April 15, 2024

Rajon Rondo, 2-time NBA champion, announces retirement: ‘I’m done’

After 16 seasons, Rajon Rondo officially announced his NBA retirement.

Rondo, who last played in the 2021-22 season, appeared on the “All the Smoke” podcast and responded quickly when asked if his NBA career is over.

“Absolutely,” Rondo said. “Yeah, I’m done … I can’t. I’d rather spend time with my kids.”

Rondo, 38, spent the first eight-plus years of his career with the Celtics and won his first NBA championship with Boston in 2008. He made four straight All-Star appearances (2010-13) during his time with the Celtics.

He went on to play for eight other teams, including the Dallas Mavericks, Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers, throughout his 16-year career. Rondo led the NBA in steals per game in 2009-10 and in assists per game three times before claiming his second championship with the Lakers in 2020.



Rajon Rondo used his basketball genius to climb to the champion’s stage again

He spent his final season with the Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers and left the NBA with career averages of 9.8 points, 7.9 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 1.6 steals in 957 games.

“What a time, it was definitely something that I never took for granted when I was in the game,” Rondo said. “I loved every minute of it, and I appreciate the brotherhood that I was able to share and bond and grow with over the years. I’ve learned so much in this game and it’s made me the man who I am today.

He said he is finishing his degree at the University of Kentucky, where he played college basketball before leaving early to enter the 2006 NBA Draft.

What’s Rondo’s Celtics legacy?

Rondo’s “announcement” is hardly even a formality, as he has been out of the league for two years and has not made any apparent attempt to return. Rondo has shown up to the Celtics practice facility and games on occasion this season, particularly after coach Joe Mazzulla reached out to a litany of former Celtics encouraging them to show their faces around the facility. But in that time, Rondo appeared to be embracing life after the NBA.

His legacy in Boston is somewhat complicated, as he was a starter for a title run, eventually became arguably the team’s best player by the time they were back in the conference finals in 2012, then quickly became a frustrating figure once the Big 3 era rapidly declined. At his peak, Rondo was one of the league’s preeminent game managers and one of the greatest defenders at point guard of his generation.

Rondo was a ball wizard in the truest sense of the word, with uncanny passing vision and a tremendous sense for manipulating defenses. He even had a ball fake named after him. “The Rondo” was simply to drive to the rack, ball fake like he was going for the layup, then spin around and put up a floater. It was simple, amusing and worked just about every time. That was Rondo.

Then there was “National TV Rondo” or “Playoff Rondo.” The enigmatic point guard had a penchant for dramatically expanding his game whenever the lights were bright. He would defend LeBron James full court, suddenly become a knockdown shooter and even become the team’s go-to scorer despite being surrounded by Hall of Famers in Boston. When the games mattered most, he could do it all.

But several clashes with the franchise, and a knee injury once they started their rebuild, eventually led the Celtics to trade him in 2015. The only time Rondo stayed in one place for more than one season was when the Lakers retained him for their championship run during the COVID-19 pandemic. While teammates often praised him, front offices never held on to him. In December 2015, Rondo’s use of an anti-gay slur toward longtime official Bill Kennedy when Rondo was ejected from a rematch with the Celtics prompted Kennedy to come out as gay. Rondo received a one-game suspension for the altercation.

In the end, he had Hall-of-Fame talent and an impact in Boston while the Big 3 was still together, but his peak years were cut short and he became a high-profile journeyman after that. At his best, he was an MVP-caliber player. It just never lasted long. Rondo did not end up being one of the all-time great Celtics, but he certainly was one of the most unforgettable. — Jared Weiss, Celtics beat writer

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What’s next for him?

Rondo’s next chapter could involve coaching. In October, when he visited the Celtics practice facility, he said he wanted to chat with Mazzulla about the craft. Rondo said he coaches his son’s AAU program and wants to dedicate himself to helping his children in their respective sports (his daughter plays volleyball). He suggested he would like to try coaching at a higher level once his children are older.

“Coaching is in the future,” Rondo said. “I wanted to come here this week and learn from Joe and pick up as much knowledge as I can from him and the rest of the staff and just kind of learn.”

Rondo’s advanced basketball IQ has convinced some former teammates he would do well on the sidelines. James, on a recent episode of the “Mind the Game” podcast, said it’s weird to him that Rondo isn’t already coaching at a high level. — Jay King, Celtics beat writer

Required reading

(Photo: David Richard / USA Today)