“It’s a business,” is a phrase used time and again by athletes, agents, front office personnel, coaches, and journalists. Sometimes it is used as a validation and sometimes it is used as an excuse for a trade, trade rumors, or a free agent signing. The implication is that loyalty is fine and well and has a place in the NBA… until it doesn’t. Sticking with one team for an entire playing career is a quaint idea, but for a myriad of reasons, it is a very rare exception rather than a rule.
With that in mind, we present 15 players in a uniform you might never have known about or forgotten about. It’s a strange phenomenon; seeing players in a jersey that we don’t expect. There are several players that are often associated with just one or two teams during their career, and it is jarring to see that player in a uniform that subverts our mental image of him. Maybe they seemed like a lifer, maybe they made news (good or bad) as a member of that team, maybe they were elected an All-Star or won a playoff series… whatever the reason, some players just seem like a fit mentally with the club that you associate them with.
The players in this article wound up with these teams in different ways. Some began their career with the team in question before becoming noteworthy somewhere else. Some signed or were traded to this team and the honeymoon was a short one (either the player or the team had second thoughts). Some were cast off by their previous team as they ran on fumes toward the end (or maybe they attempted a comeback with another team). In any case, here are 15 players in jerseys that just look weird on them.
15 Kevin Garnett - Brooklyn Nets
Kevin Garnett made a name for himself with the Minnesota Timberwolves fresh out of high school. The lanky power forward seemed inexorably tied to the franchise until Boston GM Danny Ainge found the right package to trade for Garnett (technically, packages… since they had to acquire Ray Allen first in order to get KG to verbally commit to staying in Boston if he were traded there). Kevin Garnett featured on a Celtics team with Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Rajon Rondo that produced six trips to the playoffs, two trips to the Finals, and one championship.
14 Joe Johnson - Boston Celtics
Joe Johnson is a 15 year vet and 7-time All-Star. Most casual and semi-casual fans of the game could point to one or two of four teams, Johnson has been on as the team they picture him being on in their head. This summer, Johnson signed on to be a veteran presence on a young and up-and-coming Utah Jazz team. Most recently, he spent half a season in Miami. Prior to that, he spent three years and change on the same Brooklyn Nets team that featured Kevin Garnett (those Nets were going for a sort of ‘The Expendables’-style roster). Before Brooklyn, Johnson was on one of history’s richest contracts with the Atlanta Hawks… having parlayed his success as a featured player on Mike D’Antoni’s 7-Seconds-Or-Less Phoenix teams.
13 Scottie Pippen - Houston Rockets
Pippen is the greatest 2nd option in history. Having played for the Bulls during their 6 championships (and 11 seasons in a row to begin his career), Pippen carved himself out a legacy as a Chicago player and cemented his Hall of Fame resume. Pippen could have been a New York Knick, however, as he was originally their pick to be had. The pick got traded to Seattle however, who consequently actually drafted Pippen… and traded him before he ever played a single game in Sonics Yellow & Green. When the Bulls dynasty was coming to a close, Chicago GM held a fire sale.
12 Dave Cowens - Milwaukee Bucks
“Big Red” Dave Cowens is a Celtics legend. Cowens played the first 10 years of his Hall of Fame career with Boston after having been picked fourth overall. A super scrappy undersized center, he took both ends of the court equally as seriously; ingratiating himself to the Boston home crowd and to blue collar fans around the world.
11 Jason Kidd - New York Knicks (Christmas Uniform)
You may remember him as a Net (when he went to the Finals in back-to-back years). You may remember him as a Maverick, either in his first stint as part of the Three Js or his second stint when his veteran savvy helped win Dallas their only trophy. Or you may remember him as a Phoenix Sun, in all his bizarro bleached curly hair glory. But unless you are a diehard New York or Kidd fan, or have a steeltrap memory, you likely don’t remember the 6% of his 1,461 games that he spent with the New York Knicks at the very end of his career. Even less likely do you remember Kidd in this amazingly hideous all-orange getup that the NBA foisted on the Knickerbockers for their Christmas TV game.
10 Dave Bing - Boston Celtics
Dave Bing, 7-time All-Star, Hall of Famer, and part of the NBA’s silver anniversary “50 at 50” team, is Detroit through and through. So famous and so beloved in the Motor City, Dave Bing swooped in to try (try being the operative term) to save the day as mayor of Detroit following the ouster of corrupt mayor Kwame Kilpatrick in 2009, winning re-election after serving out the remainder of Kilpatrick’s term.
9 Karl Malone - Los Angeles Lakers
Karl Malone is the 2nd all-time leading scorer in NBA history with 36,928. Of those points, all but 796 were scored in a Utah Jazz uniform. Malone was a wrecking ball of a power forward, nicknamed “The Mailman”. For Malone to reach his points mark, he held a very admirable scoring average for a long period of time, while also missing less than 20 games due to injury in his first 18 years.
8 Vince Carter - Phoenix Suns
Vinsanity was no stranger to moving around by the time he put on a Suns jersey. Carter was drafted by the Warriors, but immediately traded to Toronto for Antawn Jamison. Carter was a high-flying superstar for the Raptors for 6 seasons and change before he was sent to the New Jersey Nets. Carter teamed with Jason Kidd in Jersey for four and a half reasonably successful seasons before being sent to his hometown Orlando Magic.
7 Rick Barry - Oakland Oaks
Rick Barry only played for two NBA teams during his Hall of Fame career, the Warriors (he helped them win a title) and the Houston Rockets (for his final two seasons). The famously disagreeable forward had a contract dispute with the Warriors that helped to alter the idea of free agency in basketball forever. What it also did was it forced Barry to sit out a year before joining rival league, the American Basketball Association or ABA.
6 Dominique Wilkins - Orlando Magic
The Human Highlight Film was a Hall of Fame-level spectacle that delighted fans worldwide wearing a Hawks jersey through most of 12 seasons and 9 All-Star games. Just after the 1994 All-Star break, ‘Nique was traded to the Clippers for Danny Manning. His stay with Los Angeles lasted less than 30 games. He then bounced from the Boston Celtics to a team in Greece to the San Antonio Spurs to a team in Italy for a season each before making his final stop, as a member of the Orlando Magic.
5 Dennis Rodman - Los Angeles Lakers
Speaking of random guest spots with the Lakers, Dennis “The Worm” Rodman played less than eleven hours (over 23 games) with Los Angeles. Already a five-time champion (with the Pistons and Bulls) with a Hall of Fame resume, Rodman had not much to prove and not much game left in him. Half a season after a threepeat (™) with the Bulls, Rodman’s antics and age proved to be too much for Chicago, and they let him go. He was signed by former coach Phil Jackson and the Lakers in February, but his drug and alcohol problems were so bad that he was released before the playoffs just two months later.
4 Allen Iverson - Memphis Grizzlies
Allen Iverson, a 1st overall pick of the 76ers in 1996, is considered one of the greatest players of his generation… and perhaps the greatest small player of all-time. His fierceness, competitive nature, and ability to go one-on-one are the stuff of legend. Conversely, he is still remembered just as much for his infamous “Practice?!” rant at a Philly press conference. Iverson is best remembered as a Sixer, where he went to the Finals in 2001 (handing the Lakers their only loss of the entire playoffs). He is also remembered as a Denver Nugget, playing alongside Carmelo Anthony for parts of three seasons.
3 Patrick Ewing - Seattle Supersonics
Most of Patrick Ewing’s professional career was spent with the New York Knicks; largely working as a jobber for Michael Jordan and his Bulls teams. A Hall of Famer and Dream Team member, Ewing stands as the greatest Knick ever. After a total of 15 seasons, 11 All-Star selections, and 2 appearances in the Finals, Patrick Ewing was sent to Seattle in a massive 4-team trade that also featured Horace Grant, Glen Rice, Chuck Person, Vernon Maxwell, and others.
2 Hakeem Olajuwon - Toronto Raptors
Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon also is an all-time great center from the 1980s and 1990s that was inexorably associated with one franchise. In The Dream’s case, it was the Houston Rockets. Drafted 1st overall in 1984 by the Rockets, He actually starred locally in college as a part of the famed “Phi Slama Jama” for the University of Houston. The all-time leader in blocks, Olajuwon was a Rocket for 17 seasons. In Houston, he was an All-Star 12 times, won a league MVP, and won 2 championships.
1 Rasheed Wallace - Atlanta Hawks
Sheed was a stretch big well before they were in vogue. Wallace played just one season for the Bullets (the team that drafted him) before moving on to a distinguished-but-controversial seven and a half seasons in Portland as part of the still-infamous “Jail Blazer” era. Having been the most decorated player on the team, Rasheed and his antics became the poster boy for the team. In an effort to clean up the image of the Blazers (which included technical fouls galore, several drug infractions, actual physical in-fighting, and more) general manager John Nash shipped Wallace and teammate Wesley Person to the Atlanta Hawks for a trio of players, most notably Shareef Abdur-Rahim.
Rasheed amazingly played only one game for the Hawks, on February 9, 2004. 10 days later he was traded yet again, in a three-team swap that landed him on the Pistons just in time for their playoff run. Sheed’s move to Detroit is the stuff of legend, as he helped the Pistons win a championship the season he joined the team. He continued on with the Pistons for a total of five more full seasons. After his time in Detroit, he played one season in Boston, retired for two years, and attempted a comeback with the Knicks. Nothing, however, compares to potential Hall of Famer playing just one game for an NBA team.
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