In today’s game it is common, and even expected, for players to jump ship and join other teams. The lure of championships, better money, playing alongside certain players and even living in certain cities can prove too tempting for players. This is a shame as it is always positive to see players stick by their team even through the darker days. Loyalty is not too common in basketball, and some players will even controversially join a rival simply to add more championships to their resume (cough, Ray Allen), this obviously never sits well with the fans and even their former teammates and it can tarnish reputations. Changing allegiance does not always have to destroy your reputation however, as a number of the most popular players that you would also consider loyal have changed teams a few times. This includes the likes of Kevin Garnett, Allen Iverson, and Paul Pierce who are all still adored in the city where they established their names.
There are some players that commit to the team and never leave. This is impressive and something that should be celebrated, as to play your entire career in one place means that it is quite likely that there have been some darker days to go along with the positive experiences. These players have probably played under a few coaches in their time and seen dozens of teammates come and go, but one thing that remains is the respect they have from the organization as well as the fans who are always behind a one-team player.
Here are the top 25 one-team players of all-time. A number of these players are still active and are coming towards the end of the career, and it is in these stages where their loyalty will truly be tested as they could look elsewhere to add a championship before they bow out.
*Denotes an active player
25 T14. Manu Ginobli (13 seasons)*
The first of a few San Antonio Spurs, you can certainly understand why so many players opt to stay in Texas. Gregg Popovich has made the Spurs one of the most successful franchises in professional sports and Manu has won four Championships (so far). He is part of perhaps the greatest trio to play the game, and you can tell he still loves the Spurs after all these years. Manu’s loyalty is particularly impressive as he is mostly used as the 6th man, but he understands his role and how he can change a game through coming off the bench. The Spurs may be struggling this season, but you wouldn’t bet against them come the postseason.
24 T14. Jeff Foster (13 seasons)
Jeff Foster may not have been an NBA superstar, but his loyalty to Indiana and his passion and hard work in games will not be forgotten. He was selected with the 21st pick of the 1999 NBA draft by the Golden State Warriors but was immediately traded to the Pacers, where he would remain for 13 seasons before retiring due to back problems. The 6-foot-11 center averaged 8.6 PPG and 12 RPG for his career, and he will always be remembered for his energetic play which the fans loved.
23 T14. Isiah Thomas (13 seasons)
Isiah Thomas is a Detroit legend and one of the greatest players in NBA history. He was the face of the “Bad Boys” Pistons that won back-to-back NBA championships and used to rough up opposing teams (particularly the Bulls and Michael Jordan), and his play has inspired dozens of modern day point guards. The Hall of Famer spent his entire 13-year career in Detroit, averaging an impressive 19.2 PPG, 9.3 APG and 1.9 SPG. Following his retirement in 1994 he has coached the Knicks and Pacers, but will forever be remembered as a Pistons legend.
22 T14. Kevin McHale (13 seasons)
Whilst Isiah Thomas was establishing himself as a Pistons legend, Kevin McHale was doing the very same thing in Boston. He is an important part of Celtics history, helping them to three NBA titles and being a part of the legendary team that included Bird, Parish, Johnson and Danny Ainge. Part of their success was McHale’s hard nosed play on both ends of the floor, where he excelled. Much like Ginobli, McHale spent a large part of his career coming off the bench and was also a part of an unstoppable trio (along with Bird and Parish). The Hall of Famer averaged 17.9 PPG and 7.3 RPG, but sometimes his contributions to the game are overshadowed as he played in the same era as NBA legends Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.
21 T14. Magic Johnson (13 seasons)
When talking about the all-time greats, Magic Johnson always has to be included in the conversation. He proved his abilities in his rookie year, where he astonishingly won an NBA championship and the Finals MVP. He would add another four rings to his resume, as well as three MVP awards, making him one of the most successful and greatest players to don the Lakers’ famous purple and gold. Johnson caused havoc for opponents trying to match up as a 6-foot-9 point guard, and his dazzling passing ability also made him one of the more entertaining players to play the game.
20 T14. Larry Bird (13 seasons)
Rival to Magic Johnson is Celtics and NBA legend Larry Bird, and the two had some of the greatest battles the NBA has ever seen. Much like Johnson, Bird has to be in the conversation of greatest of all-time, he spent his entire career with one team and was part of one of the most famous and successful teams of all-time. Bird won 3 NBA titles, 2 Finals MVP and 3 regular seasons MVP awards in his career. He is famous for his supreme confidence and ability to back this up, and Larry Legend averaged a remarkable 24.3 PPG, 10 RPG and 6.3 APG during his 13 year career in Boston.
19 T14. Alvan Adams (13 seasons)
The Phoenix Suns are a franchise that has not enjoyed a tremendous amount of success, but they have had some fantastic players in their time. Alvan Adams is certainly one of these players, and he is the franchise leader in games played, rebounds and steals. He was drafted in the 1975 draft with the 4th pick, and in his first year he guided the Suns to the NBA finals and won Rookie of the Year averaging 19 PPG and 9.1 RPG. He spent his entire career in Phoenix and was inducted into their Ring of Honor (1 of just 11 players). He is still at the club to this day, working as senior vice president of operations.
18 T14. Fred Brown (13 seasons)
The Supersonics only won one NBA championship during their existence, and this was in 1979 and was partly thanks to the excellent play of Fred Brown. He was selected with the 6th pick in the 1971 draft, and the 6-foot-3 guard would spend his entire career in Seattle and is one of the most popular players the franchise ever had. He earned the nickname “Downtown Freddie” due to his 3-point shooting, and the Sonics honored him by retiring his no.32 jersey in 1986. In terms of franchise records, Brown ranks 2nd in games played, 2nd in field goals, 3rd in steals, 3rd in total points and 4th in assists.
17 T14. Calvin Murphy (13 seasons)
Standing just 5-foot-9, Murphy defied the odds and went on to be one of the top guards in the game and became the smallest player inducted into the Hall of Fame. He spent his entire career with the Rockets (both in San Diego and Houston) and would help them to the NBA finals in 1981, where they would fall to the Celtics. Murphy possessed many great skills, including speed, dribbling ability, high percentage shooting and he was also a tenacious defender. He is also one of the greatest free-throw shooters to play the game, ranking 1st in seasonal percentage mark when he hit an incredible 206 of 215 (.958).
16 T14. Wes Unseld (13 seasons)
Wes Unseld is perhaps most famous for becoming just the 2nd player to win Rookie of the Year and MVP in the same year (Wilt Chamberlain being the 1st), demonstrating his dominance from the get-go. He would spend his entire career with the Baltimore/Capital/Washington Bullets and helping them to their only NBA title in 1978, where he would also win Finals MVP. The Hall of Famer was best known for his hard nosed brand of basketball which also made him a fan favourite, and he had to play this way as an undersized center at 'just' 6-foot-7.
15 T14. Satch Sanders (13 seasons)
There are only two players that have more NBA rings than Satch Sanders, and these are his Boston teammates Sam Jones and Bill Russell. Sanders has two fistfuls of rings with an impressive eight, alongside more Celtic legends John Havlicek, K.C. Jones and Tom Heinsohn. This just goes to show how dominant Boston was throughout the late 50’s and 60’s, and Sanders certainly played his part from his debut in 1960 to his retirement in 1973. The 6-foot-6 forward may not be as famous as some other Celtic legends, but his contributions on both ends of the floor were invaluable and no one can deny his commitment to Boston.
14 T14. Bill Russell (13 seasons)
Sanders may impress with eight championship rings, but Bill Russell is the one laughing with more rings than fingers and filling out his thumbs. An NBA best 11 rings to his name (in 13 seasons); Bill Russell is unquestionably one of the most dominant players to play the game. He was the focal point of the storied Celtics dynasty from the late 50’s through to the late 60’s, becoming a force due to his supreme rebounding and shot blocking ability. He was not known for his scoring, but he still averaged 15 PPG for his career to go along with an astonishing 22.5 RPG. The city of Boston worships him, and you can certainly understand why with such an incredible career.
13 T9. Tony Parker (14 seasons)*
Tony Parker has been instrumental to the Spurs success since he entered the league 14 seasons ago, flawlessly conducting Gregg Popovich’s brand of basketball. It could be argued that Duncan is the linchpin, but the Spurs noticeably struggle without Parker, who in addition to running the offense is one of the best penetrators in the league as well as an elite defender and reliable shooter. He has 4 NBA titles and 1 Finals MVP, but do Parker and co have another left in them before the team finally calls it a day?
12 T9. David Robinson (14 seasons)
Just as San Antonio was implementing a very young Tony Parker they were saying goodbye to another legend, David Robinson. Like Parker, The Admiral played 13 seasons with the Spurs and also enjoyed great success picking up two NBA titles and plenty of individual accolades such as MVP, Rookie of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. Robinson had a stellar career and has to be considered one of the all-time great centers, averaging 21.1 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 1.4 SPG and 3 BPG.
11 T9. Joe Dumars (14 seasons)
When you think of Joe Dumars, you immediately think of the Detroit Pistons. Not only did he enjoy 14 seasons in Motor City, but he also served as President of Basketball Operations for the Pistons from 2000 to 2014. Dumars famously formed one of the best backcourts of all time with Isiah Thomas, and guided them to back-to-back NBA titles in 1989 and 1990 (picking up Finals MVP in 1989). The 6’3 guard retired in 1999 and was elected into the Hall of Fame in 2006, and will always be remembered as a Detroit legend.
10 T9. Jerry West (14 seasons)
Jerry West may represent the entire NBA through the use of his silhouette as the logo, but West is a Laker through and through. The 2nd pick in the 1960 draft, West spent 14 seasons with the Lakers and would become an L.A legend for his clutch shots, excellent defensive play and ability to do it all. He won an NBA title in 1972 and also has a Finals MVP, but interestingly enough this is for the 1969 Finals which makes him the only player from the losing team to win the award. Following his dazzling Lakers career he went on to become head coach of the Lakers before becoming general manager before the 1982-83 season. Under his reign, the Lakers won another six titles and West won Executive of the Year in 1995.
9 T9. Elgin Baylor (14 seasons)
Another NBA legend to spend his entire playing career with Lakers, Elgin Baylor was one of he more exciting players during the 1960’s due to his dazzling athleticism and all around ability. The 1st pick in the 1958 draft, Baylor played alongside West and averaged a fantastic 27.4 PPG, 13.5 RPG and 4.3 APG, but he famously never won an NBA title despite eight trips to the finals. This is due to the Celtics incredible dominance throughout the 60’s, which seems a shame for Baylor as he is regarded as one of the all time greats and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1977.
8 T7. Hal Greer (15 seasons)
People may immediately think of Wilt Chamberlain when discussing the 1960’s Philadelphia 76ers, but Hal Greer was an integral part of that team and he was there during the days in which the team were the Syracuse Nationals. Greer and Chamberlain famously toppled the Boston Celtics in the 1966-67 NBA Eastern Conference finals, ending Boston’s eight year winning streak. The 76ers would go on to defeat the Warriors in the finals, with Greer averaging 27.7 for the postseason. The franchise legend was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1982.
7 T7. Dolph Schayes (15 seasons)
Another Syracuse Nationals/Philadelphia 76ers legend, Dolph Schayes played alongside Greer for much of his career but was drafted much earlier. Syracuse had obtained his rights from the Tri-Cities Blackhawks who had selected him in the 1948 NBL draft, and he would play in both the NBL and the NBA. Schayes would emerge as one of the top scorers and rebounders in the league, but he would come up just short of a title numerous times. He finally got his hands on the trophy in 1955 after an exhilarating seven-game series with the Fort Wayne Pistons, but this would be his only title.
6 John Havlicek (16 seasons)
Yet another Celtics legend from their dominant period throughout the 1960’s, John Havlicek spent 16 seasons with Boston and won an incredible eight championships in this time. Hondo was drafted in 1962 with the 7th pick, and would become instrumental to the Celtics success with his high energy play. Cut Havlicek and he bleeds green, as the 6-foot-5 forward/guard is the franchise leader for games, minutes played, field goals and total points; he is also 2nd in free throws made and assists. When you consider what a storied franchise this is it makes you realise just how important Havlicek was to the Celtics and the city of Boston.
5 Dirk Nowitzki (17 seasons)*
Dirk has notched up an impressive 17 seasons in Dallas, and you can see him remaining for a few more years as he continues to impress. The Mavs have shown intent by surrounding Dirk with talent this season, as he will be desperate to add another ring to his collection before hanging up his boots. Dirk has one title to his name (2011), but there have also been some tough days throughout his 17 season career. This makes his loyalty more impressive, as he certainly could have jumped ship by now, but he is adored by the fans and it is hard to imagine him at another team.
Unsurprisingly, the German 7 footer holds the franchise record for most major stats, and he has also leapfrogged multiple players this season in the NBA all-time scorers list where he now sits 7th.
4 T3. Tim Duncan (18 seasons)*
Tim Duncan has been the face of the Spurs for the last 18 years, and that is impressive considering the number of Spurs players on this list. He bridged the gap between David Robinson’s retirement and Ginobli and Parker’s emergence, and it was in this period where he showed his dominance. Duncan has been one of the most consistent players to play the game, with his numbers rarely fluctuating over the last 18 seasons. The skilled power forward has five NBA titles, three NBA finals MVP awards and two regular season MVP awards, among dozens of other personal accolades. He is all about winning however, and this is evident through the 50% pay cut he was willing to take in 2012 to keep the team together.
It has been a fantastic and inspirational career to watch, and it is not over yet as you always get the impression that the Spurs can win provided they stay fit. Duncan perfectly represents the Spurs hard working, unselfish style and will go down as one of the all-time great Big Men.
3 T3. Reggie Miller (18 seasons)
Many love him, many hate him, but whatever your stance is you cannot deny Reggie Miller’s loyalty to the Pacers. Playing in the era he did, Miller and the Pacers came up against some incredibly tough teams and this resulted in many memorable playoff series (most notably with the Knicks), but the Pacers never emerged with an NBA title. Miller did manage to make it to the finals once a certain Bulls superstar retired, but Miller would again be denied but this time by Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers in 2000. Miller’s clutch and extraordinary accurate 3-point shooting, along with his ability to get under his opponents skin, make him one of the more entertaining players of all time and a player synonymous with Indiana.
2 T1. Kobe Bryant (19 seasons)*
Although it has been difficult to see Kobe Bryant battle against his body these last few seasons, it is important to remember what an extraordinary career he has had and the entertainment he has brought us. Easily one of the all-time greats, Kobe has proven his credentials time and time again with 5 NBA championships, 2 Finals MVP awards and 1 regular season MVP amongst many more impressive accolades.
He has been through the ups and downs with the Lakers, and despite rumours of a move away he has remained in purple and gold his entire career. Now seems the right time to hang up the boots as he will not win another ring with the Lakers, and he has little to prove as the franchise leader in minutes, games, total points, 3 point field goals, steals, field goals and free-throws. Whether you are a fan of the Lakers or not, Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest to play the game and he has stuck with LA through the tough times, as have the LA crowd with him.
1 T1. John Stockton (19 seasons)
One of the greatest point guards to play in the NBA, Utah’s John Stockton is also perhaps the most loyal player of all-time. Unlike most entries on this list, Stockton never won an NBA title which makes his loyalty particularly impressive. He and the Jazz made it to the Finals in 1997 and 1998, but both times they would be denied by Jordan and the Bulls.
Stockton formed perhaps the greatest NBA duo of all-time alongside power forward Karl Malone, with the two of them creating all kinds of problems for defenders as they flawlessly executed the pick and roll. Stockton is the all-time leader in assists and by a large margin, making him a fan and coaches favorite. Although Stockton never won the NBA title, he dazzled crowds, inspired countless players to come after him and gave the Jazz, as well as the NBA, 19 unforgettable seasons.