It is very difficult to describe the feeling one gets seeing a player in a jersey other than the one they’re normally associated with. Perhaps the best way to explain the phenomenon is by saying it’s a double take that your brain does. We are so used to equating a star or Hall of Fame player with one or two teams. When you see the player (his face, his body type, his hair, etc) you automatically assume a certain jersey or two as an extension of the player. When a different uniform subverts your expectations, it can send you reeling in a very minor but peculiar way.
It’s important to note how the player came to be with that team. There are a number of scenarios that lead to these visual disconnects: sometimes a player signs with a team or is traded to a team and it doesn’t work out (either the player or the team decide to move on quickly), sometimes the destination was only a stopover (a trade leading to another trade) that required a short waiting period, sometimes a player didn’t earn fame and regular playing time until they went on to a different situation, and sometimes a player had already faded from glory before joining the team.
Either way, we are sure that most of you will be surprised by at least some of these entries. If there are more that you can think of, feel free to comment in the comments section.
15 Charles Barkley - Houston Rockets
Charles Barkley is a lovable hypocrite who spins blunt, folksy (and often dead wrong) opinions on TNT’s halftime show and after show for the NBA. We admire the hell out of Barkley… but it is Barkley’s time on the Rockets that very clearly shows that he just says things in order to have a hot take on them. Barkley has recently been critical of this generation’s star players leaving the franchises that they were the faces of in order to try and win a championship with a better roster elsewhere (think Durant to the Warriors or LeBron to the Heat, moves which Barkley called “cheating... [your] way to a championship”.)
Barkley began his career with the 76ers, but towards the tail end of their early 80s heyday. After Malone, Cheeks, Erving, and the rest of the crew faded away, Barkley was left with a subpar supporting cast that he failed to elevate to the postseason. He ripped his teammates in the press, and demanded a trade to Phoenix (who had several stars to team with). After initially losing out to Michael Jordan and the Bulls in the Finals, the Suns began to falter even earlier in the playoffs to eventual champion Houston. Barkley’s relationship with the Phoenix organization took a turn for the worse and Sir Charles threatened to retire before his contract was up if he weren’t moved to a pre-approved team. Barkley wound up going to the Rockets, who had just beaten him in the Western Conference playoffs (just like Durant with the Warriors), and who featured two Hall of Fame-level players in Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler (Pippen came around later, after Drexler had left the game).
Chuck surprisingly played for 4 seasons in Houston, but due to injury only averaged 33 games a season. He never did win that ring he had chased so hard. So remember to take his future comments on teaming up to increase championship odds with a big grain of salt.
14 Sam Cassell - Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks
The thing about a trade, like the one that sent Charles Barkley from Phoenix to Houston, is that something has to be sent away by each team. Sam Cassell, at the time a young and promising point guard that had a pivotal role on the two championship Rocket teams, was part of the package Houston gave up for Barkley.
Cassell would go on to have a long and notable career. He was a crucial part of the most successful Timberwolves season ever, earning him an All-Star berth. He was a key player on the best Clippers team pre-Paul/Griffin/Jordan. He won a third championship as a clutch veteran role player in Boston. He popularized the “I have big balls” dance (it is what it sounds like it is). What was not notable, however, was his brief tenure in Phoenix and even more brief stint in Dallas. Cassell was obviously a target of Phoenix’s when the Barkley trade was made in the summer before the 1996-97 season. In the early part of the season, it became apparent that Jason Kidd was being made available from Dallas. Kidd, an objectively better prospect than Cassell, was too much to pass up and Phoenix flipped Cassell and a few other appealing pieces (including A.C. Green and future All-Star Michael Finley) to get things done in December of the season they got him… after only 22 games.
Here is where things get bizarre for such a young player with such promise: He was traded again less than two months later! Dallas sent him packing after a whopping 16 games to New Jersey for a package headlined by legendary stiff, Shawn Bradley. So for those of you keeping score at home, Cassell spent a combined 3% of his 1129 career games in a Suns or Mavericks jersey.
13 Moses Malone - Buffalo Braves
Moses Malone, perhaps the most underrated great big man of all-time, was no stranger to moving around from team to team. Taken out of high school by the ABA’s Utah Stars, he spent just two seasons with the American Basketball Association before switching over to the NBA (he spent one season with Utah and the second with the Spirits of St. Louis). He is best remembered for his time with two teams: the Houston Rockets and the Philadelphia 76ers. In his 6 seasons as a Rocket, he was the league’s MVP once, and was selected to 5 All-Star teams (among several other accomplishments). In his first 4 seasons with Philly, he earned two more league MVPs, a Finals MVP, and a championship to go with 4 All-Star selections and more (he spent a 5th season with the Sixers near the tail end of his career at the ripe old age of 38).
Besides Houston and Philadelphia, Moses had memorable stints in Washington, Atlanta, and Milwaukee… along with a final, depressing 17 games as a Spur in 1994-95. What few outside the league’s amateur historians will remember, however, is that Malone’s 1st team in the NBA was the Buffalo Braves (who became the San Diego Clippers who became the Los Angeles Clippers). Malone played only two games as a Brave before being traded to Houston due to his playing time demands. Because he played only 2 games for Buffalo out of a total of 1,555 games played (ABA & NBA combined), it comes to a startling 0.1% of his career! Almost more shocking is that when the ABA folded, it wasn’t Buffalo that got the rights to Moses… but the Portland Trailblazers. Because they also got Maurice Lucas (a fine player, but he was no Moses Malone) and were worried about overlap, they traded Big Mo before he could even play a game in Portland.
12 Elton Brand - Dallas Mavericks
Before you ask, yes, it appears that Elton Brand has played his last game in the NBA. Brand, who was drafted 1st overall by the Chicago Bulls (people seem to forget that he was a #1 draft pick because it was a draft light on star power, but heavy on depth), played 16 seasons in the league. While he spent his first two seasons with Chicago, he will be best remembered as the first real star of the “Hey, they might not actually always be bad” Clippers of the mid-2000s. He earned two All-Star selections and an All-NBA 2nd Team while in L.A. He will also be remembered for his time in Philadelphia, if only because he very publicly tricked his friend Baron Davis into signing with L.A. before accepting an offer from the 76ers for himself (presumably to escape raging racist lunatic, Donald Sterling). His time in the City of Brotherly Love was largely a disappointment, but it was a considerable amount of time at 4 seasons.
The NBA provided Philadelphia an out from Brand’s contract commitment when they allowed players to be waived via the Amnesty Clause (where they still were obligated to pay the player’s salary, but it would not count against the salary cap for the team). After being waived, Brand signed on with the Dallas Mavericks, who were trying to replicate their championship formula of running out displaced veterans alongside Dirk Nowitzki, a la “The Expendables”. That season, it was Brand, Vince Carter, Chris Kaman, Shawn Marion, Troy Murphy, Mike James, Derek Fisher, and Eddy Curry. What wound up happening was that it became an outlier year for Nowitzki and coach Rick Carlisle, in that they didn’t even make the playoffs that season. Because it was playoffs-or-bust in Dallas, Brand had to move on, becoming a bench vet for the Al Horford Hawks... before spending a final season babysitting all the young players back in Philadelphia.
11 Tim Hardaway - Indiana Pacers
Tim Hardaway is a legendary point guard and likely future Hall-of-Famer (of eligible players for 2017 enshrinement, he is 3rd highest in BasketballReference.com’s elilgibility index behind Tracy McGrady and Larry Foust). At the time he reached them, he was the fastest player besides Oscar Robertson to 5,000 points and 2,500 assists. He began his career with the Golden State Warriors… running point for the ever-exciting RunTMC trio (alongside Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullins). After 3 All-Star teams, a Rookie of the Year award, and 2 All-NBA selections (a 2nd and 3rd), he was traded to Miami for a package headlined by Bimbo Coles. In Miami, Hardaway continued his success… earning a 1st Team and 2 2nd Team All-NBA nods, 2 more All-Star teams, and coming in 4th in MVP voting one year. From there, however, his production and his tenure on teams diminished severely.
Miami dealt Timmy to Dallas for a 2nd round pick and a salary cap exception in 2001. After just 54 games with the Mavs, he was dealt to Denver in a large trade that also sent Juwan Howard, Donnell Harvey, and a 1st in exchange for Nick Van Exel, Raef LaFrentz, Avery Johnson, and Tariq Abdul-Wahad. The Nuggets experiment only lasted 14 games, because he had decided to retire. The following season, however, Tim Hardaway left his TV analyst job and signed on with the Indiana Pacers for the final 10 games of the season and the playoffs (which lasted only 4 games). After those 14 games in Indiana, Hardaway hung them up for good.
10 Connie Hawkins - Los Angeles Lakers
Connie Hawkins began his career in a defunct league called the ABL, due to a ban from the NBA (his school was involved in a point shaving scandal while he played college ball). He went from the ABL after it collapsed to the Harlem Globetrotters. He then played in the ABA for 2 seasons while he sued his way into the NBA because he’d never personally been shown to have done anything wrong. The NBA settled with Hawkins for $1.6 million and allowed his rights to be picked up by the Phoenix Suns, at the time a brand new expansion team. Hawkins spent 4 full All-Star seasons in Phoenix and racked up 3 All-NBA 1st Team selections, and that is most definitely the NBA team Connie is best remembered as being a part of (his jersey is retired in Phoenix).
Eight games into the 1973-74 season, however, The Hawk was traded to the Lakers for Keith Erickson (we don’t know, either… but BasketballReference gives him a high similarity score to Vladimir Radmanovic and Othella Harrington if that helps at all) and a 2nd round pick. Hawkins spent a total of 119 games over 2 seasons with Los Angeles, his production severely diminished, before spending one final season with Atlanta.
9 Andrei Kirilenko - Minnesota Timberwolves
AK47 began his career with 4 years in his native Russia before joining the Utah Jazz in 2001. While he was only ever an All-Star once, Kirilenko remains a well-remembered and well-regarded player because of his unique playing style and defensive acumen. Kirilenko was a member of 3 All-Defensive Teams (one 1st and two 2nd), and in the 2005-06 season, he led the league in blocks. Andrei was known especially for his 5-by-5s (like a triple double, except that he would have at least 5 in each of 5 different categories… usually points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks).
Kirilenko became the face of the Jazz following the departure of Stockton and Malone, and shows up routinely in the top 10 career Jazz statistical leader categories. After 10 years in Utah, however, Kirilenko decided to move back to playing for CSKA Moscow. The season following he was lured back to the NBA by then-general manager for Minnesota, David Kahn, with a $9.7 million dollar contract (laughed at for its absurdity at the time). The contract was on the high side, but Kirilenko proved that he could produce still in his 64 games with the Timberwolves… and he immediately opted out of the contract and signed with the Brooklyn Nets afterward (owned by CSKA Moscow owner, Mikhail Prokhorov). AK47 finished his career with 52 games in Brooklyn over two seasons, getting dealt to and refusing to play for Philadelphia, and going back to Moscow for half a season. He has since become the head of the Russian Basketball Federation.
8 Chauncey Billups - Toronto Raptors
“Mr. Big Shot” took several years in the league to find the right situation and really come into his own. Billups first starting gaining respect and attention in the league as a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves, 4 years into his career. He spent 2 seasons in Minny before signing on with the Detroit Pistons. In Detroit, he was a 4-time All Star, and NBA champion, and the NBA Finals MVP. Detroit traded Billups to his hometown Denver Nuggets for Allen Iverson… and Billups flourished again in Denver, becoming an All-Star twice and giving the Nuggets the most playoff success they’ve ever seen. Denver packaged Billups with Carmelo Anthony in a trade with the Knicks… and Billups spent 21 disgruntled games in New York before catching on with the Clippers for 2 years. To end his career, Billups signed back with Detroit for the final 26 games of a very notable career.
The beginning of his career, however, was not so rosy. Billups was drafted high in the 1st round by the Boston Celtics. He was dubbed a failure not even all the way through his first season by an impatient Rick Pitino, the coach of Boston at the time. Billups was traded as part of a package for Kenny Anderson, Popeye Jones, and someone named Zan Tabak after just 51 games. His time in Toronto was even shorter, however, at 29 games. Toronto sent him to Denver (his first stint there) before the following season began. Chauncey lasted only 2 seasons in Denver before being shipped off to Orlando (who he never played for due to injury). It was then that Billups signed with Minnesota and erased the stigma he’d created with his first few years in the league.
7 Michael Redd - Phoenix Suns
Michael Redd is in danger of becoming a forgotten player, it seems. During his playing career, however, the man was a feared and respected sniper from the wings. Redd finished his career as a 38% 3-point shooter, but had full seasons posted at 44.4% and 43.8%. He was consistently a go-to success story in the league because he was such a low pick in the draft (43rd overall). It was Redd’s success that allowed the Milwaukee Bucks to trade away Ray Allen to Seattle. Having emerged from being Allen’s back-up, Redd flourished and experienced his lone All-Star season and an All-NBA 3rd Team selection. Redd was also a member of the gold medal-winning Redeem Team of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Redd spent 11 seasons as a Buck. Towards the end, however, he became something of an albatross for the team. Under a long-term contract for a large amount of money, Redd tore his ACL and MCL in 2009, missing the rest of the season. He came back the following season, only to re-tear both ligaments and miss the rest of the season again. Redd came back for ten games towards the end of the 2010-11 season to finish out his contract. A couple months after the following season began, Redd decided to sign on with the Phoenix Suns, whose legendary medical staff combined with the team’s emphasis on 3-point shooting under coach Alvin Gentry, made the opportunity too good to pass up. The stint in the Valley of the Sun didn’t last long, however, as he played only another 51 games before retiring for good.
6 Peja Stojakovic - Toronto Raptors
Peja Stojakovic is best remembered for 2 different eras in his career. By far, Peja is more famous for his time in Sacramento, where he spent his first 8 seasons, after having been drafted 14th overall in 1996 (he actually didn’t come over to the Kings for 2 years after getting drafted, playing instead for PAOK of Greece). The Kings during Stojakovic’s first few years were one of the most fearsome and entertaining teams, due in large part to his beautiful long-range shooting. Peja was voted to 3 All-Star teams from 2001-2004, won 2 consecutive 3-Point Contests, was voted to a 2nd Team All-NBA, and even came in 4th in MVP voting as a King. His time in Sactown came to a close when he was traded to Indiana for Metta World Peace (then known as Ron Artest). Things did not go well in Indiana and he managed to tank his trade value to the point that he was flipped to the Hornets for Andrew Betts, who never played a game in the league. With the Hornets, Stojakovic experienced nowhere near the same team and personal accolades, but he did stick with the team for 4 full seasons and experienced a small amount of playoff success.
In 2010, New Orleans traded Peja to the Toronto Raptors. Just like in Indiana, things went terribly. Peja was injured for 26 games of the season, and only wound up playing a total of 22 minutes over 2 games as a Raptor before being released. As it so happens, however, Stojakovic caught on with the Dallas Mavericks at the end of that same season… becoming a large part of the team and averaging 12 minutes a game in the playoffs as the team went on to win the championship. Peja retired after winning the ring, and has since had his jersey retired in Sacramento.
5 Stephon Marbury - Boston Celtics
Starbury, a legend of the NYC playgrounds, began his career (after being selected by the Bucks and traded for Ray Allen) with the Minnesota Timberwolves. The feisty point guard’s acrimonious relationship with Kevin Garnett forced a trade after a couple seasons to the New Jersey Nets… a 3-team deal that wound up putting fellow list-mate Sam Cassell in Milwaukee. In New Jersey, Marbury made an All-Star team and an All-NBA 3rd Team. Marbury lasted 3 seasons as a Net before being traded to Phoenix for Jason Kidd, who would wind up transforming the Nets into back-to-back finalists. Marbury’s time in Phoenix, however, was also successful and netted Marbury his 2nd All-Star selection and another 3rd Team All-NBA selection. Stephon lasted just 2 seasons and change in Phoenix, though, before being moved to the New York Knicks as then-GM Isiah Thomas’ prized acquisition and signature move. Marbury never quite fit in in New York, despite being a hometown kid, and clashed repeatedly with coach Larry Brown (and later Thomas himself after Marbury helped to get Brown fired). Following lawsuits, involvement in an organization-wide sexual harassment scandal, and injury, Marbury reached a buyout with the Knicks.... After months of a strictly enforced leave of absence from the team.
The buyout talks having bled into the following 2008-09 season, Stephon tried to rehab his image with the Boston Celtics. He signed a prorated rest-of-season deal, and finished with 23 games in Celtic green. Unhappy with the contract offer tendered by Boston for the next season (one season at the veteran’s minimum), Marbury took time away from the league. This period of time was notable for Marbury’s involvement in a live-streaming social media platform and his subsequent bizarre (and often oddly religious) live-streams. Roughly a year after Boston, Stephon Marbury caught on with a Chinese basketball team, and has subsequently become a Chinese basketball legend, replete with a statue of him constructed while he was still playing. He has not played in the NBA since.
4 Gary Payton - Milwaukee Bucks
Hall-of-Famer Gary Payton is best remembered as a member of the Seattle Supersonics. In his 13 seasons in Seattle, he made 9 All-Star teams, 9 1st Team All-Defense selections, 2 1st Team All-NBA selections, 5 2nd Teams, 2 3rd Teams, and a Defensive Player of the Year award. He also took the Sonics to the Finals, where they lost against Michael Jordan and the Bulls. In 2003, he was traded with Desmond Mason to Milwaukee for a package headlined by Ray Allen. Although midway through an All-Star season and being reunited with former Sonics coach George Karl, Payton did not mesh well with the rest of the Bucks roster (they also had Sam Cassell on the team at the time, creating a redundancy and matchup problems for the Bucks). Payton wound up playing just 34 games as a Buck, including the playoffs.
After the season ended, Payton decided to begin chasing a ring… signing on to complement Shaq and Kobe as a Laker along with Karl Malone in 2003. With the season of turmoil, intense media scrutiny, and ultimate failure in the Finals having ended, Payton was shipped to Boston by the Lakers with Rick Fox and a pick for a package of Chucky Atkins, Jumaine Jones, and Chris Mihm (it should be noted because it doesn’t get mentioned often enough that the pick the Lakers gave up in this trade became Rajon Rondo). After the season, Payton, by now a shell of his former self, signed on to come off the bench in Miami. In his first season in Miami, Payton received his desperately sought-after championship ring. Payton played one final season after that in a failed attempt to defend the title.
3 Ben Wallace - Washington Bullets/Washington Wizards
“Big” Ben Wallace wound up playing for a total of 5 franchises over his 15 seasons in the league. The undersized power forward/center made his mark on the league in Detroit alongside Chauncey Billups as a member of the Pistons that wound up beating the 2004 Lakers (featuring listmate Gary Payton) for the NBA Championship… and losing the following year in the finals to the San Antonio Spurs. As a Piston, Wallace earned 4 trips to the All-Star game, made 5 All-Defensive 1st Teams, 5 All-NBA Teams (three 2nd and two 3rd), and was voted Defensive Player of the Year four times. Wallace signed with Chicago after leaving the Pistons and, despite clashing with Scott Skiles, still managed a 2nd Team All-Defense selection in his one year there. Wallace was then traded to Cleveland in a misguided attempt to find LeBron James some help (Ben was already well on the decline). Cleveland traded him away to Phoenix after a season and a half for Shaq, but Wallace never played a game for the Suns before being cut. Big Ben re-signed with Detroit to finish out his career; coming off the bench for three final seasons.
Before becoming a folk hero in Detroit, however, Wallace was a virtual unknown. He caught on with the then-Washington Bullets at age 22 as an undrafted free agent. In that season he averaged less than 6 minutes a game, but was kept around because of his defensive effort and skill. He spent two more seasons in Washington (who’d changed to the Wizards after his 1st season), but still played sparingly. In 1999, Wallace was used as a throw-in in a trade with the Orlando Magic for Isaac Austin. Orlando gave Ben the opportunity he needed, as he became a full-time starter for the Magic in his one season there (although he only played 24 minutes a game). At the end of the season, he was packaged with Chucky Atkins to Detroit for Grant Hill.
2 Dikembe Mutombo - New York Knicks
Deke brought his shot-blocking and finger wagging to 6 different teams in the 18 seasons he spent in the league. The Hall-of-Famer was a fan favorite everywhere he went, and made an indelible mark on each franchise lucky enough to be graced by his presence. He started in the league at a relatively old age of 25 with the Denver Nuggets, where he made the All-Star team 3 times, one 2nd Team All-Defense, and won the Defensive Player of the Year award once (don’t ask us how the Defensive Player of the Year is on the All-Defensive 2nd team in the year he won the award, because we don’t know). Mutombo then signed on with the Atlanta Hawks after 5 seasons with Denver. Mutombo lasted 5 years in Atlanta as well, and racked up another 4 All-Star selections to go with 3 DPOYs, 3 All-Defensive selections (two 1st and one 2nd), and a 3rd Team All-NBA nod. Halfway through the 2000-01 season, Philadelphia sent Toni Kukoc, Nazr Mohammed, Theo Ratliff, and Pepe Sanchez to Atlanta in exchange for Dikembe (and Roshown McLeod). In Philly, Mutombo was the missing ingredient for a run to the Finals propelled by Allen Iverson. Mutombo was voted to 2 more All-Star teams, an All-NBA 2nd team, an All-NBA 3rd team, an All-Defensive 1st team,an All-Defensive 2nd team, and a fourth DPOY in the 2 seasons he spent as a Sixer. Dikembe was traded after 2002 to New Jersey… where he only spent 34 games, mostly off the bench, as the Nets made it to the Finals.
Released by the Nets after the 2002-03 season, Dikembe signed with the New York Knicks. He spent just 68 games with the Knicks, including a very forgettable 3 games in the playoffs (a grand total of 5.2% of his career) . The following summer, he was traded by the Knicks to the Bulls… but before he could play a game for Chicago he was rerouted to the Houston Rockets. In Houston, he spent much of the time backing up or starting in place of the oft-injured Yao Ming, relishing the low-stakes pressure his career was faced with at the time. He remained effective in limited minutes in the 5 years he was with Houston, deciding to play again one year at a time as he was talked into staying again and again. He ultimately retired at age 42, just 9 games into the 2008-09 season.
1 Tracy McGrady - New York Knicks
McGrady was an athletically blessed, high-flying scoring wing that entered the league straight out of high school. McGrady’s first three years were spent as a teammate of his cousin, Vince Carter, in Toronto. McGrady did not get a consistent starting job, though, until he forced a sign-and-trade to Orlando in 2000. 2000 was the beginning of his accolades, as he earned the Most Improved Player award, and began a string of All-NBA teams that reached until 2008 (with the exception of the 2005-06 season). T-Mac was an All-Star in all 4 seasons as a member of the Magic. In 2004, McGrady was traded to the Houston Rockets for a package headlined by Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley. In Houston, he earned 3 more All-Star selections, and was nearly consistently in the Top 10 for MVP votes. A balky back, however, severely limited his ability to play complete seasons in Houston and he was eventually traded (in 2010) to the New York Knicks in a 3-team, 10 player deal.
McGrady was not with the Knicks for long, however. Between the midseason trade and the injuries, McGrady only spent 627 minutes over 24 games in a Knicks jersey. New York became the 1st in a series of short stays as he just barely hung on to relevance in the league. After New York came one year in Detroit. After Detroit came one year with the Atlanta Hawks, where he had some success as a bench role player in the playoffs. The season following, McGrady was unable to find a landing spot until the playoffs, when he joined the Spurs for a final 6 games in the league. After some time off from all sports, McGrady made a failed attempt at a baseball career as a pitcher with a minor league team. He becomes eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2017.