Professional sports is a brutal business. Many casual onlookers simply see the dollar figures that professional athletes earn and unilaterally determine that it is outrageous. The detractors of professional athletes will argue that teachers, nurses and firefighters do much more important work and make much less money. It will not be debated that there are individuals who work in the tertiary sector that provide valuable services for society to maintain a certain level of standards. Ultimately though, these tertiary sector workers make a difference and do not make other people money. Regardless of the educated professional, you will not find a single one who is talented enough that 30,000 people will be willing to pay $200 to sit and watch them teach while eating $5 hot dogs and drinking $9 beer every night.
Athletes make owners billions of dollars and therefore become a commodity, ones that are expected to perform on a nightly basis, whether they are a thousand miles from their child’s elementary music recital or on Christmas Day. Players are given a lot of money and they sign a contract saying they can be traded to any of 30 different cities in The United States. This is the story of how once productive and popular players end up on the most random teams, for the shortest period of time that hardcore fans either forgot or were never even aware of. The following will explore 20 NBA players who had an obscure tenure with a team either due to being traded, exercising their right as a free agent to relocate, or it simply being only one team willing to acquire a player who was winding down their career.
20 Allen Iverson - Memphis Grizzlies
Nobody can forget Allen Iverson’s crossover, the individual awards or scoring titles. Every fan remembers his “practice rant" when ‘A.I.’ missed practice around the start of the murder trial for the man who killed his friend.
One forgettable moment is when he signed a $3.5 million contract with Memphis.
He played 67 minutes over 3 games, then was waived within 2 months after totaling 37 points and 18 turnovers per 100 touches.
Question: Who was the first player to play for Memphis to be in the Hall of Fame? You get one guess to get ‘The Answer’.
19 Dikembe Mutombo: New Jersey Nets
Dikembe Mutombo played 1,196 games over 18 seasons. Twenty-four of those games came during the 2002-03 season with the Nets. After the 2001-02 season with the 76ers, when he averaged 11 points and 11 rebounds while starting 80 games, the 76ers traded the Future Hall of Fame inductee on August 6th, 2002 for Todd MacColluch and Keith Van Horn.
At age 36 he played 24 games and averaged 6 points and 6 rebounds before tearing a ligament in his wrist in December. New Jersey would proceed to waive Mutombo before the start of the 2003-04 season. He would have a short stint with the Knicks afterward, before retiring a few years later as a Rocket.
18 Baron Davis: Cleveland Cavaliers
Despite starting just 9 of 15 games with the Cavaliers in the 2010-11 season, Davis averaged 13 points on 40% shooting and averaged 6 assists with 2.5 turnovers per game. At the trade deadline, the Cavs received Davis plus an unprotected 1st round pick for Jamario Moon and Mo Williams from the Clippers. The Cavs would use the amnesty clause in December of 2011 to remove his $28 million from the salary cap, effectively waiving Davis before playing in the 2011-12 season. Plus, Davis was not needed, as that 1st round pick ended up being Kyrie Irving.
17 Penny Hardaway: Miami Heat
‘Penny’ had played four games in the 2005-06 season when the Knicks traded him in February to the Orlando Magic. The Magic would proceed to waive the 4-time All-Star two days later, and Hardaway would sit out the rest of the season and all of 2006-07.
The start of the 2007-08 season saw him sign with the Miami Heat, only to be waived after 16 games.
Playing alongside Shaquille O’Neal once again, Hardaway would average 4 points in 20 minutes as the Heat went 4-12. His Player Efficiency Rate of 9, may have been the deciding factor for the Heat in letting him go.
16 Roy Hibbert: Denver Nuggets
In a league where pick’n’rolls are designed to create advantageous mis-matches, Hibbert was targeted way too often. His limited defensive mobility out on the perimeter rendered him obsolete against the new small ball trend. Hibbert is just 31 years of age and has been a free agent for over a year. Before the trade deadline in 2017, the Hornets traded Hibbert to the Bucks, but the Bucks would trade him to the Nuggets before he played a game for them. Aside from the 10 fouls he averaged, his stats per 36 minutes were great. The problem is, he only played 11 minutes over six games with the Nuggets.
15 Mike Bibby- Washington Wizards
During the 2010-11 season, Mike Bibby suffered through an eight game losing streak, while playing alongside, Al Horford, John Wall, and Dwight Howard. The problem was, those players and that losing streak occurred with three different teams. On February 23, 2011, Bibby was part of a trade where the Hawks gave up way too much to get Kirk Hinrich from the Wizards.
‘Bib’ would play two games, 29 minutes shoot 1-9 from the field before the Wizards waived him. His 4 assists against the Heat must have impressed them for they would sign Bibby 2 days later for their run to the finals.
14 Tayshaun Prince: Boston Celtics
It should have been league mandated that Tayshaun Prince had to remain with the Detroit Pistons. In the historic 2003 NBA Draft, the Pistons passed on Dwyane Wade because they had Richard Hamilton, and they passed on Carmelo Anthony because they had Prince. He would end up playing 11 years with them, then trades eventually landed him in Boston.
The 6’7” small forward averaged 8 points and 22 minutes over nine games.
He scored 19 against the Jazz, 2 days before catching 4 consecutive DNP, then being traded back to Detroit in a 3 team deal.
13 Michael Redd: Phoenix Suns
After playing 11 seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks and contributing 20 points per game, the 2004 All-Star signed as a free agent with Phoenix on December 29, 2011. Due to injuries to his left knee, ‘Silky’ played just 61 games over his last threee seasons with Milwaukee, so the Suns would sign him for just $1.3 million. The career 38% three-point shooter suited up in 51 games for the Suns and scored 20 or more three times while with them. In his one game back in Milwaukee, Redd went 0-4 from beyond the arc while scoring 14 points in a victory.
12 Mark Jackson: Toronto Raptors
The 6’1” point guard played 17 seasons in the NBA divided among seven teams. Remembered for his time with the Indiana Pacers and New Knicks, the 1987 Rookie of the Year also had stops in Utah, Denver, Houston, and Toronto. It is difficult to recall Jackson wearing purple and white, maybe because Kevin Johnson retired three days prior, or because everybody only cared about Vince Carter. The one-time All-Star started all 54 games he played for Toronto while averaging 9 points and 9 assists per game. We're not sure how many were to ‘Viinsanity’, but he assisted on 41% of his floormate’s baskets.
11 Robert Parish: Charlotte Hornets
Regardless of the fact that ‘The Chief’ was drafted by Golden State 8th overall in the 1976 NBA Draft and that he would play 307 games over for seasons there, Robert Parish is and forever will be known for his time and 4 championships with the Boston Celtics. With that said, it makes all the more unbelievable that on August 4, 1994, the three-time All-Star signed with the Charlotte Hornets.
During his two forgettable seasons in Charlotte, he played 155 games and averaged 4 points and 4 rebounds per game.
At age 42 he was still logging 14 minutes a game.
10 Gary Payton: Milwaukee Bucks
‘GP’ was a notorious difficult defender and although he led the league in 3 point attempts in the 1999-00 season, he is known more for his volume trash talking than his volume shooting. Everybody remembers ‘The Glove’ lobbing alley-oops to Shawn Kemp in Seattle for 999 games until he was traded at the deadline to Milwaukee in 2003.
Maybe it's due to the similar color scheme of the uniforms or because there were only 28 games remaining until he had the much more publicized signing with the Lakers, but it's difficult to remember any of the 19 points per game he averaged with the Bucks.
9 Dominique Wilkins: Los Angeles Clippers
In order for us to get to the unusual destination in the career of ‘The Human Highlight Film’ we need to remember the fact that after playing with the Boston Celtics, he played in Greece, then with the Spurs prior to going overseas to play in Italy. Even after realizing that the 9-time All-Star played on all those teams, it's still difficult to believe the Atlanta Hawks traded ‘Nique' to the Los Angeles Clippers. At age 34, the one-time Scoring Champion averaged 29 points in the 25 games he played there, plus he had the highest Usage Rate Percentage on the team.
8 Robert Horry: Phoenix Suns
When you win two titles in four seasons with Houston, three in seven seasons with Los Angeles and another two in five seasons with San Antonio, fans of the NBA tend to remember you.
Lost in the midst of all these championships is the fact that ‘Big Shot Bob’ played 32 games with the Phoenix Suns after the Rockets included him as part of a package to get Charles Barkley.
Horry, the ultimate role player averaged 7 points with 58% of his field goals being 3-pointers during his tenure with the Suns. His scoring high of 19 came against the Grizzlies.
7 George Gervin: Chicago Bulls
After 12 seasons, 899 games, 12 All-Star selections, and a scoring average of 20 points, the San Antonio Spurs traded George ‘The Iceman’ Gervin to the Chicago Bulls at age 33 for Dave Greenwood. Despite being five years Gervin’s junior, Greenwood averaged 8 points and 8 assists with the Spurs, while Gervin averaged 16 points in his final season.
With Gervin being in his 13th season and Michael Jordan being in his second, one has to wonder how many fans remember, let alone realized at the time they had the privilege to see two future legends gracing the hardwood together.
6 Jeff Hornacek: Philadelphia 76ers
Hornacek played 132 games for the 76ers and averaged 37 minutes and 18 points per game, the highest he accumulated with the three franchises he has played for. His time in Philadelphia is sandwiched between six years in Phoenix and seven years in Utah. Another factor making this time forgettable is that the Jeff Hornacek to Shawn Bradley combination of 1993-94 is not as celebrated as much as others in 76ers’ lore. Philly fans do remember Charles Barkley however, it was Hornacek along with Tim Perry and Andrew Lang who Philly got in exchange for ‘Sir Charles’ all those years ago.
5 Manute Bol: Miami Heat
The 7’7” center played for four franchises in his career, all but one of them he had two different stints with. That is probably why it is easy to picture the two-time Block Champion in a Washington, Golden State and ina Philadelphia jersey, even though, during the last two seasons of his career he played for all three those teams for a combined 11 games. ‘The Dinka Dunker’ began the 1993-94 season with the Miami Heat after signing with them in October, and he would play 61 minutes over 8 games and shoot 1-12 from the field before being released.
4 Horace Grant: Seattle Super Sonics
After seven seasons and four championships as a member of the Chicago Bulls, and then another 7 seasons with the Orlando Magic, Grant’s lone season in Seattle is overlooked. It was not memorable in the least, despite averaging the third most minutes, he was just 8th in scoring.
He did lead the team in rebounds with 7.8 per game, but Vin Baker averaged 7.7 and point guard Gary Payton 6.8.
His defensive rating per 100 possessions was middle of the pack on the team. Grant would spend the next 4 seasons going back and forth from Orlando to Los Angeles.
3 Anthony Bennett: Toronto Raptors
Anthony Bennett was born in Toronto and when he was drafted with the first overall pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2013 NBA Draft, he became the poster child for the ‘Vince Carter Effect”. He was the frontrunner of a generation of Canadian ball players who grew up watching Vince Carter. When Bennett was waived by the Minnesota Timberwolves in September of 2015, it took his hometown Raptors four days to offer him a contract. Bennett would then spend more time with the Raptors G-League affiliate than the Raptors. Bennett would play 84 minutes and score 28 points for the Raptors during the 2015-16 season.
2 Dennis Rodman - Dallas Mavericks
Even if you played college basketball and had several Dennis Rodman pictures taped to your locker that you tore out from some Sports Illustrated magazines, you still might not have known that ‘Rodzilla’ played 12 games for the Dallas Mavericks during the 1999-00 season. By the time the 7-time rebounding champion arrived in Dallas, he was 38 years old and after 13 seasons his act was tiresome. Despite averaging 17 rebounds per game, he was still waived less than 24 hours after making the following comment about Mark Cuban: "He doesn't need to be hanging around the players like he's a coach or something,"
1 Hakeem Olajuwon - Toronto Raptors
After ‘The Dream’ rejected a three year, $13 million contract from the Rockets, he was traded to the Toronto Raptors for a first (15) and second (38) round pick in the 2002 NBA Draft. The previous four seasons Hakeem did not play over 60 games.
In Toronto, he played 61 games and averaged just 7 points and 6 rebounds.
His two highest scoring games both came against the Atlanta Hawks when he scored 16. Back pain would force the 12-time All-Star to retire prior to season’s end, providing more for the Raptors than Tito Maddox and Bostjan Nachbar ever did for the Rockets.