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Kobe Bryant.

What do players get for staying committed to one franchise their whole career?

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The world of the NBA can be quite a volatile one. Only the absolute top players manage to stay in one place for multiple years, and even then, should a franchise fall dramatically from contention - like, for example, the Lakers have in recent years - it can change a players outlook.

Injuries, trades, fallouts and a litany of other reasons can cut short a star's stay with a franchise. As with any sport, it's pretty rare for a player to dedicate themselves to one team throughout their entire career, but there are a few examples within the NBA.

Four men will become unrestricted free agents this summer after spending nine years with their inaugural, drafted franchise.

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Kevin Durant, Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Mike Conley, Jr are all coveted stars around the league. Between the four men, they have an MVP award, a Defensive Player of the Year award and 13 All-Star appearances. Where they ply their trade is all they have ever known in the league and particularly for Durant and Noah, they have become part of the fabric of storied franchises.

Will any of them stay? If the Thunder make the NBA Finals or even win the whole thing, it's almost certain Durant wouldn't leave. His search to be a contender would be pointless.

Noah, on the other hand, has suffered major knee issues in the past couple of years. He appears to be frustrated with his tenure and is ready to call it a day in the Windy City, if reports are to be believed.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Golden State Warriors - Game Two

For Conley and Horford, it's different. They have become the shining lights at the Memphis Grizzlies and Atlanta Hawks respectively, and now they might feel they want to move to a bigger market and seriously contend for titles, of which none of the four men have.

So, would they be better served testing the open market, or are their prospects better right at home? The grass isn't always greener, but LeBron James might argue that a move is sometimes necessary to garner a championship ring.

Here are three men who have stayed the distance with varying degrees of success:

John Stockton: Utah Jazz - 19 years

It's said that when the 6'1" point guard from Washington was drafted 16th to the Jazz back in 1984, there was complete silence among the Utah fans in attendance. Stockton hadn't made many waves during his time with Gonzaga University, but his presence is still felt in the NBA today.

Stockton left the game as the NBA's all-time assist leader by a clear 3,000 dimes. He is also the record holder for most career steals at 3,265 and he had five of the top six assists seasons in league history, the other of which belongs to Isiah Thomas.

Stockton waits to enter game

As a 10-time All-Star and teammate of the great Karl Malone, one would think that plenty of NBA championship rings followed, right?

Wrong. Stockton is commonly regarded as one of the greatest players in NBA history to never win a title. Had he done what Gary Payton did late in his career and gone looking for a title he may have been able to secure his name in history. However, he'll have to settle for the plethora of personal accolades and 19 years worth of loyalty to the Utah Jazz as his legacy.

Tim Duncan: San Antonio Spurs - 19 years

Duncan is without doubt one of the greatest frontcourt players basketball has ever seen. As the only number one draft pick on the list, he is a five-time NBA champion, two-time MVP, three-time Finals MVP, and 1998 Rookie of the Year. He is also a 15-time NBA All-Star, and he has done it all at the AT&T Center under Gregg Popovich.

The Spurs are the asterisk to this conversation. They are a very special case indeed; in part because of their long-standing trust in Popovich and his ability to keep them in contention, but also because three of the top 15 longest serving players with one franchise in the NBA belong to the Spurs, and they all played last season.

San Antonio Spurs v Oklahoma City Thunder - Game Six

Tony Parker has 15 years under his belt as a Spur and Manu Ginobili has 14. But, as great as they are, Duncan has always been the crown jewel. With the Big Fundamental now at 40-years-old, Kawhi Leonard is coming through to take his place on the San Antonio throne and lead the team into the next generation.

That's just the way that things are done at the Texas-based franchise, and the winning, consistent culture that is without a doubt part of their staying power. The question is, why would Duncan have ever left?

Kobe Bryant: L.A. Lakers - 20 years

The Black Mamba is - perhaps just a shade behind Michael Jordan - one of the greatest shooting guards to ever grace the hardwood. Do you see the recurring theme here?

Los Angeles was made for Kobe. His eccentric demeanour on the court and unrivalled competitiveness made him such a compelling watch in the Purple and Gold. He was determined to be great, and luckily for Kobe, he landed at a franchise that always wanted to be great.

Vino is an 18-time All-Star, 15-time member of the All-NBA Team, and 12-time member of the All-Defensive team. He led the NBA in scoring during two seasons, and ranks third on both the league's all-time regular season scoring and all-time postseason scoring lists.

Utah Jazz v Los Angeles Lakers

He also collected two Finals MVP awards and was the regular season MVP in 2008. Kobe has done it all, and he led the Lakers to three consecutive titles at the beginning of the millennium. By the time Kobe passed the magic nine-year mark with the Lakers, they had lost Shaquille O'Neal and struggled to contend.

But, even though Bryant briefly considered a trade, he decided to stick around with the Lakers and would win two more titles alongside Pau Gasol.

Conclusion

The game's greatest players are the ones who last - that seems like a simple sentiment. However, there are different drivers for different players. Any franchise can offer a player a max-contract, but it's about what legacy that star can create, where they want to live, their post-basketball career aspirations and, ultimately, what feels like home.

Indiana Pacers v Detroit Pistons

Reggie Miller for the Indiana Pacers, Larry Bird and Bill Russell for the Boston Celtics and Magic Johnson for the Lakers are all honourable mentions, but the men above provide valid reasons for and against the likes of KD searching for pastures new this summer.

Topics:
NBA Draft
Eastern Conference
NBA
Kobe Bryant
LA Lakers
Pacific Division
Western Conference
Tim Duncan
San Antonio Spurs
Southwest Division
Tony Parker

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