The basic idea is that a player must play for the same team for three seasons
for his team to gain Bird rights (two seasons for Early Bird rights
). It can be a single three-year contract, a series of three one-year contracts, or any combination that adds up to three seasons (two for Early Bird). However there are a number of complications:
- When a player is traded, his new team inherits his Bird rights. For example, if a player signs a three-year contract, plays two and a half seasons with that team, and is traded at the trade deadline in the third season, then his new team owns full Bird rights following the third season.
- The first season of the three-year tenure doesn't have to be a full season. If a player is waived and signs with another team in year one, then plays with his new team for two additional seasons, his new team will have full Bird rights following the third season.