The NBA Journeyman: The Saga of Players That Never Found a Home

Mike AikinsContributor IIFebruary 4, 2011

The NBA Journeyman: The Saga of Players That Never Found a Home

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    When the subject of the top journeymen in the NBA comes up, the first player that comes to mind is probably Jim Jackson.  Jackson changed jerseys a whopping 12 times over a 14-year career. 

    Jim Jackson played for the Dallas Mavericks, New Jersey Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, Golden St. Warriors, Portland Trail Blazers, Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, Sacramento Kings, Houston Rockets, Phoenix Suns and finally the Los Angeles Lakers. 

    This would make Jackson, a former Ohio St. Buckeye, the most prolific journeyman in the history of the NBA.  I'm not anointing Jackson as the greatest journeyman ever, simply because he played for 12 teams. I am calling him the most-traveled player with the most skills, that seemed to muster the most interest from NBA general managers than any other player in NBA history. 

    It behooved Jackson to never change his home address from the original address he had in Dallas while playing as one of the three J's with Jason Kidd and Jamaal Mashburn. Jackson suited up with a lot of different franchises and signed on the dotted line on so many contracts, that until this very day, he probably doesn't remember them all. 

    As we take a look at a countdown of the players who played for the most teams, keep in mind these players had to do something that not only kept them going from team to team but also kept them on a list of desired players by general managers.

    Jackson gets the top billing as the most-traveled and most-desired player in the NBA, and this would undoubtedly make him the best endorser of luggage in all of sports. 

    Here is a countdown of the players who changed jerseys most often and played the most years in the league.  

    I am adding together the number of years they played in the league with the number of times they changed jerseys, to come up with my own special journeyman formula.  

    With my special journeyman formula, Jackson scores a 26 to start the countdown. 

    So sit back and keep your seat, as we take a look at a list of NBA players that couldn't keep theirs. 

Moses Malone, 20-Year Career; Changed Jerseys 10 Times

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    Moses Malone started in the ABA straight out of high school, playing for Utah and then St. Louis.  He later played for the Buffalo Braves, Houston Rockets, Philadelphia 76ers and the Washington Bullets. 

    Moses then played for the Atlanta Hawks, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers again and, finally, one last stint for the San Antonio Spurs. 

    This journeyman-lifestyle forced Moses to change jerseys 10 times making him one of the most-traveled players in NBA history. His career statistics made him one of the best.

    Moses was know for his famous prediction of "Fo-Fo-Fo," as he predicted that he and his fellow 76ers teammates would sweep right through the Eastern Conference to the championship game against the Western Conference champion without losing one game.  

    Moses' eventually amended his prediction to "Fo-Fi-Fo," as his 76ers team lost only one Eastern Conference playoff game to the Milwaukee Bucks. Moses' prediction was close though, as the 76ers eventually defeated the Los Angeles Lakers four games to two in the championship series that year.  

    In my special journeyman formula, Moses Malone scores a 30.

Joe Smith, 15-Year Career and Still Going: Changed Jerseys 13 Times

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    Joe Smith is currently playing in the NBA and was last seen on the roster of the New Jersey Nets or Los Angeles Lakers. 

    Smith's career has sent him all around the NBA playing for the Golden State Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Detroit Pistons, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers again, Denver Nuggets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago Bulls, Oklahoma City Thunder, Atlanta Hawks, Los Angeles Lakers, and New Jersey Nets.  

    This proves Joe Smith changed jerseys a whopping 15 times.  Smith traveled from team to team so much, he probably can't recite all of the various addresses he stayed in during each of his stints in these various cities. It wouldn't even be worth asking him. 

    Smith is undoubtedly one the greatest journeymen in NBA History. I'm not even going to bring up how many points or rebounds he averaged over the course of his career. It's well-documented that he moved around a lot, so let's just say that he was one of the best in this category.     

     In my special journeyman formula, Joe Smith scores a 28.

Juwan Howard, 16-Years and Still Going; Changed Jerseys 10 Times

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    Nowadays, Juwan Howard is considered to be an ageless wonder and a freak of nature. Over his career, Howard has changed jerseys a whopping 10 times. 

    Howard has played for the Washington Bullets, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets and Orlando Magic.   

    Howard then went to the play for the Houston Rockets, Charlotte Hornets, Denver Nuggets again, and then Portland, and now finally Miami.

    When asked at Miami why he feels like he has had to move around so much throughout his career, Howard said "Because I was looking for a job when I found this one."

    It's obvious Howard is having fun moving around from place to place, but he seems to favor Dallas and Denver over a plethora of other cities in the league.   

    In my special journeyman formula, Juwan Howard scores a 26.  

Theo Ratliff, 15-Year Career and Still Going; Changed Jerseys 11 Times

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    Clive Rose/Getty Images

    As quiet as it's kept, Theo Ratliff is probably the most-traveled player in NBA history. Ratliff changed jerseys 11 or more times and quite frankly, it was hard to determine the exact amount of times he changed teams.  

    Ratliff played for Detroit for two years and then to Philadelphia then to Atlanta. From there, he went to Portland.   

    Ratliff  left Portland and went to Boston then back to Detroit again.  From there, he went to Minnesota and then Philadelphia again. 

    Ratliff then went to Charlotte, San Antonio and is now playing for the Lakers.  If anyone can lay claim to arguably the most-traveled player in NBA history, it is probably Theo Ratliff. 

    Good big men are hard to find, and someone who takes care of their body, stays in shape, like Ratliff, will continue to be source of every general manager's desires. 

     In my own special journeyman formula, Theo Ratliff scores a 26

Avery Johnson, 15-Year Career; Changed Jerseys 10 Times

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Avery Johnson over a 15-year career played for the Seattle Super Sonics, Denver Nuggets, San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs again, Golden St. Warriors, San Antonio Spurs again, Denver Nuggets again, Dallas Mavericks and finally the Golden St. Warriors again.

    If you counted correctly, that puts Avery Johnson at changing jerseys a whopping 10 times.  Johnson played most of his career with the San Antonio Spurs and won a championship with them but was the consummate journeyman by playing with San Antonio twice and Gold State twice. 

    Johnson stayed in great shape, never really had a prolific skill in any one area, but played hard, hustled, had a good overall attitude.  Coaches and general managers around the league obviously grew to love him and covet his services. 

    In my special journeyman formula, Avery Johnson scores a 25.

Anthony Johnson, 13-Year Career; Changed Jerseys 12 Times

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    Anthony Johnson is a much-traveled NBA veteran who has played for several teams over the course of his career.

    Johnson started out with Sacramento, then went to Atlanta and Orlando.  He soon figured out he was destined to be a journeyman.

    Johnson went to Cleveland, back to Atlanta and then New Jersey.  From there, he went to Indiana, Atlanta again and Dallas. 

    Johnson went around and around in circles again when he went back to Sacramento, Atlanta again and Orlando again for one last hurrah.

    Johnson is currently with the Magic, and his head is probably still spinning from all the different address changes.  This makes Johnson your proto-typical journeyman. 

    In my special journeyman formula, Anthony Johnson scores at 25

Kurt Thomas, 16-Year Career and Still Going; Changed Jerseys 8 Times

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Curt Thomas is another perfect choice and great at endorsing one of the best luggage manufacturers in the world.  

    In the 16 seasons he's played in the NBA, Thomas has played for at least seven teams including the Miami Heat, Dallas Mavericks, New York Knickerbockers, Phoenix Suns, San Antonio Spurs (twice), Seattle Super Sonics, Milwaukee Bucks and now currently with the Chicago Bulls. 

    Thomas has enjoyed a nice shooter's touch for a big man and is also known as a pretty solid defensive player.  But it's no wonder he's the No. 1 prospect for most real estate agents in a lot of the major cities across America. 

    In my special journeyman formula, Kurt Thomas scores a 24.

Damon Jones, 11-Year Career; Changed Jerseys 11 Times

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Damon Jones has the dubious distinction of signing 10 consecutive one-year contracts with a different team each of those 10 years. 

    When Jones played with LeBron in Cleveland, it was his last grasp at settling down, and the only time he played for one team for more than one year.  

    Jones was last seen in Milwaukee for his second tour with the Bucks. 

    Damon Jones has had one of the most incredible journeyman experiences ever, and it was not hard to figure it out.  

    He has played for the New Jersey Nets, Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, Dallas Mavericks, Vancouver Grizzlies, Detroit Pistons, Sacramento Kings, Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers, and then back to the Milwaukee Bucks again. 

    If you are keeping track at home, that means he changed jerseys a whopping 11 times. 

    What has kept Damon Jones so desirable to general managers, and in the NBA so long, is the fact that he is a consummate gym rat, and his uncanny ability to shoot a prolific proficiency from behind the three-point arc.  

    It seems that whenever a player has these two intangibles, it makes for the perfect mix and bodes well for a good career in the NBA.

    In my special journeyman formula, Damon Jones scores a 22. 

Tim Thomas, 13-Year Career; Changed Jerseys 8 Times

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    Tim Thomas started his career with Philadelphia. From there, he went to Milwaukee. As most journeymen on this list can attest to, this is a normal pattern for a someone that's considered a journeyman in the NBA. 

    Once Thomas left Milwaukee, he played for the New York Knicks.  He then went to Phoenix for the first time.

    Thomas continued his journey by leaving Phoenix, going to Chicago and then back to the West Coast to play for the Los Angeles Clippers.  From there, he went back to the Chicago, then to Dallas, where he is on the roster playing for the Mavericks. 

    Since Tim Thomas kept his suitcases packed and wasn't afraid to move around from city to city, he is considered one of the top journeymen in NBA history. 

    In my special journeyman formula, Tim Thomas scores a 21.

Kendall Gill, 14-Year Career; Changed Jerseys 7 Times

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    Kendall Gill played 14 years in the NBA and changed jerseys seven times.  During the course of his career, his journey started by playing in Charlotte, Seattle, and then New Jersey. 

    Gill showed a versatile skill set and became marketable throughout the NBA.  His journeyman adventure continued when he left New Jersey for Miami, then to Minnesota, then to Chicago and finally ending his career in Milwaukee. 

    Gill makes this list as the proverbial journeyman because of his versatility and the good career he had playing for several teams throughout his adventure in the NBA.  

    In the special journeyman formula, Kendall Gill scores a 21.   

Chris Gatling, 11-Year Career; Changed Jerseys 9 Times

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    Chris Gatling started out with Golden St., and was traded to Miami.  Gatlin went from Miami to Dallas, and then Dallas to New Jersey.  Whew!!

    From New Jersey, he went to Milwaukee. Of course by then, Gatlin was all confused.  But he made his last go around playing for Orlando, thought he was set, but then got traded to Denver. 

    From Denver he went to Cleveland, and then back to Miami for one last hurrah.  If you counted correctly, Gatlin changed jerseys 9 times. 

    Chris Gatling was a consummate journeyman in the NBA.  He told every cab driver in every city "wait right here, I'll be right back." But the problem was, he never came back. He left town, again. 

     He was your proto-typical power forward who could also play center. He was one of the first players to always wear a headband, as a stark reminder that he was lucky to be playing in the NBA due to a serious head injury suffered as a child.  

    In my special journeyman formula, Chris Gatling scores a 20.

Mike James, 9-Years and Still Going; Changed Jerseys 10 Times

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    Mike James burst out on the NBA scene virtually out of nowhere and began his career with the Miami Heat.  From there, James went to Detroit, Boston, and then Houston. It was obvious at that point, that Mike James would be a journeyman.

    After hanging out at Galveston Beach for little while, James left Houston for the brisk cold in Milwaukee. After that, he left there and went to Toronto, then down to Minnesota.  

    So it appeared that a pattern was emerging because Mike James isn't acclimating quickly with any team and probably doesn't fit into most team's big picture future plans. 

    It gets a little complicated from this point.  He left Minnesota and went back to Houston again, then on to New Orleans, before finally settling down for a short time on the East Coast in D.C., to play for the Wizards. 

    In D.C. also known as the DMV (D.C./Maryland/Virgina), James could now go for some of those good ol' soft shelled crabs and the rich cultural environment that the DMV is famous for.   

    It turns out Mike James just likes to move around. I wonder how long before he makes another move?

    In my special journeyman formula,  Mike James scores a 19.

Eddie House, 10-Years and Still Going: Changed Jerseys 9 Times

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    Eddie House, famed all-american guard out of Arizona State, makes the list as an NBA journeyman.  House, the brother-in-law of Atlanta Hawks guard Mike Bibby, has played for at least nine teams over a career that has spanned for 10 years. 

    House started out in paradise at Miami, and the wonderful atmosphere of South Beach. But I guess it was too good there to concentrate on basketball, so he packed-up his bags and moved to back out west to play for the Los Angeles Clippers. 

    After a brief stint in the Clippers' dysfunctional organization, House felt the need to go North up to Sacramento, where his outside shooting touch would be appreciated.  But that didn't last long as his journeyman saga continued.   

    House then played at Charlotte, Milwaukee, Phoenix, New Jersey, New York, and finally Miami.  House is now 33 years old, can still shoot the J, but has racked-up some serious frequent-flyer miles over the years. 

    But just as most journeyman on this list can attest to, House has never really found a home, and his rule of thumb always has been: to do that one last walk-thru in the hotel room, just to make sure that he left nothing behind.   

    In my special journeyman formula, Eddie House scores a 19.


Rafer Alston, 11-Years and Still Going; Changed Jerseys 8 Times

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Rafer Alston, the famed Skip-to-my-Lou And1 Mixed-Tape playground baller, comes up next on the list of guys who just didn't learn how stay in one place. 

    Alston is still around somewhere, last spotted in New Jersey and available at any time to finally try to establish some stability on his way out.

    But once a journeyman, always a journeyman, and Rafer Alston is no quitter. So look for New Jersey not to be the last stop in his journey.  

    Alston started out with Milwaukee, then went to Toronto and then Miami.  When South Beach didn't have quite what he was looking for, he packed up and went back to Toronto. 

    Alston became impatient in Toronto (go figure), so he left there for an a second time.  From Toronto, Alston went to H-town for Galveston Beach and a nicer climate.   

    But its really hard to tell why Alston left Houston, and then went to Orlando. But it was obvious that he wanted to get back at Orlando, by going over to Miami to kick it on Collins Street in South  Beach.  But as they say, "Nothing lasts forever," which is probably why Alston left South Beach. 

    But last I heard, Alston was back in New Jersey, waiting impatiently by the phone, with his bags packed, and looking for another opportunity to continue his journey. 

    In my special journeyman formula, Rafor Alston scores a 19

Ricky Davis, 11-Year Career; Changed Jerseys 7 Times

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    Ricky Davis is your consummate NBA journeyman.  Over the course of his 11-year career, Davis has changed his jersey seven times.   

    Davis started out with Charlotte then went to Miami. It had to be like living in Paradise, parading down Collins Street and the beautiful and exotic women on South Beach in Miami, Florida. 

    Girls, girls, girls, girls, girls, girls, girls.  And oh how Ricky just loved the girls on South Beach. Its a wonder that he showed-up to play any basketball there during his career in paradise. 

    But as most people will start to understand, when a player has journeyman in his DNA, it really doesn't matter if he has access to some of the most beautiful girls in the world, because he just won't be able to sit still for any extended amount of time anyway. 

    So from the beautiful confines of South Beach and some of the hottest girls in the world, Pretty Ricky ("What they called him") chose to take his show on the road to Cleveland.  

    I guess in Cleveland, Ricky could then sport his fur coats and alligator shoes, which is something he just couldn't do in sunny South Beach.    

    But maybe that wasn't really it, because Davis left Cleveland, packed-up and moved to Boston. 

    After he left Boston, Ricky then went to Minnesota.  I guess he chose Minneapolis because he could actually buy more even more mink fur coats (a different one for every day of the week) because rumor has it, that its even colder in Minnesota than it is in Boston. 

    I guess he got tired of the huge crowds at the Mall of America, so it was time to leave Minnesota and go back to South Beach, to undoubtedly rekindle some of the past flames that he enjoyed so much in Miami.   

    That didn't last long, and as we all know, because its never as good as the first time. 

    So the last time anyone saw Ricky Davis, he was in L.A. walking through the sand on Venice Beach, and playing for the Los Angeles Clippers in his spare time. 

    But since Blake Griffin arrived on the scene in Clipper land, no one has seen nor heard from Ricky Davis in quite some time.  

    As we all know by now, Los Angeles is rumored to be a really great place to visit. And that's all a journeyman like Ricky Davis will ever do.  Just visit.     

    Damn Ricky, cool yo jets man!

    In my special journeyman formula, Ricky Davis scores a 18.

James Posey, 11-Years and Still Going; Changed Jerseys 7 Times

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    James Posey, a 6' 8' shooting forward out of Xavier, makes the list as a journeyman.  Posey, in a career that has spanned over 11 seasons, changed jerseys seven times. 

    Posey started his career in Denver before leaving the Mile High City for Houston to play for the Rockets.  Posey contributed there and was instrumental in Houston's playoff fortunes that year, but something just wasn't right. 

    So he packed-up his bags and left Houston in an effort to make his mark on a new franchise in Memphis. Well things didn't go as planned there, so he left Memphis and moved for the beautiful paradise of Miami and their famed South Beach culture. 

    But once a journeyman, always a journeyman, so I guess living in paradise with some of the most beautiful women in the world wasn't enough to make James Posey sit still. 

    He left South Beach and their beautiful women to play for arguably the most successful franchise in all of basketball (Boston Celtics). 

    Well, the word was out on Posey by then, and it was obvious that he never had a problem fitting-in where he was really appreciated.  So he became desirable to other teams in the league and the Big Easy in New Orleans seemed to be the next logical stop. 

    Yep, you guessed it, New Orleans had their own issues to deal with, and James Posey wasn't in their future plans.  So Posey left New Orleans and is now on the roster of the Indiana Pacers.  Whew!!!

    Where will James Posey end up next?  Who knows, but it is quite obvious that his journey is not over. 

    In my special journeyman formula, James Posey scores an 18.

Raja Bell, 10-Years and Still Going; Changed Jerseys 7 Times

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Raja Bell is next on the list of proverbial NBA journeyman. He is currently playing for the Utah Jazz but started his career with the Philadelphia 76ers. 

    Bell then played for the Dallas Mavericks, Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns and Charlotte Bobcats.  If you are keeping count, that's five teams already. 

    Rounding out his tour of the NBA, Bell played at Golden State, Charlotte again and is now playing for Utah again. 

    Bell undoubtedly has ants in his pants, because he has changed jerseys nine times. 

    Bell has been been known to be a tough and gritty great defensive player, making coaches and general managers all around the league continue to covet his services. 

    In my special journeyman formula, Raja Bell scores a 17.

Drew Gooden, 8-Years and Still Going; Changed Jerseys 9 Times

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Drew Gooden is another one of those cats that just can't seem to be still. Over an eight-year career, Drew has changed jerseys nine times. 

    He started his career with Memphis and then went to Orlando. He probably asked himself, "why did I leave Disney World?" Well, probably because he was about to start a trend. 

    Gooden left Orlando for Cleveland, where he played three seasons, which turns out to be his longest stint anywhere.  But things went South in Cleveland, so Gooden packed up his things and moved to Chicago.   

    He lasted two years in Chicago before leaving for San Antonio.  He played there for one year and then took his game back out West, where he was originally from, to California. But a little more up north, to the sanctity and serenity of California's capital city (Sacramento) to play for the Maloof Brothers.

    Well, that didn't last long before he packed up again and moved to L.A. to play in front of his real home crowd as a member of the LA Clippers. 

    That didn't last long either, because in the same year, Gooden was packaged and shipped to Dallas to play for the best owner in basketball, Mark Cuban.  Now, surely this would be his last stop.  Right?  Not!

    Gooden was sent packing again from Dallas to Milwaukee, where he is trying to take a breather, but just long enough to let his latest address change from the U.S. Postal Service take effect. 

    With Drew Gooden, his life as a journeyman will most definitely continue. 

    In my special journeyman formula, Drew Gooden scores a 17.

Ronald "Flip" Murray, 8-Year Career; Changed Jerseys 8 Times

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    Flip Murray is another NBA journeyman. He started his career with Milwaukee, then went to Seattle.

    But Murray wasn't satisfied with it raining just about every day and ducking the flying fish at the Flying Fish Restaurant, so he left Seattle for Cleveland to play with the now infamous Ohio native, LeBron James. 

    After that brief stint in Cleveland, its obvious now that Flip likes living out of suitcase, so he left Cleveland, moved on to Detroit.  Well I guess living in the Motor City was good, because Flip could then just jump in his car and go right on over to Indianapolis. 

    This type of behavior is typical of an NBA journeyman.  They always seem to think the grass is always greener on the other side.   

    So Flip wasn't done.  From Indiana, he went to Atlanta.  Then he left Atlanta and went to Chicago, before finally settling in beautiful Charlotte, North Carolina.  I wonder how long he will stay? 

    That's was the last time anyone had seen Flip Murray. So Flip if you are reading this, call home man, we just want to know that you are okay.

    In my special journeyman formula, Ronald "Flip" Murray scores a 16.


    NBA Fans, if you can think of any journeymen that deserve to be on this list, please feel free to suggest them and remember to use my special journeyman formula when you calculate their score. 

    But they'll have to have a minimum score of 16 to get on this list.