Keyon Dooling, who spent the first four seasons of his 12 year NBA career with the Los Angeles Clippers, has decided to retire. Dooling played a key role off the thin Boston Celtics bench in the playoffs last season, but was waived by the Celtics on Thursday and will call it a career.
Dooling began his career as a Clipper as part of one of the great trades in Clipper history. In fact, when we examined great Clipper trades earlier this year, I included it in the list of top five Clipper trades of all time.
June 28, 2000; Corey Maggette, Derek Strong and Keyon Dooling for a protected first round pick -- this amazingly one-sided trade is often overlooked. Orlando was clearing cap space to sign Grant Hill and Tracey McGrady and they gave away Maggette and Dooling because of it. Furthermore, the protections on the pick kept it with the Clippers until 2006, the year they had their best record in L.A., so it ended up being 22nd overall. People have mixed emotions about Maggette, but the bottom line is he is one of the most prolific scorers in Clippers history, and they got him for a pick that became Marcus Williams (the UConn point guard).
Dooling was a member of some very exciting Clippers teams in the early 2000s and at one point seemed to have a very promising future. But as it happens, his rookie season was his best as a Clipper, and among the best of his career. It seems strange to say, but a severe high ankle sprain suffered during his second season may have altered his career trajectory. Perhaps it's just Clipper fan enthusiasm coupled with Clipper fan paranoid fatalism, but Dooling never seemed as athletic after that injury.
In fact, I'll always remember the game during his rookie year when he dunked on Dikembe Mutombo. Dooling was a 20 year rookie playing in his sixth NBA game, Motumbo had already won three Defensive Player of the Year awards and was on his way to his fourth that season; he was the most feared shot blocker in the league. Dooling blew by Roshown McLeod at the top of the circle and flew down the lane where Mutombo awaited him at the rim. Dooling rose up and threw down on Mount Mutombo -- and then broke out the finger wag that the shot-blocking legend had made famous. Dooling deservedly drew a technical foul for his taunt, but it was by far the coolest thing he did in his entire NBA career.
You Got Dunked On: Keyon Dooling Dunks On Dikembe Mutombo (via antone2382)
Seriously. Nothing else in Dooling's career comes close to that play. The dude played 721 NBA games, and his career highlight came in game 6.
But even if he was never quite the player we hoped he would be based on that amazing highlight, Dooling had a fine NBA career. In addition to the Clippers, he played for the Heat, Magic, Nets, Bucks and Celtics. He made more than $29M in his 12 seasons, never really hitting a huge pay day, but signing three decent deals along the way. He's going out relatively on top, having played a significant role coming off the bench for the Celtics through the Eastern Conference Finals last season.
He leaves the game as one of the most successful players ever to come out of the University of Missouri. Among Missouri alums, only Anthony Peeler played more NBA games than Dooling's 721 and only Peeler and Larry Drew played more minutes than Dooling's 14,052.