For years, great players have come and gone in the NBA. These players generally become fan favorites, and sons to the cities they played in. Organizations build teams around these great players in the hopes of winning championships.
When a great player retires, fans are saddened, but still honor these players' great careers. Sometimes, though, these superstars of the league don't retire, and end their career in a virtual wasteland away from home.
This team, the All-"They Played Where?!?" Team recognizes some of the greats who ended their careers away from the franchise they helped build. Too often a legend goes in search of the elusive championship ring, or maybe just one more taste of a title.
Unfortunately, these legends end up tarnishing a once shining career.
Without further wait, I present the starting five of the All-"They Played Where?!?" NBA Team.
Point Guard: Bob Cousy (1969-70)
This all-time great spent thirteen fantastic seasons with the Celtics. Cousy was a part of six...SIX...championship teams. 'Cooz' was the league MVP of the 1956-57 season and was a two-time MVP of the All-Star Game. He led the league in assists eight straight seasons and ranks thirteenth all-time in that category.
Cousy retired a Celtic in 1963, but tried his hand at basketball once more at the age of 41 when he played in Cincinnati in 1969. He averaged a whopping 4.9 minutes per game for seven games and totaled a solid ten assists and five points over that span.
Shooting Guard: Michael Jordan (2002-03)
Michael Jordan. The greatest player to play the game? All he did was lead the Bulls to six titles in eight years. Jordan won five MVPs, six more in the NBA Finals, was a three-time All-Star Game MVP, Rookie of the Year, and Defensive Player of the Year. But after his second retirement, Jordan came back for two years with the Washington Wizards as player and part owner.
In his final season, at the age of 39, Jordan's scoring average dipped to a career low of 20.0. It's not that Jordan didn't play well, he did. But Mike playing for the Wizards tarnished a career that could have ended with him as a champion and NBA Finals MVP. It tarnished a career that could have ended with a final shot over Byron Russell to seal the title for the Windy City.
Small Forward: Dominique Wilkins (1998-99)
The 'Human Highlight Film' might best be known for taking on Larry Bird one magical night in the Boston Garden. It certainly wasn't for spending his last season with the Orlando Magic. Most people remember 'Nique as an Atlanta Hawk, and rightfully so. Wilkins appeared in nine straight All-Star Games, and led the NBA in scoring during the 1985-86 season.
In 1994, Wilkins was shipped to the Clippers for part of the season, then the Celtics for a full year. Dominique even led the San Antonio Spurs during the 1996-97 season. After a year out of the NBA, Wilkins returned to the Orlando Magic and appeared in 27 games. His per game scoring amounted to 5.0, more than twelve points fewer than his previous career low. Wilkins amassed career lows in almost every major statistical category while donning the Blue and Silver in Florida.
Power Forward: Karl Malone (2003-04)
The 'Mailman' teamed with John Stockton and took the Utah Jazz to the NBA Finals two consecutive trips. This 14-time All-Star and two-time MVP is the all-time leader in free throws made and attempted, and is second all-time in the most prestigious record in the league: total points.
He left the Jazz for Los Angeles for the elusive taste of the NBA championship, only to fall one series short against the Detroit Pistons. Along the way, Malone saw his numbers return to places they had not been since his rookie season with the Jazz in 1985-86. Perhaps the biggest change was seeing Malone go from a purple No.32 jersey, to a purple No.11 jersey. Gross!
Center: Hakeem Olajuwon (2001-02)
Hakeem 'The Dream' was the cornerstone for the Houston Rockets franchise for seventeen seasons and even brought the Space City back-to-back championships. Olajuwon lived up to the hype of being the No.1 overall pick in the draft by winning two NBA Finals MVPs and by winning the league MVP in 1994. This two-time Defensive Player of the Year ranks first all-time in blocks. Hakeem also ranks among the top-ten all-time in steals and points.
But no, 'The Dream' played out his career in Canada! He couldn't settle for any team, Olajuwon settled for the Toronto Raptors! Needless to say, Hakeem never scored fewer points in a single NBA season. This could be the most out of place a player has ever looked.
All great teams must have a solid bench. Let's take a look:
Nate Archibald (1983-84)
'Tiny' started as a Royal, gained fame as a Celtic, and retired a...Buck?!? He had his championship, and a great career. Of course, what career would be complete without a stint on the Milwaukee Bucks? Archibald took his game to new lows in Wisconsin by averaging fewer assists and points per game than he ever had.
George Gervin (1985-86)
One of most prolific scorers of all-time gained fame with the San Antonio Spurs of he ABA. Not too many people can recall his days as a Chicago Bull. The 'Iceman' had a decent year in the Windy City, but certainly not as good as his days in the Lone Star State.
Pete Maravich (1979-80)
Maravich's nine-year career certainly proved how dynamic of a scorer he truly was. 'The Pistol' helped revolutionize the game as a Hawk and as a member of the New Orleans Jazz. Unfortunately, he ended up as a Celtic for his last run at a ring. Maravich never did quite fit in with Boston as he saw his minutes dwindle significantly along with his points.
Moses Malone (1994-95)
Did he really finish off a brilliant twenty year career in San Antonio. The all-time leader in rebounds and top-ten scorer finished by averaging 2.9 points per game and 2.7 rebounds per game. Nice!
Dennis Rodman (1999-00)
As if playing for the Lakers the previous season wasn't bad enough, the most animated player in the NBA ended his career as a Maverick. It's not that seeing Rodman in odd situations wasn't the norm, but playing in Dallas and wearing No.70 is certainly out of character for one of the NBA's all-time best rebounders and defenders.
Patrick Ewing (2001-02)
One of the greats of our era could never hoist the Larry O'Brien Trophy as a New York Knick. A year in Seattle led to a year with the Orlando Magic. Neither team brought Ewing championship glory. The aging and ailing Ewing averaged a mere 6.0 points, 4.0 boards, and .7 blocks per game down in Orlando.
Robert Parish (1996-97)
The man who brought glory to the number 00 and the Celtics finished up a solid career as a Chicago Bull. As if being a Charlotte Hornet (remember them?) wasn't bad enough. Parish, whose numbers were in decline for sometime prior to 1996-97, wound up with 3.7 points, 2.1 rebounds, and .4 blocks per game in Chicago.
Head Coach: Lenny Wilkens (2004-05)
The all-time winningest coach took over a bumbling Knicks team in 2003-04. He stayed with the Knicks for thirty-nine games in 04-05. After only winning seventeen, it was decided that Herb Williams would have the task of taking over. Neither stood a chance under such terrible management and ownership.