NBA Legends You Forgot Played for That One Team

Sean Highkin@highkinFeatured ColumnistAugust 11, 2019

NBA Legends You Forgot Played for That One Team

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    In this era of increased player movement, superstars playing their entire careers with one team are few and far between. Gone are the days of Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant and Larry Bird staying with one team for their decade-plus-long careers.

    Not every legend of past eras only had one team, though. Most are closely associated with one franchise, but even some of those greats had less-than-memorable stops elsewhere.

    When you think Hakeem Olajuwon, you think Houston Rockets. When you think Patrick Ewing, you think New York Knicks. But both of those legends, and plenty of others, played the tail ends of their careers in other cities that most fans would rather forget about.

    Here are 10 of the best players in NBA history—in jerseys you probably forgot they ever wore.

Honorable Mention: Dwyane Wade, Cleveland Cavaliers (2017-18)

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    Wade's half-season with the Cleveland Cavaliers was only two years ago, but most fans have already tried to repress it from their memories. His one-year Chicago homecoming, while awkward, at least made some level of sense given his ties to the area.

    Wade signed a two-year, $48 million deal with the Bulls after negotiations with the Miami Heat broke down. After his first season in Chicago, the Bulls traded Jimmy Butler to Minnesota and entered a full rebuild, and Wade agreed to a buyout and reunited with close friend/former Heat teammate LeBron James in Cleveland.

    Despite the potential excitement of a LeBron-Wade reunion, Wade's stint in Cleveland never felt right, down to his jersey number choice. He didn't fit well in Cleveland, the Cavs struggled out of the gate, and they underwent a major shakeup to reshape the roster around James at the deadline.

    As part of those changes, they traded Wade back to Miami. He re-signed with the Heat the following summer, announcing that he would be retiring at the end of the season and giving fans one more year to enjoy him where he should be: in south Florida.

Hakeem Olajuwon, Toronto Raptors (2001-02)

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    Ron Turenne/Getty Images

    Most people would rather forget about the final year of Hakeem Olajuwon's legendary career. 

    His playing days at large saw him win two championships and an MVP award with the Houston Rockets and become one of the greatest centers in NBA history. He played 17 seasons with Houston, but he turned down a new contract with the Rockets after the 2000-01 season.

    Houston was looking to go in another direction—rebuilding following the retirement of Charles Barkley—and didn't want to pay big money to the then-38-year-old Olajuwon, whose production had been declining for the past few seasons.

    Olajuwon was traded to Toronto for a first-round pick and a second-round pick, and he signed a three-year, $18 million contract with the Raptors. His lone season up north was forgettable: He averaged a career-low 7.1 points and 6.0 rebounds per game and started in just 37 of the 61 games he played as he dealt with back problems.

    Olajuwon retired after that season.

Allen Iverson, Memphis Grizzlies (2009)

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    Lori Shepler/Associated Press

    The writing was on the wall for Iverson's career after a disastrous stint with the Detroit Pistons in 2008-09. Shortly after the start of the season, he was traded from Denver to Detroit in a deal that sent former Finals MVP Chauncey Billups to the Nuggets, which made the trade unpopular with Pistons fans from the beginning. Iverson was a bad fit in Detroit, not taking well to a bench role, and he found that offseason that the market for him had dried up.

    Iverson went the majority of the 2009 offseason without a home, eventually signing a one-year deal with the Memphis Grizzlies shortly before training camp began. But just like in Detroit, Iverson didn't warm up to the idea of coming off the bench. He appeared in just three games with Memphis, averaging 12.3 points in 22.3 minutes per game, before leaving the team for "personal reasons" and eventually being waived.

    Iverson signed with the Philadelphia 76ers for the remainder of the 2009-10 season, at least providing the opportunity to bring his career full-circle and return to the team that drafted him and the city that embraced him from the beginning.

    He left the team midseason to attend to his daughter's health problems and never played in an NBA game again. Still, it's better that he ended his career in Philadelphia than on the awkward three-game Memphis stint.

Dennis Rodman, Dallas Mavericks (2000)

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    PAUL BUCK/Getty Images

    Following the breakup of the Chicago Bulls dynasty in 1998, Rodman was nearing the end of his NBA rope. Michael Jordan had retired, and Scottie Pippen signed a lucrative deal with Houston, making it clear that Rodman was no longer wanted in Chicago. He played part of the lockout-shortened season for the Los Angeles Lakers, appearing in 23 games before being waived.

    The following year, Rodman played what would be his final NBA games. He remained a free agent for the first half of the 1999-00 season before signing a deal with the Dallas Mavericks, an effort by brand-new owner Mark Cuban to ingratiate himself with the fanbase by bringing in a big name.

    Rodman's time in Dallas was short but eventful, with two ejections and a one-game suspension. He averaged 2.8 points and 14.3 rebounds in 12 games, but his behavior proved to be an unwanted distraction, and the Mavericks cut him in March.

Patrick Ewing, Orlando Magic (2001-02)

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    After 15 legendary seasons with the New York Knicks, Ewing was traded to the Seattle SuperSonics. That season itself was not one of his best, but at least some people remember it. Ewing's final NBA season, with the Magic, was completely forgettable.

    He came off the bench for an Orlando team featuring Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill, averaging career lows of six points and four rebounds per game in 65 games. He went into coaching after that, with stints as an assistant in Washington, Houston and Charlotte, as well as a short-lived return to Orlando on Stan Van Gundy's staff.

    But there's no reason to remember him for his time with the Magic. He's synonymous with two teams: the Knicks and Georgetown Hoyas, where he currently serves as the head coach of the men's basketball team.

Tracy McGrady, San Antonio Spurs (2012-13)

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    After the end of his time with the Houston Rockets, McGrady became a journeyman, with short-lived stints in New York, Detroit and Atlanta. In the final week of the 2012-13 season, he signed with the San Antonio Spurs in one final attempt at ring-chasing.

    It almost worked too. McGrady barely played for the Spurs in the playoffs—he appeared in just six games, all in garbage time. The Spurs lost a thrilling seven-game Finals series to the Miami Heat, with Ray Allen's legendary game-tying three-pointer preventing T-Mac from retiring an NBA champion.

    But at least he got out of the first round finally.

Chris Webber, Detroit Pistons (2007)

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    Allen Einstein/Getty Images

    Following a highly successful run in Sacramento, Webber was traded to Philadelphia at the 2005 trade deadline. The Sixers made the playoffs that season, but he was never happy there, dealing with knee injuries and diminished playing time.

    Midway through the 2006-07 season, Webber and the Sixers agreed to a $25 million contract buyout, and he signed with the Pistons for the remainder of the season, choosing the unconventional jersey number of 84.

    On paper, signing in Detroit made sense, with Webber being a Michigan native and a member of the legendary Fab Five team. He was productive with the Pistons, starting 42 games and averaging 11.3 points per game. Detroit made a deep playoff run that year, losing in six games to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals.

    The following summer, Webber signed with the Golden State Warriors, his team as a rookie, before retiring.

Brandon Roy, Minnesota Timberwolves (2012)

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    One of the tragic NBA what-ifs of the 2000s.

    Roy helped return the Portland Trail Blazers to relevance after the Jail Blazers years, winning Rookie of the Year in 2007 and making the All-Star team the following three seasons. He was well on his way to becoming one of the very best players in the NBA but dealt with a never-ending series of knee injuries that eventually left him with no meniscus in either knee.

    Before the start of the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season, Blazers doctors determined that Roy was medically unable to ever play again, and the team waived him using the amnesty provision.

    Roy sat out that season, but in the summer of 2012 decided he wanted to take one more shot at playing in the NBA and signed with the Timberwolves as a free agent. He appeared in just five games with Minnesota before undergoing yet another knee surgery, which ended his career for good.

Alex English, Dallas Mavericks (1990-91)

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    One of the greatest and most underappreciated scorers of the 1980s, English played most of that decade with the Denver Nuggets.

    He made eight straight All-Star teams from 1982 through 1989, leading the league in scoring in 1983. But in 1989-90, his final season in Denver, he had started to noticeably decline, and the Nuggets decided to go in another direction that offseason.

    English signed with the Dallas Mavericks in an attempt to prolong his career, but he started just 26 games and averaged 9.7 points per game, his lowest total since his second season in the league in 1977-78. He didn't receive any NBA offers after his lone disappointing season in Dallas and played one year in Italy before retiring.

Robert Parish, Chicago Bulls (1996-97)

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    Until Vince Carter re-signed with the Atlanta Hawks early in August for his 22nd NBA season, Parish was one of the record-holders for longest career, with 21 seasons. The most successful 14 of those years were with the Boston Celtics, where he was a staple of their 1980s dynasty alongside Larry Bird, Danny Ainge, Kevin McHale and Dennis Johnson.

    He left the Celtics in 1994 and had a two-year stint with the Charlotte Hornets.

    In 1996, Parish signed with the defending champion Chicago Bulls, fresh off their record-setting 72-10 season in Michael Jordan's first full year back from his baseball sabbatical. Parish was hoping to win one more ring before he hung it up, and he got his wish, although he didn't play much for the Bulls.