There are just certain players that remind you of certain teams. When you hear the names John Stockton and Karl Malone, how can you not help but think about the Utah Jazz? How can you not think about the San Antonio Spurs when you hear the names Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker? Or Kobe Bryant with the Los Angeles Lakers? And Dirk Nowitzki with the Dallas Mavericks? There are just some players that you naturally associate certain teams with. And understandably so.
Of course, that does not mean that these players necessarily finish their careers with those same teams. Paul Pierce is a good modern day example of this. Paul Pierce will always be remembered as a Boston Celtic that bleeds white and green, and he may in fact be a part of the Celtics association after he retires. But the fact of the matter is that Pierce has already played for the Brooklyn Nets and is now on the Washington Wizards, and who knows what team he will eventually finish his illustrious career with?
And Pierce is not alone. His former teammate, Rajon Rondo, was on the Boston Celtics his entire career, and now he is in the Western Conference playing for the Dallas Mavericks. It looks weird, feels weird, and seems awkward, but sometimes it is not about retiring sentimentally, so much as it is about collecting every last cent while you can. And who can blame them?
The following list of players, are players that you may associate with a particular team, but where they finished their careers, will leave you saying, “Wow, really? I didn’t know that?” Kevin Garnett may have returned to Minnesota and LeBron James may have come back home to Cleveland, but these players never got to finish, where they started.
15 Jalen Rose – Phoenix Suns
You hear him on Grantland and have seen him on ESPN, but Jalen Rose was quite the baller in his day. Most fans of the NBA associate Rose with the Indiana Pacers, and maybe even the Toronto Raptors after Kobe Bryant scored 81 points on him, but did you know that Rose finished his career with the Phoenix Suns? Rose played for 6 teams during his twelve-year career and it ended with 29 games for the Phoenix Suns of all teams.
14 Tim Hardaway – Indiana Pacers
Hardaway played a remarkable 13 seasons in the NBA. He is best known for his time in Golden State with Run TMC and his time at the helm with the Miami Heat. But Hardaway played for three other teams towards the end of his career. In the ’01-’02 season, he played for the Mavericks and the Nuggets, and then in his final year in the league, he played for the Indiana Pacers for a grand total of 10 games.
13 Antoine Walker – Minnesota Timberwolves
Walker played the first seven years of his career with the Boston Celtics. Afterwards he bounced around the league and played for the Dallas Mavericks, Atlanta Hawks, Miami Heat, and then the Minnesota Timberwolves of all places during the last year of his career. Walker has tried to come back several times to the NBA and even had a stint with the D-League, but he was never able to make a return.
12 Rasheed Wallace – New York Knicks
Sheed began his career with the Washington Bullets, but most people remember him for his time with the Portland Trailblazers where he played for eight years or they will remember him for his time with the Detroit Pistons where he won his first ring. Sheed then played for the Boston Celtics, retired for two full seasons in 2010-2012, and then made a comeback by playing with the New York Knicks for 21 games, where he still managed to average seven points per game and four rebounds per game.
11 Shawn Kemp – Orlando Magic
The Reign Man played eight seasons with the Seattle Supersonics. After his Seattle days, he played for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Portland Traiblazers, and the Orlando Magic, which was the team that he would finally retire with. Unfortunately for Cavs, Blazers, and Magic fans, he was hardly the type of player that he was with the Sonics. Kemp struggled with weight issues after leaving Seattle and he was never the leaper he once was, which diminished his game greatly. He averaged a paltry 6.8 points per game in his last year.
10 Robert Parish – Chicago Bulls
Most hardcore NBA fans know this, but the Chief began his career with the Golden State Warriors, not the Boston Celtics, where he played four seasons. The Celtics traded for Parish where he ended up playing 14 years for them. You would have thought that Parish would have wanted to finish his career with the Celtics, but Parish also played for the Charlotte Hornets and eventually the Chicago Bulls in 1997. In his last year, his game wasn't what it once was, and he only averaged 3.7 points per game.
9 Dennis Rodman – Dallas Mavericks
The Worm began his career with the Bad Boy Detroit Pistons. He then moved onto the San Antonio Spurs, where his image began to change more and more. The Spurs then shipped Rodman to the Bulls where he won three rings, but interestingly enough, after his time with the Bulls, Rodman also played for the Lakers and eventually retired with the Dallas Mavericks. In his last year, playing alonside a young Dirk Nowitzki, Rodman averaged 2.8 points per game, but still managed 14.3 rebounds per game in his 12 games played.
8 Patrick Ewing – Orlando Magic
Patrick Ewing played 15 years with the New York Knicks and probably should have retired with them, but Ewing wanted to collect a couple more paychecks while he could as a serviceable big man. So, during his final two years in the league, he played for the Seattle Sonics and the Orlando Magic where he surprisingly played 65 games. Although he played nearly a full season with Orlando, he could only manage 6 points per game to go along with four rebounds per game.
7 Dominique Wilkins – Orlando Magic
Dominique played 12 years with the Atlanta Hawks where he was the face of the franchise. However, towards the end of his career, he played for the Los Angeles Clippers and Boston Celtics, before playing a season in Greece, signing with the San Antonio Spurs for one year, going to Italy for a year, before he eventually retired with the Orlando Magic. In his return to the NBA with the Magic (his last season in the NBA), he averaged 5 points per game and 2.6 rebounds per game.
6 Gary Payton – Miami Heat
The Glove played 13 seasons with the Seattle Supersonics and he even made it to the Finals with them before losing to Jordan and his Bulls. But he would soon follow his coach George Karl to Milwuakee to play for the Bucks. He then went on to play for the Lakers, where he made it to the Finals again, before losing to the Pistons. And then he played for Boston, before finally landing in Miami where he would win his first championship with Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal.
5 Moses Malone – San Antonio Spurs
Moses Malone played for 21 years in the ABA and the NBA. He was drafted right out of high school to play in the ABA before his days in the NBA began during his third season. Most people will remember Malone for his days in Houston and Philadelphia, but there were plenty of other stops that Malone went down before retiring. After Philly he went from Washington, to Atlanta, to Milwuakee, back to Philadelphia, before he finally retired a San Antonio Spur.
4 Karl Malone – Los Angeles Lakers
The second leading scorer of all-time played for 19 season in the NBA. Eighteen of those seasons were with one team – the Utah Jazz. However, during his last year in the league, Malone wanted to chase after that elusive NBA title and joined forces with the powerhouse Lakers. With Stockton retired, Malone felt like it was an opportunity to leave Utah for LA, and he did make the Finals once again, before falling short to the Detroit Pistons.
3 Hakeem Olajuwon – Toronto Raptors
The Dream played for 18 seasons in the NBA. Seventeen of those seasons were with the Houston Rockets. However, it was clear that Father Time was catching up with Hakeem and the Rockets needed to rebuild. So, Hakeem left for colder pastures in Toronto to collect one more check before retiring. During his final season, the Dream averaged 7.1 points per game, 6.0 rebounds per game, and 1.1 assists per game. It was obvious that Hakeem was already past his last legs and this may have been one of those scenarios where it would have been better for him to retire than to drag on his great career.
2 Shaquille O’Neal – Boston Celtics
The television personality on TNT was one of the brightest personalities in the NBA. Despite his massive size, Shaq had a very long and relatively healthy career. The fact that Shaq played for 19 seasons in the NBA is a testament to how extraordinary his combination of size and speed really were. Shaq began his career in Orlando where he was drafted by the Magic. But out of nowhere he left for Los Angeles after his rookie contract was over where he won his first three rings. After an ugly divorce with the Lakers, Shaq moved on to the Miami Heat where he won another championship with Dwyane Wade. After that, Shaq had unlikely stops in Phoenix, Cleveland, and Boston, where he finally retired a Celtic.
1 Michael Jordan – Washington Wizards
Michael has a statue of himself outside of the United Center, which shows how much of a staple he is in the city of Chicago. Michael is currently the owner of the Charlotte Hornets, but he will forever be an icon in the city of Chicago. After a brief three-year hiatus from basketball, Michael returned to the NBA, but this time as Washington Wizard for two years. The hope was that he could become the owner of the Wizards after he played for them, but things didn’t pan out that way. More importantly though, he still averaged over 20 points per game even at the age of 39. Absolutely remarkable.