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Ty Lawson still playing basketball after UNC, NBA careers
After a memorable championship run at UNC and a nine-year NBA career, Ty Lawson is still finding ways to get on the basketball court in the U.S. and overseas. (Credit: Chris Humphreys/USA TODAY Sports)

Ty Lawson still playing basketball after UNC, NBA careers

DENVER (BVM) – Tywon Ronnell Lawson, better known by his nickname of Ty, has been seemingly under-appreciated during his basketball career. Whether that was due to his lack of height at 5-foot-11 or the fact he usually played second fiddle to another star like Tyler Hansborough at the University of North Carolina or Carmelo Anthony with the Denver Nuggets, Lawson seemed to fade into the background despite his solid play. Despite a lack of All-Star game appearances and playoff series victories, Lawson has still been able to find playing time in basketball, making his rounds with the Big3 league and In The Lab events.

Early life and high school basketball

Lawson grew up in the Clinton, Maryland area and was seen as a basketball star as early as middle school when he attended Gwynn Park Middle School for sixth and seventh grade. His play stood out so much in fact that the guard was recruited to the Newport School for his eighth-grade season.

As a freshman and sophomore, Lawson spent his time at Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville, Maryland and his play was again good enough to attract the attention of a bigger program, the prestigious Oak Hill Academy. Under the direction of legendary coach Steve Smith, Lawson earned back-to-back team MVP awards and helped the Warriors go 42-1 as a senior after averaging 23.9 points, 9.1 assists and five steals while shooting 63% from the floor and 42% from 3-point range.

Ty Lawson Oak Hill Academy Point Guard
Lawson earned back-to-back MVP honors at Oak Hill Academy, making him one of the most highly-sought after recruits in the nation. (Credit: Oak Hill Academy Athletics)

For his performance, Lawson was named both a McDonald’s All-American and a Parade All-American as a senior. Ranked as the No. 1 point guard in the country and a top-10 overall player in the Class of 2006, Lawson committed to UNC.

UNC basketball

Lawson was immediately placed into the Tar Heels’ starting lineup upon arrival in Chapel Hill. As a freshman, Lawson averaged 10.2 points, 5.6 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 1.5 steals in 38 games with 31 starts, helping lead UNC to the Elite Eight. The next season, Lawson again starred as he averaged 12.7 points, 5.1 assists, 2.7 rebounds and 1.6 steals while leading the Tar Heels to the Final Four.

For the 2008-09 season, Lawson’s junior year, the point guard became a certified national star. During the campaign, Lawson averaged 16.6 points, 6.5 assists, three rebounds and 2.1 steals while playing and starting 35 games. Lawson saved his best for last as well as he led all players on both teams with 21 points and set a championship game record eight steals in the NCAA Championship against Michigan State, which the Heels won 89-72.

Ty Lawson UNC basketball NCAA championship
Lawson helped lead the Tar Heels to the 2009 NCAA Championship after setting a championship game record with eight steals against Michigan State. (Credit: Bob Donnan/USA TODAY Sports)

Following the campaign, Lawson was named the Bob Cousy Award winner as the best collegiate point guard in the country. He was also recognized as the 2009 ACC Player of the Year, becoming the first point guard to win the honors in 31 years. His No. 5 number has been honored by the UNC program. Given his strong junior season, Lawson made the decision to enter the 2009 NBA Draft.

NBA career

The 2009 NBA Draft was loaded with talent at the point guard position with players like Steph Curry, Jrue Holiday and Jeff Teague. Lawson was among these talented distributors and found himself selected with the No. 18 overall pick in the first round by the Denver Nuggets, sandwiched between the Holiday and Teague selections.

Lawson spent his first two seasons in Denver primarily as a backup to starting point guard Chauncy Billups. The young point guard would take over the starting role in the 2011-12 season following Billups being traded to the New York Knicks. In his first season as a starter, Lawson averaged 16.4 points, 6.6 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 61 games, each of which he started for the 38-28 Nuggets.

Over the next two seasons, Lawson saw improvement as he averaged 16.7 points and 6.9 assists during the 2012-13 season and a career-best 17.6 points and 8.8 assists in 2013-14. However, as Lawson was trending up the Nuggets’ team was trending down thanks to losing Anthony and head coach George Karl.

Lawson played the 2014-15 season with Denver where he averaged 15.2 points and a career-high 9.6 assists but would not return the next year, ending his Nuggets tenure averaging 14.2 points, 6.6 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 1.2 steals over six seasons.

Prior to the 2015 season, Lawson was traded to the Houston Rockets. The marriage wouldn’t last long as Lawson only played 53 games with 12 starts for the Rockets before being released in March due to numerous off-the-court issues. Lawson was signed by the Indiana Pacers later that same month where he played in 13 games with one start and appeared in seven playoff games, but was not re-signed following the season.

In 2016, Lawson signed with the Sacramento Kings where he averaged 9.9 points, 4.8 assists, 2.6 rebounds and 1.9 steals in 69 games with 24 starts. This included recording his first career triple-double when he had 22 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds against the Phoenix Suns on April 11, 2017.

Unfortunately, Lawson’s impressive play didn’t earn him another NBA opportunity and he spent the 2017 season with the Shandong Golden Stars. However, when the 2018 NBA playoffs came around, the Washington Wizards signed Lawson as a depth piece and he performed admirably over five postseason games, averaging 5.8 points, three assists and 2.6 rebounds. This marked the end of Lawson’s time in the NBA and he finished his nine-year career averaging 12.7 points, six assists, 2.7 rebounds and 1.2 steals over 551 games with 344 starts.

Overseas career and retirement

Since the end of his time in the NBA, Lawson has landed in a few spots internationally. First, Lawson returned to the Golden Stars of the Chinese Basketball Association where he played the 2018-19 season. The next year, he signed with the CBA’s Fujian Sturgeons but was released and banned from the league over inappropriate social media posts.

For the 2020-21 season, Lawson signed with Kolossos Rodou of the Greek Basket League, but only ever appeared in one game. For the 2021-22 season, Lawson signed for US Monastir of the Championnat National A, a professional basketball league in Tunisia, where he played 14 games and was named the MVP of Round 1 and 2 of the playoffs.

In July 2022, Lawson joined the Big3 League as a member of the Ball Hogs. However, Lawson only appeared in one game, grabbing a single rebound and attempting one shot.

In August, Lawson participated in an event by basketball company In The Lab called The Cage Showdown where he played a one-on-one game against Ryan “The Hezigod” Carter.

While he may not be an NBA star anymore, Lawson is still playing the game he loves as much as he can. Though he may not see an NBA court in the future, the 34-year-old point guard is proving he has plenty of game still left in his legs.

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