He turned around a longtime-losing franchise, guided another to a championship, and helped his last one to its first division title since the year he came into the NBA 19 years ago.
Teammates loved him. The U.S. national team needed him.
But he looked more burned out than brilliant in the final weeks of the season, and on Monday he decided to end one of the greatest careers for a point guard in league history.
"My time in professional basketball has been an incredible journey, but one that must come to an end after 19 years," Kidd said in a statement released by the New York Knicks. "As I reflect on my time with the four teams I represented in the NBA, I look back fondly at every season and thank each and every one of my teammates and coaches that joined me on the court."
Kidd won an NBA title and two Olympic gold medals, is second on the career list in assists and steals, and was a 10-time All-Star. But he missed 22 of his 25 shots in the post-season and was scoreless in his final 10 playoff games shortly after turning 40, and decided to walk away with two years and more than $6 million left on the deal he signed last summer.
His retirement comes two days after fellow 40-year-old Grant Hill, with whom Kidd shared Rookie of the Year honours in 1995, announced his retirement.
Kidd went on from there to have big impacts on every team he joined. He led the Nets to two NBA Finals in 2002-03, helped the Dallas Mavericks win the 2011 title, and was on the first Knicks team to reach the second round of the playoffs since 2000.
He averaged 12.6 points, 8.7 assists, 6.3 rebounds and 1.93 steals in a career that also included a stop in Phoenix. Kidd had numerous ways to make his mark on games, ranking third on the career list with 107 triple-doubles while finishing third all-time in 3-pointers made, despite being considered a poor outside shooter when he came into the league.
Dirk Nowitzki, who played with Kidd on the Mavs' title team, wrote on Twitter that Kidd was "one of the best point guards ever and one of the fiercest competitors I have ever played with."
"Amazing career," Nowitzki wrote. "He always put the team and winning first. All the best to him in retirement."
The Knicks signed Kidd away from Dallas last summer with a three-year deal, and he helped them flourish with a lineup that often featured two point guards. They won 54 games and their first Atlantic Division title since 1994, which was just before Kidd was drafted by Dallas with the No. 2 overall pick.
"Jason's value to the Knicks and the National Basketball Association cannot be quantified by statistics alone," Knicks general manager Glen Grunwald said. "Everyone here in New York saw firsthand what a tremendous competitor he is and why Jason is considered to be one of the best point guards, and leaders, the game has ever seen."
He got off to a rocky start with the Knicks, arrested on a drunken-driving charge shortly after signing last July — Kidd was also arrested on a domestic violence charge while playing with Phoenix in 2001 , acknowledging he struck his former wife — but he turned out to be the leader the team sought.
He averaged 6.0 points, 3.3 assists and 4.3 rebounds in 76 games for the Knicks but lost his likely Hall of Fame-bound game in the post-season. He missed all 17 shots across the final 10 games, seeing limited minutes in the last two games of the Knicks' loss to Indiana in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
"Veteran leadership on and off the court was a huge factor for our team that recorded 54 victories and an Atlantic Division crown," coach Mike Woodson said. "Jason provided an incredible voice inside our locker room and I considered it an honour to say I coached him."
Grunwald had said he expected Kidd to return, though Woodson said things could always change.
Kidd becomes the second player on an aged Knicks roster to retire, following Rasheed Wallace's decision in April. Kurt Thomas, nearly six months older than Kidd, broke his foot late in the season, and his status is unclear.
Kidd was a five-time selection to the All-NBA first team and was voted to the All-Defensive first or second team nine times.
Phoenix traded him to New Jersey after his legal troubles, and he would go on to lead the Nets to their greatest NBA success. The 6-foot-4 guard is the team's career leader in most playoff categories.
"Jason Kidd was the captain of the Nets during their most successful period in the NBA, and is considered the greatest player in the Nets' NBA history. On behalf of the entire Brooklyn Nets organization, we congratulate him on his Hall of Fame career," general manager Billy King said.
Along with his NBA greatness, Kidd had an undefeated career at the senior international level during an era when simply wearing a USA jersey no longer guaranteed victory. He helped the U.S. win gold in the 2000 and '08 Olympics, along with FIBA Americas titles in 1999, 2003 and '07. The Americans didn't win any of the three major international events without him during that time.
Respected around the league, Kidd won the NBA's sportsmanship award this season, becoming the first player to win it in consecutive seasons. Commissioner David Stern said that was equally important as the way Kidd played, saying Kidd "embodied the ideals of team sports."
"On behalf of the NBA family and basketball fans worldwide, I want to thank Jason for all he has done for the NBA and the sport of basketball, and hope he will continue to help us grow the game," Stern said. "We wish him and his family all the best."
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