Stardom is a funny thing. Remember Linsanity? It rocked New York. Jeremy Lin looked like he was going to be the next big thing. Then Carmelo Anthony rejoined the Knicks—after injury—and Lin’s productivity was never the same. But for that period, Lin was as big as any star ever in the NBA. That was Russell-mania level fandom.
While many fans wish that superstars would stay with the team that drafted them (until of course that star becomes available the their team of choice puts in a bid) many stars do move on. Just look at Shaq. How many teams was he on by the end of his career? Remember when it looked like Kevin Garnett would be with the Timberwolves for his entire career? It seems for every Tim Duncan, there are seven Michael Jordans—stars who play with at least one other team.
It is incredible though, just how many stars played for other teams that are incredibly forgettable: (SPOILERS) Gilbert Arenas! While fans across the board will remember various ones, it’s a sure thing that there’s at least a couple that will make fans go “Oh yeah.”
Honorable mentions go to Michael Jordan’s Wizards career, which is both completely forgettable and yet somehow always notable. To Ray Allen’s SuperSonics career: Remember when he was the best thing in Seattle (RIP SuperSonics). And also Kevin McHale’s GM career in Minnesota.
15 Hakeem Olajuwon - Toronto Raptors
Hakeem Olajuwon. The number one pick of the 1984 NBA draft. A draft that after Olajuwon, saw Sam Bowie taken by Portland over Michael Jordan, Olajuwon became the franchise player the Houston Rockets could dream of. Averaging 20.6 points per game his rookie season, Olajuwon brought credibility and competitive basketball to a city that hadn’t experience it with longevity. The Rockets won two finals with Olajuwon—the only team to do so during Michael Jordan’s six titles.
Olajuwon’s Rockets defeated Shaq’s Magic and Ewing’s Knicks to capture his two championships. Yet, Olajuwon didn’t play his entire career with Houston, contrary to popular belief. In his final season, the 2001-02 season, Olajuwon joined the Toronto Raptors. It was not to great success, however. The Raptors went 42-40 and lost in the first round of the playoffs. In decline since 97-98, Olajuwon averaged 7.1 points per game over 22.6 minutes a game.
14 Gilbert Arenas - Memphis Grizzlies
Gilbert Arenas at one point was alongside LeBron James for best young player in the NBA. Drafted by the Golden State Warriors, Arenas got shipped to the Washington Wizards. He brought competitive basketball back to the area. DC fans loved him, and the team looked to be on the rise. With Arenas running the point, the Wizards made the playoffs four years in a row, though they only made it to the second round once. Arenas got signed to a giant contract with the Wizards, and all seemed exciting.
Then the gun locker-room incident happened, Arenas was gone and the Wizards spiraled to mediocrity, followed by landing John Wall with the number one draft pick. However, Arenas didn’t stop playing basketball. Fans forget that Arenas played for Memphis during his last season. The Grizzles signed him with the hope of resurrecting his career. It was a low-risk high reward type of deal, and Memphis did well. During the lockout season, the Grizzles went 41-25, but lost in the first round.
13 Allen Iverson - Memphis Grizzlies
Another Memphis unknown is Allen Iverson. Iverson was the godsend for Philadelphia. As a rookie, he averaged 23.5 points, 7.5 assists and 2.1 steals. Iverson won Rookie of the Year in 97, MVP in 2001 and took the 76ers to the Finals that same year. During his MVP season, he averaged 31.1 points, 2.5 steals—leading the league in both categories, but only 4.6 assists. Iverson started to become the problem.
The “Practice” incident took place, the 76ers weren't living up to potential, and Iverson soon became a headline. In the 06-07 season, the 76ers traded him to Denver, where he played with Carmelo Anthony. The Nuggets only got better after they traded him away to Detroit. Most fans remember that Iverson returned to the 76ers during his last season, but forget that he did indeed play for Memphis at the beginning of 09-10. Still a good scorer off the bench, Iverson still couldn’t make it work, and his short stint there ended before the season was over.
12 Chris Webber - Philadelphia 76ers
Once upon a time, five students attended Michigan together. These five individuals also happened to make up the best recruiting class for NCAA division 1 basketball. Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, Ray Jackson, Jalen Rose and Chris Webber were their names. They became the first all-freshman starting five—at a time when you went to the NBA after three years of college, or two if you were Michael Jordan level. Webber had an incredibly successful NBA career. Leaving Michigan after two unsuccessful trips to the NCAA Finals, Webber was drafted by the Golden State Warriors, where he and management disagreed with whether he was a Center or Power Forward.
After just one season he was traded to the then Washington Bullets. But Webber made his name in Sacramento, where his number 4 is retired. Yet, fans forget that Webber was traded by Sacramento mid-season in 04-05 to the Philadelphia 76ers He played partially for three seasons. In his first season, the 76ers made the playoffs, but didn’t the next, and traded him the season after that.
11 Jason Kidd - New York Knicks
Jason Kidd won an NBA championship with the same team he was drafted by—a story fans love. However, he didn’t stay his whole career there. Drafted by the Mavericks, Kidd didn’t become the prolific passing point guard until he was traded the Phoenix. He didn’t become a superstar until his New Jersey Nets days, when the Nets made the finals in Kidd’s first two seasons with them. Kidd led the league in assists five times during his career.
The Nets traded him back to Dallas where most fans think he ended his career. Kidd won a championship in 2011, beating Miami's Big 3 of LeBron, Wade, Bosh in their first year together. But Kidd played for one more team in his NBA career, the New York Knicks. Perhaps it is no coincidence that the Carmelo led Knicks had their best year when Kidd was on the team, going 54-28, though losing in the 2nd round.
10 Paul Pierce - Washington Wizards
The Truth! Pierce has been called the Boston Celtics' best purest scorer in the team’s history. High praise considering the Celtics boast the league’s most championships and retired numbers. Pierce fell in the 1998 draft, taken number 10 overall by the team he grew up hating. With the Celtics, he averaged 21.6 points for 15 seasons. The Celtics made the playoffs from 02-05, reaching the Conference Finals once during the Pierce/Antoine Walker years.
Then came the Big Three era, with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joining the team, along with the emergence of Rajon Rondo. Years later, Pierce was traded, along with Jason Terry and Kevin Garnett to the Nets, for what has amounted to arguably the greatest heist in NBA history. The Celtics are still reaping the benefits of that trade. While in his final season with the Clippers now, fans forget that Pierce made a pit stop in DC before heading west. Pierce played for the Washington Wizards in the 14-15 season, and helped to seal several victories, including some playoff wins via the buzzer beater. The Wizards lost in the 2nd round that season.
9 Tracy McGrady - Atlanta Hawks
Tracy McGrady was drafted by the Toronto Raptors, but wasn’t a big contributor to the team in his first two seasons. In his third season, McGrady showed just how good he could be, jumping from 9.3 to 15.4 points per game. In his forth season, McGrady went to Orlando where he became a Superstar. In his last two seasons with the Magic, he averaged 32.1 and 28 ppg, leading the league.
McGrady left for the Rockets. The team didn’t meet expectations as McGrady got injured, derailing the latter portion of his career. What fans forget is that in addition to playing for the Knicks after the Rockets, McGrady played for the Pistons, Hawks and Spurs in his final seasons. With Atlanta, McGrady averaged 5.3 points, a disappointing stat for a great career. The Hawks lost in the first round.
8 Richard Jefferson - Milwaukee Bucks
Richard Jefferson was a drafted by the New Jersey Nets and was instantly in the NBA Finals during his first two seasons. Though he only averaged 9.4 points in his rookie season, by his fourth year, he had cracked scoring over 20 for the season. Richard Jefferson became a superstar during the post-Jordan, pre-LeBron era.
Recently, Jefferson has come back into NBA relevance with the Cavaliers. He won with LeBron’s crew last year, and has been showing off some nasty dunks, even at an advanced age. Though fans remember his time with the San Antonio Spurs post Nets career, it’s often forgotten that Jefferson ever played for the Milwaukee Bucks. The immediate team Jefferson played for after the Nets, the Bucks were miserable with him. They went 34-48 in what was coach Scott Skiles' first season.
7 Jason Terry - Boston Celtics
Jason Terry started his career in Atlanta. His rookie season, he played mainly the point and was ineffective, but year two proved to be different. Terry switched to playing shooting guard and he increased his points average by more than 10 to 19.7. Of course, Terry is mainly remembered as a Maverick, playing alongside Dirk through the majority of the 2000s.
After getting to the finals in 2006, and winning a championship with the Mavs in 2011, Terry played one more season before moving to Boston. That’s right, fans often forget that Jason Terry was one of Danny Ainge’s coveted off the bench scorers. With Boston, Terry put up his final season scoring double digits. The Celtics made the playoffs, but faltered in the last year of the big three, and Terry got traded along with KG and Pierce.
6 Shaquille O'Neal - Phoenix Suns
The Big Diesel, Superman, The Shaqtus. Shaquille O'Neal is one of the best 10 players ever to play in the NBA, right up there with Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain. O'Neal went to the Finals with the Orlando Magic before the Los Angeles Lakers swooped in during free agency. Moving to Southern California, O'Neal became a mega-superstar and, with the help of his Robin-equivalent, Kobe Bryant, won three championships in a row.
But with a foot injury, and a very public bad relationship with Bryant, the Lakers chose Bryant over O'Neal, and traded Shaq to Miami. Shaq won a championship in Miami, but didn't stay long, starting long journey throughout the NBA. Shaq joined up with LeBron James in Cleveland, and ended his career with Doc Rivers, Paul Pierce, KG and the Boston Celtics. But what you don't remember is that Shaq played for the Phoenix Suns. From half way in the 07-08 season to the end of 08-09, O'Neal played with two coaches (D'Antoni and Porter) and won 55, then 46 games respectively. But the Suns didn't achieve much postseason success, losing in the first round Shaq's first year, and missing the playoffs the next.
5 LaMar Odom - Miami Heat
LaMar Odom’s struggles with addiction, and rehab, and hospitalization have been well documented. Media from both the sports and entertainment world follow him since he’s connected to the Kardashians. Odom was drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers. Out of the gate, he scored in the high teens and became a valuable and coveted asset to any team. He’s most famous as the sixth man for the post-Shaq Lakers. Working with Bryant and eventually Pau Gasol, the Lakers won two championships with Odom.
One of the biggest questions in the NBA was how good Odom could be if he was the star of a team. Fans forget though that between the Clippers and the Lakers, Odom played for the Miami Heat, overlapping with Dwyane Wade for a season. Odom averaged 17.1 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 4.1 assists—one of his best years of his career. The Heat didn’t do too well, sneaking into the playoffs with a record of 42-40, and losing in the first round.
4 Stephon Marbury - Boston Celtics
Think about this. In 1995, the Minnesota Timberwolves drafted Kevin Garnett. The next year, they drafted Ray Allen but traded him along with a future first rounder to the Bucks for the number four pick in the draft, Stephon Marbury. With KG, Marbury helped in creating a formidable team. The Timberwolves had an inside/outside attack. Marbury was the runner-up in rookie of the year voting, and went on to be one of the best scoring point guards in the NBA.
But get this, in Marbury’s final season—the 08-09 season—he joined up once again with both Kevin Garnett. Fans forget this, mostly because he only played 23 games for them, and he scored a measly 3.8 points as the backup point guard behind Rajon Rondo. Marbury could’ve won an NBA ring that year as the Celtics were easily the best team in the league before Kevin Garnet got hurt.
3 Karl Malone - Los Angeles Lakers
Karl Malone played 18 years with the Utah Jazz, averaging 25.4 points over his entire time playing alongside John Stockton. As Stockton became the all-time assists leader, Malone fell short of the all-time points leader, coming in second with 36,928 points in his NBA career. The next closest? Kobe Bryant with 33,643. Interestingly enough, Karl Malone joined up with Kobe and Shaq in their last year together.
Los Angeles went 56-26 in their year with Malone and Payton, but lost in the Finals to the Detroit Pistons. During the Finals, Malone was injured and was trying to come back, but declined to after the Lakers lost their third game of the series.
2 Vince Carter - Orlando Magic
Vince Carter was drafted by the Toronto Raptors and was an instant star. In seven seasons with Toronto, he averaged 23.4 points, and the Raptors made the playoffs several times. Carter was one of those rare superstars during the post-Jordan, pre-LeBron era. But Carter was traded from the Raptors to the Nets, a team that had just made the finals twice.
Carter stayed with the Nets for five seasons, but fans forget that Carter was a part of the Orlando Magic. He joined the team the year after they lost to the Lakers in the final. He averaged 16.3 points with the Magic over a season and a half. The Magic never returned to the finals, and Dwight Howard was traded to the Lakers. But really, Carter actually played for them.
1 Jalen Rose - New York Knicks
Our second member of the Fab Five made the list! Rose, along with Webber had a successful NBA career. While Webber never made the NBA finals, Rose made one (losing to Shaq and Kobe)—though both have to kiss the rings Juwan Howard won with the Heat. Rose—now a media star on ESPN’s NBA Countdown and his joint podcast called Jalen & Jacoby—had a rough start in Denver.
Eventually, he was traded to Indiana where he turned into a 20-point scorer and went to the Finals with Reggie Miller. As a top scorer, Rose led a young Chicago Bulls team and eventually left for Toronto, where Kobe Bryant dropped 81 on him. But everyone forgets that Rose played for the New York Knicks in his second to last season. He averaged 12.7 ppg, and was a veteran presence on a team that went 23 and 59, missing the playoffs.