NBA jerseys are iconic. They were the wardrobe of my childhood. There was nothing better than watching your heroes on NBC, then begging your parents to buy you a crisp Champion replica of their jersey. Those were the good old days.
The NBA still has the cleanest jerseys in professional sports in my opinion, but buying a jersey almost feels like a gamble at this point. While it’s hard to fault stars for chasing the most cash, it’s become rarer and rarer for a player to remain with one team for an extended period of time, let alone his entire career. Do I really want to drop my hard earned stacks on something I can only wear for a few years?
Everyone remembers the prime years of a player’s career, but when they get older and their skills diminish, are you keeping track? We instantly associate certain guys with certain teams and certain jersey numbers, but if pressed can you list off every stop on their journey? You’d be surprised how many big names of the past ended their careers on random teams. For every Kobe or Tim Duncan, there were 5 other guys who bounced around the map at the end for some more dough.
Here are 15 NBA stars you may have lost track of at the end of their illustrious careers.
15 Shaquille O'Neal: Celtics
I didn’t even remember this one until I looked up some pictures. I honestly thought Shaq ended his playing career in Phoenix, and even that was a blur. For such a legendary player, Shaq sure did turn into a journeyman at the end. Do any non-Celt fans remember anything about his tenure in Boston? First of all, he wore #36 which just didn’t look right, and second of all, he averaged under 10 PPG for the first time in his illustrious career. The Diesel played 37 games for the Celtics in the 2010-11 season before they went on to lose to the Heat in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, with Shaq only suiting up for an additional 2 games total in the playoffs. He announced his retirement soon after and went on to shill General Insurance and Gold Bond taint-powder.
14 Allen Iverson: Grizzlies
I can’t help but feel like A.I. will never get the respect he deserves. Yeah, he’s rightfully in the Hall of Fame, but he should have been an immortal. Outside of a few stories of him flaking on that new Big 3 League, you almost never hear his name anymore. Even when he was playing in Denver with Carmelo he felt like a forgotten man. Ya know what else you probably forgot? The 3 games he played in Memphis before a super quick stint back with the 6ers. Yeah, Iverson didn’t technically retire a Grizzly, but he did play there for a week in his final season. The Answer signed in Memphis after leaving the… Pistons?! Man, I barely remember him playing in Detroit. For such an amazing player, Iverson’s career finished rocky at best. Perhaps he should have practiced a bit more in the end. No one seems to even know whether he chose to retire, or if he was just kinda pushed from the league, but at least he got to play his last games with his original team.
13 Penny Hardaway: Heat
In the early 90s there were few teammates more exciting than Shaq and Penny. When I was a little kid, Anfernee Hardaway was my dude. Any chance I could get, I would watch those Magic teams play. I made my uncle take me to go see “Blue Chips” just because he and Shaq were in the movie. Speaking of jerseys, here’s one I don't remember – The Penny Hardaway Heat jersey. Once one of the best players in the league, Penny’s career hit some bumps along the way. He left the Magic for a few injury plagued seasons in Phoenix, followed by a few forgettable seasons with the Knicks. He retired in the 06-07 season, but returned the next year to play 16 games and average 2.5 PPG with Miami. Not sure many people should even remember that stint. Let’s just pretend he stayed retired. At least he got to re-team with Shaq in Miami, if only for a few games.
12 Tracy McGrady: Spurs
T-Mac played for 7 teams in his Hall of Fame career. You probably remember him as a Rocket or a Raptor… but do you remember him as a Hawk? Or a Spur?! Tracy McGrady was a San Antonio Spur! After an uneventful season in Atlanta, it appeared T-Mac was all but done with his remarkable career. At the end of the 2012-13 NBA season, he signed with San Antonio just in time to qualify for the postseason roster. Sadly, he never got said ring. McGrady led the NBA in scoring two times, and made seven All-Star teams. He was one of the most electric players in the league to watch for years, yet most people will probably always remember the fact he never won a title. His cousin Vince Carter is still hanging around the league hoping to finally get his own ring.
11 Jason Kidd: Knicks
I’m a Knicks fan and I remember Jason Kidd’s seasons pretty well… at least I thought I did. This was post-Linsanity when the Knicks inexplicably let Jeremy Lin flock to Houston. I remember being semi-comforted at the thought of having an old J-Kidd to step in at the point. Kidd’s regular season numbers were much worse on paper than I remember them being. I actually have decent memories of J-Kidd being a productive Knick, but I guess when you root for a terrible franchise, you tend to revise history in a positive light to make yourself feel better. The Knicks actually WON a playoff series that season, so I guess that’s why. Either way, Jason Kidd finished his career across the water from the team he had the most success with – the New Jersey (Brooklyn) Nets, then immediately jumped into the head coaching game with the Bucks.
10 Chris Webber: Warriors
Chris Webber was another guy whose career came full circle. C-Web was a bit of a basketball nomad, but I imagine almost all of you probably remember him most from those “Greatest Show on Court” Kings teams of the early 2000s. His number 4 currently hangs in the rafters at the Golden 1 Centre in Sacramento. If not that, he’s probably still unfairly remembered for his famous timeout call at Michigan. Drafted first overall by the Warriors in 93-94, he was dealt just one season later to Washington where he played the next 4 seasons. Post-Sacramento, he bounced around a bit, playing in Philly and Detroit, but do you remember his final season in Golden State? Not many people do. Webber only played 9 games in the 07-08 season before calling it quits. Still, it was pretty cool that his career started and ended as a Warrior.
9 Karl Malone: Lakers
I wouldn’t necessarily say people forgot the Mailman ended his career in LA; I’m just not sure they realize he was only there for one season. I personally have vivid memories of Karl Malone the Laker, and honestly thought he was there for a good 3 years. After 18 seasons as (in)arguably the greatest player in Utah Jazz history, Malone went ring hunting by signing with the Kobe and Shaq-led Lakers… which he was certainly entitled to doing, don't get me wrong. His Jazz teams were usually pretty damn good, but were never able to win it all, so I understand the decision. The Lakers went on to lose in the playoffs, and Karl Malone retired as one of the greatest pro athletes to never win a ring. Looking back, it’s kind of a bummer to look at a career statline and see 18 years with one team followed by one single outlier season elsewhere at the end. Like I stated earlier, it’s so rare for a player to stick with one team and it would have been special for Malone to begin and end in Utah, but a man's gotta try to win.
8 Gary Payton: Heat
The Glove is, was, and will always be a Sonic, but they eventually became the Thunder, and he bounced around a little late in his career. After being traded briefly to the Bucks following 13 seasons in Seattle, Payton signed with the Lakers in the offseason. Like Karl Malone, he too was chasing an elusive NBA Championship and that Laker team seemed poised to finally bring him a ring. It didn't go according to plan. Shaq left, Malone retired, and Gary Payton moved on to the Boston Celtics where he played another ring-less season. Finally after signing with the Heat in the 05-06 season, he reached the promised land and got to hold the Larry O’Brien trophy. He played the next year before ending his Hall of Fame career. Despite winning it all in Miami, you’d be hard pressed to find a single person who associates him with any team other than the SuperSonics.
7 Shawn Kemp: Magic
Speaking of SuperSonics, no former Sonic stands out in my mind more than Shawn Kemp. The dude was explosive, and an absolute blast to watch during his prime. In his 8 seasons with Seattle, Reign Man combined with Gary Payton to form one of the most dynamic duos in the league but nothing ever really came of it. In 99 he was traded to Cleveland. He put up respectable numbers for a couple years then his career just kinda hit a wall. In 99 he was shipped off to Portland before finally ending his career in Orlando. Kemp played the forgettable 02-03 season with the Magic and was never seen in the NBA again. He got beefy and ran into some legal problems while attempting an NBA comeback but never made it back to the league making the Magic blue his last jersey worn.
6 Grant Hill: Clippers
There are 4 jerseys you probably associate with Grant Hill – the Pistons, the Magic, the Suns and Duke. Nevertheless, Grant Hill made his presence felt in every city he played in… except Los Angeles. Hill played his final NBA season with the Clippers at the age of 40. He played all of 29 games and started 0 of them. The Clips made the playoffs, but Hill only managed to get into a single game. Not only was he a Clipper, he was a Clipper during a time when they wore arguably their ugliest jerseys ever. In fact, ugly jerseys seemed to follow Grant Hill wherever he went. The purple and grey get-ups he wore in Phoenix were some of that franchise’s worst also… in my opinion of course. Despite his closet full of ugly tank-tops and some injury plagued seasons, Grant Hill had one of the more underrated 19 year careers of any player of his generation.
5 Dennis Rodman: Mavericks
Before he became a D List Movie Star or Kim Jong-Un’s confidant/best friend/basketball tutor, Dennis Rodman had a 14 year Hall of Fame NBA career. Early on while with the Pistons, he took the league by storm with his legendary defensive prowess. Later he was a key role player on a few Michael Jordan led-Bulls teams. After that was over, he clung to his NBA career passing through LA for a few games with the Lakers. Unless you count Rodman’s stints in Mexico, the UK, and the Phillipines, the last jersey the Worm ever wore was that of the Dallas Mavericks. Remember that? Me either. In the 99-00 season, Dennis Rodman played 12 games with the Mavs, averaging 14 (!) boards per game in that time period. Say what you will about Dennis Rodman the man, you could never question his ability to play defence in the NBA.
4 Patrick Ewing: Magic
Patrick Ewing should have retired a New York Knick. If you ask me, his #33 still remains the most iconic Knicks jersey of all time, even more so than the numbers of the legends that preceded him. In what can only be described as a squandered, franchise shifting trade, Ewing was sent to Seattle in 2000. He played his final NBA season with the Orlando Magic in 01-02. You’d be hard pressed to find many top 50 players of all time whose careers ended with such a fizzle. The Magic did manage to reach the playoffs, but were ousted almost immediately. Ewing went on to a string of assistant coaching gigs, before finally getting a head coaching job at his alma mater, Georgetown. He’ll always be remembered as a Knick. His 2 seasons in Seattle and Orlando are trivia answers at best.
3 Dominique Wilkins: Magic
A lot of excellent players passed through Orlando for a short period in their careers. Like Patrick Ewing before him, Dominique Wilkins just so happened to finish there. The Human Highlight Film is an Atlanta Hawk through and through, but had a few other stops during his Hall of Fame career. After 12 season as the face of the Hawks, he was dealt mid-season to the Clippers. It marked the first and only time a conference leading team traded their leading scorer after the All-Star break. After LA he made a pit stop in Boston before leaving the NBA entirely to play a season professionally in Greece. He returned to the NBA in 96-97 to play for the Spurs before leaving the NBA again to play a season in Italy. Finally, after all of that travel, he signed a deal with the Magic and played 27 games before calling it quits at the end of the 98-99 season. That’s quite a travel itinerary.
2 Robert Parish: Bulls
Hall of Famer Robert Parish was drafted by the Golden State Warriors in 1976, but didn’t really come into his own as a dominating force until he got to Boston in 1980. Playing beside legends such as Larry Bird and Kevin McHale, The Chief went on to win 3 rings in 14 seasons with the Celtics. He hung around into his 40s and played 2 seasons with the Charlotte Hornets before signing with legendary 96-97 Bulls team. At age 43, Parish played 43 regular season and 2 playoff games en route to his fourth career title. While his numbers didn’t jump off the page, he remains the oldest player in NBA history to win a ring, so I’d say his final season was a success.
1 Moses Malone: Spurs
How bout wrapping it up with another Malone? The late great Moses Malone played for 9 teams between the NBA and the ABA, so it’s kinda hard to associate him with just one. For such a legendary player, Moses Malone may be basketball’s greatest journeyman. The ‘Transactions’ portion of his bio is almost half a page long. While most basketball fans may remember him most from the late 70s Rocket teams, or better yet his dominant 5 year stint with the 76ers, how many recall his ABA days, or the couple of losing seasons with the now defunct Bullets? If you can’t recall those stops, who the heck is gonna remember that he played all the way until 1995 where he appeared in 17 games for the Spurs? I had no idea he was in the league at that point. Despite the plethora of jerseys, the Chairman of the Boards remains one of the all-time greats. We may never see a player of his caliber move around that much again.