is the least favorable of Oklahoma City’s four second-round picks.
The trade gets Utah $13 million below the luxury tax, with the Jazz likely to be hit with a lesser financial penalty if they bring back Mike Conley.
Boston Celtics trading Tristan Thompson to Atlanta Hawks for Kris Dunn, second-round pick
Thompson, 30, averaged 7.6 points and 8.1 rebounds while spending time at both frontcourt positions for Boston last season.
The Celtics traded Kemba Walker to the Oklahoma City Thunder last month in order to bring back longtime Celtics big man Al Horford, creating a need at point guard while filling Thompson’s role in the frontcourt.
Dunn, 27, was signed by Atlanta last offseason to help shore up their perimeter defense however only appeared in four games after undergoing ankle surgery early last season.
Dunn is on the last year of a 2-year, $10 million deal he signed with the Hawks.
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