Whenever we hear the name Mike Bibby, it’s hard not to remember the 2002 Sacramento Kings team that dominated the NBA. However, Bibby’s legacy did not begin and end in Sac-Town. Some may not know, but he was also an underrated legend in Atlanta.
The ATL veteran
Five years after the botched championship with the Kings, Bibby joined the Atlanta Hawks in the middle of the 2007-08 season. At the time, ATL was a young team, and Bibby embraced the role of a veteran leader.
"I kind of took the role of Vlade Divac when I got there,” Bibby told Sports Illustrated’s FanNation of his time with the Hawks.
It did not take long for the Hawks to feel the magnitude of Bibby’s presence both in the locker room and on the court. After his first 33 games with the team, Bibby helped the Hawks force the eventual champs Boston Celtics to a thrilling seven-game series in the first round of the 2008 NBA Playoffs.
The streak went on and the Hawks made it to the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the next two seasons. But just when Bibby thought they were on course to achieving something great in Atlanta, everything changed in just a snap.
In the middle of the 2010-11 season, Bibby, at age 32, felt he “had a little bit left in the tank.” And like other veterans in the league, he also thought of joining a championship team if he was to leave Atlanta as rumors of him getting traded were swirling.
On the way to a road game, Bibby received “two phone calls.” Having been traded twice in the past, he knew what it meant. And he was right. The Hawks green-lighted a trade that shipped him, Jordan Crawford, Maurice Evans, and a 2011 first-round draft pick to the Washington Wizards in exchange for Kirk Hinrich and Hilton Armstrong.
"I was going to Phoenix, we were about to play the Suns, and you know when you get a call from the team you're on and the team you're going to, that means you're traded. I had two phone calls from two area codes. I was like, 'Damn,’” Bibby said.
In Washington, Bibby realized that a championship wasn’t the team’s priority and his role was more of to serve as a mentor to the Wizards’ newest star John Wall. After two games, he opted out and agreed to a contract buyout.
“It was nothing against the city or the team. I knew I was coming down to the end of my career, and I wanted to play for a contender and try to win a championship,” he explained. “I thought I had a little bit left in the tank. They wanted me to kind of help John Wall along and kind of do that. I wasn't ready for that yet."
Bibby then joined a championship team in the Miami Heat. Sadly, Miami lost to the Dallas Mavericks in the Finals that year. And when the Heat finally won the chip the following season, Bibby was already with the New York Knicks, where he played his final NBA season.