At one point in the early 2000s, Shareef Abdur-Rahim impressed NBA fans with his low-key yet efficient game. Ultimately, Abdur-Rahim was a tremendous power forward who could’ve generated more buzz had destiny led him to the right team.
Reef was steady good…very good
Taking a quick trip down memory lane, Abdur-Rahim was like everybody else. He first made waves as a high school basketball prodigy at Wheeler High School and became one of the country’s best prospects en route to his NBA Draft year in 1996. Reef picked up where he left off at the University of California and was named Georgia’s Mr. Basketball in 1994 and 1995. He was the first-ever freshman to be named Pac-10 Player of the Year. In simpler terms, we were looking at a potential NBA superstar.
In the NBA, Abdur-Rahim consistently delivered, averaging 20.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, and one block in his first five seasons with the Vancouver Grizzlies. In 2001, Reef was shipped to the Atlanta Hawks, where he put up identical numbers – 20.4 points and 8.9 boards per outing, and earned his first and only All-Star selection.
Sheed and Abdur-Rahim’s fates were completely different. Wallace won his first and only NBA title with the Pistons, while Reef gradually lost his rhythm with the Blazers team, which was in a terrible situation then.
In 2005, Abdur-Rahim joined the Sacramento Kings where he would spend the final three seasons of his NBA career. He made the playoffs in his maiden season with the Kings but at the time, Reef was no longer the All-Star he used to be. And worse, they were eliminated by the San Antonio Spurs in the first round.
Unlike other retired NBA stars, Abdur-Rahim is content with how his career played out. However, he didn’t shy away from admitting that “if anything,” he wished he could’ve played for a better team.
“I’m at peace with my career, the time I had playing basketball,” Abdur-Rahim told Slam in 2016. “If anything, I would have liked to have played on some better teams, teams that were further along. Had that happened, then maybe that wouldn’t be the sentiment…But I’m thankful for the opportunity I had to play at the level I did. I was an All-Star. I played with some really good people. I played with some really good coaches. I cherish all of that.”
Having heard Abdur-Rahim’s story, it’s safe to say that his underrated career deserves to be included on the list of the biggest “What ifs” in the history of the NBA. Yet another proof we all need a bit of luck at times.