Whether they truly believe it or not, many NBA stars, past and present, have spoken about their desire to play an entire career for a single franchise.
Some have succeeded. Many... many more have failed. It is a wish that often times goes unfulfilled. The NBA has always been a star-driven league but it has certainly evolved over the years.
In past eras, one might say a single superstar could carry a team to a championship as long as they were given the right mix of complementary players -- today's landscape calls for a team to secure at least two bonafide (super)stars if they hope to contend for the Larry O'Brien Trophy. Three is ideal.
Despite stars and teams repeated efforts to keep franchise-altering players in the same jersey for 10, 15, and sometimes 20 seasons, the reality is a cap world often leads to teams having to part ways with their once-upon-a-time valedictorians.
What tends to happen, as a result, is stars wind up playing for two, three, four, sometimes five other teams, after appearing to be on their way to receiving athletic tenure with their true team -- either by birth (Drafted) or adoption (Free-Agency).
Almost always, circumstances surrounding the break-up differ across situations involving a star departing a club they've been with for the majority (or entirety) of their career. Here are 20 NBA superstars -- current and former -- whose respective careers saw them play for some teams that if you weren't careful, you may have completely forgotten about.
(In one case, the player didn't even bother to actually show up to play for his new team, after being traded there).
20 Current: Kyle Korver (Utah Jazz)
Kyle Korver spent two-plus seasons in a Jazz uniform having wound up there after being traded by the Philadelphia 76ers.
Basketball-Reference, oddly enough, says Korver was "sold by the New Jersey Nets to the Philadelphia 76ers". Like, sold for a duffle bag of cash? Were there other players involved? A draft pick? Anything?! I know I could've easily found the answer but I prefer to be ignorant to it...
From Philly, Korver went to Utah, before winding up in Chicago, then Atlanta, and finally Cleveland where he resides, for the present moment at least. It's anyone's guess how the Cavs will look now that LeBron has left yet again. Look for them to plummet down the Eastern Conference standings.
It's easy to forget that Korver is nearing 40 years of age -- he will turn 38 next March.
19 Former: Jermaine O'Neal (Toronto Raptors)
Jermaine O'Neal was acquired by Toronto prior to the 2008-09 season – the Raptors sending TJ Ford, Maceo Baston, Roy Hibbert, and lumbering big man, Rasho Nesterovic to the Indiana Pacers in exchange for O'Neal and Nathan Jawai.
Unfortunately, for all his successes as a Pacer, the 6-11 forward (drafted straight out of high-school) was a flub in the North, his tenure with the dinos lasting only 41 games.
July 9, 2008 – February 13, 2009
That was the life of Jermaine O'Neal as a Toronto Raptor. T'was a short life and a life lived undisputedly in the slow lane.
(Fun fact: In the trade that shipped O'Neal out-of-town, to Miami, the Raptors received Shawn Marion in return. Marion himself could have easily found himself on this list).
18 Current: James Harden (Oklahoma City Thunder)
James Harden was drafted and played three seasons for the Oklahoma City Thunder before being traded to the Houston Rockets days before the start of the 2012-13 season.
In his Rockets debut, Harden poured in 37. He followed that up with a 45-point effort. Just think about how different things would have been had the Thunder been able to keep him and Durant?
As The Beard continues to write his story in Houston, his days playing a third-fiddle Thunderer seem more and more distant. The sight of a #13 OKC jersey is a friendly reminder that the step-back Harden is now famous for was born in the streets of Oklahoma City -- it's also where the phrase "Fear the Beard" originated...
17 Former: Dennis Rodman (Dallas Mavericks)
Yes! Ladies and gentlemen, Dennis Rodman, the United States' unofficial ambassador to North Korea, played for an NBA team besides the Chicago Bulls. Rodman spent most of his career in Detroit actually, spending only 3 of 14 seasons in Chicago.
His time as a Dallas Maverick can, by all accounts, be abolished from all basketball history books. The final stop of Rodman's colourful career consisted of 12 games in the Lonestar state.
Never a true threat to score, Rodman remained a ferocious rebounder for the duration of his career, averaging over 14 rebounds per game in his final season with the Mavs -- as a 38-year old sideshow.
Now, Rodman works tirelessly to improve US-North Korean relations.
16 Current: Kevin Durant (Seattle Supersonics)
Kevin Durant was chosen second overall, back in 2007. He was drafted by the Seattle Supersonics. If you're not careful, you'll answer that question wrong at your next Trivia Night...
No, he was not drafted by Oklahoma City, but rather moved there after his rookie season, along with the "Starbucks Supersonics". Let's hope basketball returns to Seattle sooner rather than later.
Durant was chosen behind Greg Oden...who wound up being a ginormous bust in the NBA. The Portland Trail Blazers continue to kick themselves for that draft day flub.
Now with the Golden State Warriors, racking up rings quicker than a Kardashian, Kevin Durant figures to remain in the Bay Area until further notice. What team will he play for next?
15 Former: Shaquille O'Neal (Boston Celtics)
In his prime, Shaquille O'Neal was literally unstoppable -- Unguardable once he got deep enough in the post -- So powerful, he once ripped the entire basket system down. Apart from the trio of seasons in South Beach, culminating in a title alongside Dwyane Wade, most of O'Neal's other memories were made while playing for Orlando and Los Angeles.
As a Celtic, The Big Aristotle was a 38-year old nightmare much akin to when Toronto subjected themselves to a year of an overly long in the tooth Hakeem Olajuwon – *hint hint*.
Playing for Boston, after such an iconic career as a Laker rubbed some the wrong way. But fans of the "Lake Show" can rest easy knowing there is little debate as to what franchise got the best out of Shaq Daddy.
14 Current: Dwight Howard (Los Angeles Lakers)
The 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers were stocked full with superstar talent but unfortunately, they were all kinda old...
Kobe Bryant, 34 -- Pau Gasol, 32 -- Steve Nash, 38 -- Antwan Jamison, 36 -- Metta World Peace (formerly 'Ron Artest'), 32. And yet, Dwight Howard's "Superman skillset" was meant to catapult this roster stocked with old-timers to an NBA title?
Collectively, they were able to earn a playoff berth, finishing the season with a 45-37 record. Missing Kobe Bryant, who had injured his achilles tendon at the tail end of the regular season, the Lakers were no match for the San Antonio Spurs, getting swept in the process.
Howard, himself, never embraced being a Laker. He claims to have never been able to get settled in Los Angeles, something former teammate Steve Nash has spoken about in the past.
A free agent at the conclusion of the 2012-13 season, Howard elected to sign with the Houston Rockets.
13 Former: Tracy McGrady (New York Knicks)
Tracy McGrady fell off a cliff once he hit the big 3-0.
The moment McGrady emerged from the so-called wrong side of the hill, his play and production dropped substantially. Traded by the Houston Rockets to the New York Knicks, T-Mac only dressed as a Knickerbocker for 24 games, averaging roughly nine points-per-night in the process.
From New York, McGrady would sign as a free agent with Detroit -- Imagine that culture shock. By this point, there was no resurrecting McGrady's career. He would retire two seasons after leaving the Big Apple.
A two-time scoring champ as a member of the Orlando Magic, McGrady is now enshrined in Basketball's Hall of Fame. Rest assured there will be very few photos of him wearing 'New York' across his chest.
12 Current: Michael Beasley (Houston Rockets)
Beasley, a former second overall pick, signed a one-year deal with the Houston Rockets in March of 2016. He would play only 20 games for them, plus five more in the postseason. Following the 2015-16 season, Beasley signed with the Milwaukee Bucks.
While Beasley has objectively failed to live up to the draft day capital used to secure his services, he has been a solid player for the better part of his NBA career. He also took his talents temporarily to China back in 2015, after being waived by the Memphis Grizzlies. Beasley actually had separate stints in China, winning the league's Foreign MVP in 2016.
He arrived in Houston after his Chinese team lost in the playoffs.
11 Former: Hakeem Olajuwon (Toronto Raptors)
A Dream Becomes a Nightmare...that is one way to describe the Toronto Raptors failed experiment involving Hakeem Olajuwon. An all-time great with no room for debate, Olajuwon was an utter disaster in his single season north of the border.
Olajuwon came to Toronto as a 39-year old. Had he elected to hang them up, he would've joined the likes of Duncan, Bryant, and Nowitzki (once again, hopefully, Dirk makes it) as one-team wonders...instead, "The Dream" wished upon the Northern Star and fell flat on his old broken face and body.
He played just 61 games as a member of the Raptors, announcing his retirement at the conclusion of the 2001-02 season.
10 Current: J.J. Redick (Milwaukee Bucks)
The former Duke Blue Devil got off to a rocky start in his NBA career, but J.J. Redick eventually figured it out. It just took him a little bit longer than others...
Drafted by the Orlando Magic (sorry 'about your luck), Redick began his NBA career labeled as a troublemaker of sorts. It wasn't until he wound up with the Clippers that his professional career began to take off.
Before he arrived in Los Angeles, there was a brief stop in Milwaukee. By brief, I mean very brief -- 28 games to be exact.
The Bucks-Clippers-Suns three-team trade saw Redick wind up in Los Angeles. Today he is a member of the 76ers and in 2017-18, posted a career-best 17.1 points-per-game.
9 Former: Alonzo Mourning (Toronto Raptors *NO SHOW*)
Remember earlier when I mentioned that one of the entrants on this list never even showed up to play for his team? -- the player I was referring to was Hall-of Famer, Alonzo Mourning.
Mourning was involved in the trade that saw Vince Carter shipped out of his first NBA home. Disgruntled and tired of being labeled soft and scummy (both accurate descriptors at the time), Carter was traded from Toronto to the New Jersey Nets in exchange for Eric Williams, Aaron Williams, Mourning and two first-round picks.
It may sound like a lot but that trade remains one of the most one-sided transactions in NBA history.
Mourning never would play a game in Toronto and instead would force them to buy him out for nearly $10 million. Following his release, Mourning signed with the Miami Heat.
8 Current: Vince Carter (Phoenix Suns)
While we're on the subject of Alonzo Mourning, might as well cover the guy he was traded for --
Vince Carter put Canada, specifically Toronto, front and center on the NBA's radar when he took the league by storm. An eight-time All-Star, and 1998-99 Rookie of the Year, Air Canada was, at one point, drawing comparisons to Michael Jordan...
Those comparisons would lose steam almost immediately upon Carter being dealt out of Toronto. To be frank, they actually stopped a few years prior.
Having spent the better part of seven seasons with Toronto and five more in New Jersey, Carter never spent more than three seasons with any one of the remaining five teams on his career ledger.
While many will point to the forgetful days he is presently enjoying in Sacramento, people forget Carter had a desert cameo in Phoenix at one point, having been traded there in December of the 2010-11 season. It would only last 51 games.
7 Former: Allen Iverson (Memphis Grizzlies)
Allen Iverson will forever be remembered for his time playing in Philadelphia. A career consisting of over 900 regular-season games, more than 700 of them came as a member of the Sixers.
Towards the end of his career, The Answer suited up for the Detroit Pistons as well as the Denver Nuggets -- in both cases, he was a shadow of his Philly self...
...and then there was his Memphis Grizzlies tenure!
Totally understandable if you had forgotten about the infamous three-game spell Iverson had with the Grizzlies (of the South). Ultimately he would be waived by Memphis, winding up signing with Philadelphia where he would play the final 25 games of his NBA career.
6 Current: Zach Randolph (Los Angeles Clippers)
Who knew you could play in the NBA without being able to actually jump? Zach Randolph's vertical, in inches, is a single-digit number...
Despite being vertically challenged, Randolph, 36, has had himself a helluva career having racked up 17 full years of NBA service. The prime of it was spent with the Portland Trail Blazers -- winning the 2003-04 NBA's Most Improved Player Award in his third season.
The Memphis Grizzlies were Randolph's other primary team.
Between Portland and Memphis, Randolph spent time in New York and Los Angeles -- the guy has played in all four corners of the USA, but his time with the Clippers would be limited to just 39 games, before being traded to Memphis in exchange for Quentin Richardson.
5 Former: Michael Jordan (Washington Wizards)
Michael Jordan suiting up for the Washington Wizards was much more high profile than perhaps the other cameos on this list -- it is Michael Jordan after all...
Jordan retired from basketball not once, or twice, but three times. He puts Brett Favre to shame. The first time was to pursue a career in minor-league baseball. The second time he called it quits was supposedly due to old age, essentially, but Jordan would return after sitting out three seasons.
The game's greatest player arguably (yes, I believe LeBron is better) played two seasons with the Wizards, averaging over 20 points per game in both. Not bad considering he was approaching 40 years old.
Still...nobody remembers Jordan for his time as a staff-wielder.
4 Current: Jamal Crawford (Portland Trail Blazers)
Jamal Crawford, 37, has played for seven teams during his 18-year career. His longest stint with a single team is five seasons (twice). Say what you want about his game, Crawford has won the NBA's Sixth-Man Award three times: his ability to score in bunches puts him in a special class of player.
Perhaps the least memorable stop of Crawford's career saw him wind up in Portland for a season, signing there as a free agent during the 2011-12 shortened season. His time as a Trail Blazer would be limited to 60 games, ultimately electing to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers at the conclusion of the season.
Crawford did post a career-best free throw percentage in 2011-12, shooting 93% from the charity stripe. That's about the only positive to take away from an otherwise forgettable layover.
3 Former: Antoine Walker (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Walker, alongside Paul Pierce, formed a dynamic duo in Boston for a time. Walker would eventually wind up getting traded to the Dallas Mavericks, splitting up the pair.
A coveted stretch four before they became a pre-requisite in the NBA, Antoine Walker was a nightmare matchup in the mid-nineties and for most of his career -- he could shoot if defenders were unwilling to come out to guard him...put a smaller more mobile defender on him and he would abuse them down low, in the post.
Unfortunately, in retirement Walker fell on hard times, culminating with him filing for bankruptcy in 2010...less than five years removed from his playing career.
Specifically, Walker's time in Minnesota stands out as a sore spot in an otherwise prolific playing career: limited to just 46 games, the Timberwolf iteration of Walker was out of shape among other things. It was his only season averaging fewer than 20 minutes per night.
2 Current: Dwyane Wade (Chicago Bulls/Cleveland Cavaliers)
Dwyane Wade was supposed to go home to rejuvenate Chicago basketball but it turned out to be a nightmare reunion.
By now, every basketball understands that Wade should have never left South Beach -- things went turrible in Chicago and even worse in Cleveland...
As a Bull, Wade looked like an old man. As a Cavalier, he looked totally lost. Those who can recall Wade in his prime remember a fearless high flyer who, if you weren't careful as an opposing player, would put you on a poster and make you contemplate your career as a so-called pro. However, injuries have significantly slowed Wade down in his career.
A future first-ballot Hall of Famer, Dwyane Wade will forever be remembered as the one-time heartbeat of the Miami Heat. As for his other stops...let's just leave those alone, shall we?
1 Former: Amar'e Stoudemire (Dallas Mavericks/Miami Heat)
Blessed with Hall of Fame Point Guard, Steve Nash, Amar'e Stoudemire (and a bunch of other Phoenix Suns) enjoyed career seasons in the mid-two thousands. This was a time in the NBA that saw the Phoenix Suns transform NBA offense...
Stoudemire and Nash perfected the pick-and-roll under Suns coach at the time, Mike D'Antoni. I wouldn't be surprised if their proficiency resulted in the league fortifying rims around the league -- Amar'e dunked A LOT! And they were ALL ferocious!
Upon departing the Suns, opting to carve out a path for himself, Stoudemire was never truly the same. He still had good years but something was severely lacking in his game.
A particularly bad spell saw him end up in Dallas when he signed a contract with them in February of 2015, finishing the 2014-15 season with the Mavericks. He would be limited to 23 games. Rather than call it quits, admitting his time was over, Stoudemire signed with the Miami Heat the following off-season. Suffice to say, that relationship would last only one season before Amar'e finally called it a career.
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