Nick Collison was drafted by the Seattle SuperSonics in the 2003 NBA Draft. The Sonics became the Thunder in 2008. Collison made the transition to Oklahoma City. He’s with the Thunder still.
Collison is in his ninth NBA season, all with the same franchise, a mark of stability rarely found in the league. With Denver’s trade of Nene Hilario to the Wizards, only eight players have continuously been with their franchise longer than Collison’s nine seasons:
1. Kobe Bryant, 16th year with the Lakers.
2. Tim Duncan, 15th year with the Spurs.
3. Dirk Nowitzki, 14th year with the Mavericks.
3. (tie) Paul Pierce, 14th year with the Celtics.
5. Jeff Foster, 13th year with the Pacers.
6. Tony Parker, 11th year with the Spurs.
7. Manu Ginobili, 10th year with the Spurs.
7. (tie) Tayshaun Prince, 10th year with the Pistons.
9. Nick Collison, ninth year with the Thunder/Sonics.
9. (tie) Dwyane Wade, ninth year with the Heat.
9. (tie) Udonis Haslem, ninth year with the Heat.
This is a fascinating list, for a couple of reasons.
First, the secret to the Spurs’ success is no mystery. Obtain great young players with strong character, then retain them. The Duncan/Parker/Ginobili trio has been together 10 years. TEN YEARS! It has led San Antonio to three NBA championships; sleep on the Spurs at your own risk in 2012.
The Thunder’s efforts to keep Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook together – they will have been teammates together eight years in summer 2016, when Durant’s contract expires – is patterned after San Antonio.
Second, Collison is on a short list of role players who become franchise cornerstones.
Look at that list of 11 NBA players who have been with their current franchise at least nine years. Seven absolute stars (Kobe, Dirk, Pierce, Wade, Parker, Ginobili and Duncan). Two solid starters who helped produce a championship (Prince, Haslem). Plus Collison and Foster, two big guys who play fundamental basketball and provide the dirty work that gets things accomplished.
Foster doesn’t play all that much anymore – 11 games, 141 minutes all season – but Collison remains a Thunder essential. Tough defense, screens galore, occasional scoring touch. The Thunder always seems to play better with Collison on the floor.
Which is no coincidence. Teams often try to keep their stars as the core, and rotate role players in and out of the roster over a period of years. But the Thunder has made Collison a virtual lifer; he’s under contract through summer 2015. Sam Presti gave Collison a huge signing bonus in November 2010, which basically made Collison a $13-million player for that season. But the payoff was that Collison would remain a Boomer the next four years, making $3.2 million, $2.9 million, $2.5 million and $2.2 million.
You give a bonus like that to guys you can count on. And the Thunder can count on Collison. This organization has counted on him, for longer than all but a handful of players in the NBA.