The NBA Stints That Time Forgot
There's great risk in defending hipster concert-goers, as few species are more deserving of scorn.
But this trend-obsessed, "I'm cool because I'm cool with being purposely uncool" subset of humanity is the only faction performing a vital cultural task. They are swimming against the irresistible tide of time.
They are keeping obscure NBA jerseys—and, most importantly, the forgettably short tenures they commemorate—alive. They are the stewards of fading memory.
We join them now, digging into the NBA annals to celebrate the brief and strange stints nearly erased from our consciousness.
Because we must never forget Rasheed Wallace's one-game career with the Atlanta Hawks.
Rasheed Wallace, Atlanta Hawks
Length of Stay: 42 minutes
Rasheed Wallace technically lasted 10 days with the Atlanta Hawks in February 2004, but it's more fun to quantify his stay in actual time on the floor.
In just under three-quarters of an hour with the Hawks, Wallace scored 20 points, grabbed six boards and blocked five shots in a loss to the New Jersey Nets. One day later, Atlanta shipped him to the Detroit Pistons in a three-team trade.
Things That Lasted Longer: A theoretical fall from one pole of the Earth to the other, down a theoretical hole drilled through the center of the planet. According to Charles Q. Choi of Live Science, this would take 42 minutes and 12 seconds. Theoretically.
What Came Next: A championship.
Wallace bounced to the Pistons on Feb. 19, concluding his illustrious 10-day stay with the Hawks. He promptly contributed to a title run.
Chris Webber, Golden State Warriors
Length of Stay: Nine games
No, this wasn't Chris Webber's first go-round with the Golden State Warriors—the one that ended with a trade after the reigning Rookie of the Year had a falling out with head coach Don Nelson and threatened to exercise the opt-out clause in his contract. (Yes, Webber's rookie deal had an opt-out after the first year. The early '90s were a weird time.)
Instead, we're talking about C-Webb's second stint, which came at the very end of his career.
In 2007-08, the Dubs did their best to follow up the "We Believe" squad that upset the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks in the first round the previous spring. The 2006-07 club that snuck into the postseason and toppled the Mavs won just 42 games. The group Webber joined the next year actually won 48 games...but missed the playoffs entirely.
C-Webb had little to do with the bittersweet success, as he averaged 3.9 points and 3.6 assists in 14 minutes per game.
Things That Lasted Longer: The 2006-07 postseason run, which spanned 11 games.
What Came Next: Retirement.
Webber hung it up after bookending his career in Golden State. Though he returned to the Warriors with "pride and humility," Nelson wasn't quite as committed to the high road in welcoming Webber back.
Take this excerpt from the press conference that preceded Webber's reintroduction to Golden State, via Tim Kawakami, then of the San Jose Mercury News:
"Well, this isn't the only place that he's had problems. So I think he had to work his way through that. If I would've known, I would've gone a different direction—maybe just drafted where we were and not moved up (from third to first in the 1993 draft), you know, something like that. We might've got the same guy at 3. But at that particular time we were looking for one guy, one big guy, because we had all the other pieces. So that didn't work out. But would I have done anything different? Sure, I would've done it different, if I could've. I would've picked somebody else."
Allen Iverson, Memphis Grizzlies
Length of Stay: Three games
"It's basically going to be my rookie season again," Allen Iverson told reporters after inking a one-year, $3.1 million deal with the Memphis Grizzlies in September 2009. "I turn the television on, read the paper and hear the things people say about me having the season that I had last year. People say that I've lost a step and are trying to put me in a rocking chair already."
Iverson played in three of a possible 10 games with the Grizz at the start of the season, averaging 12.3 points on 57.7 percent shooting. Not bad, but not good enough to override unspecified "personal matters" and frustration at coming off the bench for a bad Grizzlies team.
Memphis and Iverson mutually agreed to terminate their partnership on Nov. 16.
Things That Lasted Longer: The construction of a quality rocking chair.
If you're building a standard single rocker, you're looking at 120 hours of labor—bare minimum. That's if you want quality craftsmanship. A double rocker will set you back 180 hours or so. Both far exceed the 67 minutes AI played with the Grizzlies.
What Came Next: A homecoming.
Iverson wound up signing with the Philadelphia 76ers, ending his career where it started. He logged almost 800 minutes over 25 games with Philly, somehow making the All-Star game while averaging 13.9 points on 41.7 percent shooting.
Tracy McGrady, San Antonio Spurs
Length of Stay: Zero regular-season minutes, six playoff games.
Tracy McGrady signed with the San Antonio Spurs on April 16, 2013, after not playing a single second of the 2012-13 regular season. In fact, his inactivity was the only reason he was eligible to be on the playoff roster.
Scoreless in 31 minutes of postseason play, T-Mac managed to grab eight boards and hand out seven assists.
Ray Allen's unforgettable corner three in Game 6 of the Finals extended the series and ultimately earned the Miami Heat a ring. McGrady, who had never advanced past the first round before, saw his last chance at a championship disappear.
Things That Lasted Longer: His own scoring streaks.
In 2002-03, McGrady had a stretch of 14 games in which he scored at least 30 points. That was a banner season, one in which he led the league at 32.1 points per game. In addition to his 14-game run that season, T-Mac also had seven and eight-game streaks with at least 30 points.
What Came Next: Not much. McGrady went on to play in China after leaving the NBA for good. He was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in April 2017.
Vince Carter, Phoenix Suns
Length of Stay: 51 games
Vince Carter's time with the Phoenix Suns is especially forgettable for several reasons: It came in the midst of a four-year stretch in which he played for four different teams, several months of the tenure came during the 2011 lockout, and it ended with the Suns waiving him to save $14 million.
If you remember Carter's time in Phoenix, you need to get yourself to a neurology clinic immediately. Chances are, you've developed superhuman levels of long-term recall. It'll be important for a professional to explain how best to use your new powers.
Things That Lasted Longer: The 2011 lockout.
The league's last work stoppage spanned from July 1 until Dec. 8, 2011. That's five months and seven days. Carter joined the Suns on Dec. 18, 2010, and played through the end of the 2010-11 season, which ended April 13, 2011.
That's less than four months.
What Came Next: An astounding number of additional NBA seasons for Carter.
At 34, Carter's move to Phoenix felt like a final stop in a distinguished career. But after the Suns waived him, Carter went on to log three full years with the Dallas Mavericks followed by three more with the Grizzlies. Now entering what will be his age-41 season, Carter is slated to collect $8 million from the Sacramento Kings.
That's seven full years following his unceremonious salary dump from the Suns.
Get yours, Vinsanity.
Hakeem Olajuwon, Toronto Raptors
Length of Stay: 61 games
Hakeem Olajuwon logged 17 seasons with the Houston Rockets, winning two titles, an MVP and two Defensive Player of the Year awards. Then he was a Toronto Raptor for 61 games, wearing purple to close out his Hall of Fame career in 2001-02.
Olajuwon only wound up on the Raps after turning down a three-year, $13 million contract offer from the Rockets, according to ESPN.com. The Rockets sign-and-traded him to Toronto, where he inked a three-year contract worth $16.7 million, per ESPN. Less than four million bucks (and some pride) prevented the greatest Rockets player in history from staying with one team for his whole career.
It was weird.
But if you looked closely enough, it was also a testament to the considerable skill and touch that made Olajuwon so great. Because while he averaged just 7.1 points and 6.0 rebounds for Toronto, he was also one of only three players that year to average at least 2.0 blocks and 1.6 steals per 36 minutes. Only defensive megastars Ben Wallace and Andrei Kirilenko joined him in that club.
Olajuwon still had his hands and timing at age 39, even if the uniform looked all wrong.
Things That Lasted Longer: Olajuwon's minutes on the floor during back-to-back title runs in 1994 and 1995.
While leading the Rockets to a pair of rings, Olajuwon played 989 playoff minutes in 1994 and 929 the following year, giving him a total of 1,918. He spent 1,378 minutes on the court for the Raptors during his lone season (plus another 86 in the playoffs).
What Came Next: Retirement.
The Dream Shakes ended for good after the 2001-02 season, as Olajuwon called it quits because of a back injury.
Michael Jordan, No. 12
Length of Stay: 47 minutes
You know about Michael Jordan briefly wearing No. 45 after his first return from retirement, and you're also aware of his closing stretch with the Washington Wizards. But the MJ image that still resonates as truly strange came on Valentine's Day in 1990.
After his No. 23 jersey went missing under mysterious circumstances that day, he had to wear a backup: No. 12. With no name on it.
The Chicago Bulls lost that game, despite Jordan hitting Orlando for 49 points on 43 shots.
Things That Lasted Longer: Scottie Pippen's time on the floor.
Pip logged 48 minutes in that 135-129 overtime loss to the Magic, besting MJ and his No. 12 jersey by one minute. If there's a better encapsulation of just how underappreciated Pippen's contributions were for the Bulls, I'd like to hear it.
What Came Next: Six rings (RINGZ), three retirements, baseball and Space Jam.