When you think of NBA legends, you remember the team they dominated with and earned a career on. Whether it’s being on a winning team, enjoying the city’s atmosphere or being loyal to the franchise that bred them, superstar players tend to stick around for the long haul. When legends start aging and their value dissipates, well, both parties usually move on. Michael Jordan will forever be known as a member of the Chicago Bulls, Shaquille O’Neal as a Laker, Allen Iverson as a Sixer, and Patrick Ewing as a Knick… but they all eventually moved on.
While some may remember legends’ short stints with random teams, most people are unaware. A player could have been drafted by a team or bounced around in trades before becoming a marquee name, or they could have ended their careers on a low note with a team that signed them for their colorful past.
Test your basketball memory and try to remember the “10 Teams You Forgot These NBA Legends Played For.”
10. Dominique Wilkins – Boston Celtics
Dominique Wilkins was considered one of the greatest scorers of the 1980’s and was nicknamed “The Human Highlight Reel” for his powerful windmills and freakish athleticism. Wilkins played 12 seasons as a member of the Atlanta Hawks, is their franchise leader in points, games, minutes played, and numerous other categories, and had his No. 21 jersey retired in 2001. Wilkins was a nine-time NBA All-Star and the 1985-86 Scoring Champion (30.3 PPG) during his stint with Atlanta. In the 1993-94 season, Wilkins was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers for Danny Manning. After averaging 29.1 points per game in 25 games with Los Angeles, he had stints with the Boston (1994-95), San Antonio (1996-97), and Orlando (1998-99). He even spent the 1995-96 season in the Greek League and won a championship.
It’s hard to imagine ‘Nique as a Boston Celtic after many historic battles against Larry Bird throughout the 1980’s, but it happened.
9. Gary Payton – Milwaukee Bucks
Everybody remembers Gary Payton jawing at opponents and psychologically getting in their heads while rocking a Seattle Supersonics jersey. “The Glove,” a nickname earned from his excellent on-ball defense ability, can also be remembered as a key player to the Miami Heat’s 2006 championship run and as a role player on the Kobe Bryant-Shaquille O’Neal-led Los Angeles Lakers team during the 2003-04 season. He even played a season with Boston in 2004-05.
But, it’s forgotten that the 1996 Defensive Player of the Year played 28 games for the Milwaukee Bucks in 2002-03. Payton was traded to Milwaukee along with Desmond Mason in exchange for Ray Allen, Kevin Ollie, and Ronald Murray. In those games, he averaged 19.6 points and 7.4 assists per game.
8. Dennis Rodman – Dallas Mavericks
What if I told you the greatest rebounder in NBA history and Dirk Nowitzki were once teammates? Hmm. Sounds like an unstoppable duo. Well, it happened, but the timing wasn’t right. Dennis Rodman played just 12 games for the Dallas Mavericks in his final season in 1999-2000 and was teammates with a 21-year-old Nowitzki. At 38-years-old, he averaged 14.3 rebounds per game in those 12 games, but received six technical fouls, was ejected twice, and served a one-game suspension in such little time. Teammate Steve Nash said that Rodman “never wanted to be [a Maverick]” and was “unmotivated.” Rodman was later waived that season.
“The Worm” will forever be remembered for soaring all over the floor for every rebound in site as a “Bad Boy” Detroit Piston and a member of the Chicago Bulls’ second championship three-peat from 1996-1998. The seven-time NBA Rebound leader’s stint with Dallas has been forgotten.
7. Shaquille O’Neal – Boston Celtics
Shaquille O’Neal is regarded as one of the most dominant figures the NBA has ever seen. If you hear his name, you remember his utter domination as a member of the Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers and even Miami Heat. Some may remember his stints with Phoenix and Cleveland, but most forget he spent his 19th and final season with the Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen-led Boston Celtics team in 2010-11.
O’Neal, who was 38-years-old at the time, was years past his prime but everyone continued to root for him. Everyone wanted to see Shaq succeed and win one last championship with the Celtics. O’Neal played in 37 games averaging 9.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, and a career-high 66.7% field goal percentage in 20.3 minutes per game. An Achilles injury and failing knees plagued O’Neal’s final season.
6. Karl Malone – Los Angeles Lakers
When Karl Malone and Gary Payton took major pay cuts with hopes to win a championship with the Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant-led Los Angeles Lakers in 2003-04, common knowledge would have it that they’d mop the floor with every team they’d face. Though past their primes, the addition of two former legends to go with the best one-two punch in the league should have been a ticket to an easy championship. The new-look Lakers finished the season with a 56-26 record (2nd in Western Conference) and stormed through the first three rounds of the playoffs but ran into the Detroit Pistons in the 2004 NBA Finals who defeated them in five games.
It was Karl Malone’s last chance to finally win an NBA championship, and the Pistons shut the door in his face.
5. Tracy McGrady – San Antonio Spurs
Tracy McGrady played for seven teams in his NBA career and even played a season overseas in China. Ringless in his Hall of Fame career and one year removed from playing in the NBA, McGrady signed with the San Antonio Spurs in 2013 in time to qualify for the team’s playoff roster. McGrady, with hopes to capture his first championship ring, had the opportunity to play his first career postseason minutes outside of the first round. McGrady played in six postseason games, averaging 5.2 minutes per game without scoring a single point.
McGrady is one of the few players who truly deserves a ring—he battled injuries throughout his entire career and was still able to be named a Hall of Famer.
4. Hakeem Olajuwon – Toronto Raptors
The No. 1 overall pick in the 1984 NBA Draft, Hakeem Olajuwon spent the first 17 seasons of his 18-year career with the Houston Rockets. The Hall of Fame center didn’t get to end his career with one team as many could have imagined, though. After rejecting a three-year, $13 million deal from the Rockets in August 2001, the 38-year-old was dealt to the Toronto Raptors for a first and second-round pick.
Olajuwon averaged 21.8 points and 11.1 rebounds per game during his career, but his final year in Toronto marked his lowest scoring (7.1 PPG) and rebound single-season averages (6.0 RPG). Olajuwon managed to play 61 games for Toronto despite battling a serious back injury and it was extremely awkward to see him in a different uniform after hoisting back-to-back championships with Houston in 1994 and 1995. After completing only one year of a three-year, $18 million contract, Olajuwon and his “Dream Shake” called it quits.
3. Patrick Ewing – Seattle Supersonics/Orlando Magic
It’s hard to imagine Patrick Ewing not playing in the Big Apple, right? Well, it happened on two separate occasions. Ewing, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1985 NBA Draft, spent 15 years as a member of the New York Knicks and is considered one of the greatest and most beloved players in franchise history.
In 2000, after another failed shot for a championship with the Knicks the year prior (reached NBA Finals – lost 4-1 to Spurs), Ewing was dealt to Seattle in a three-team trade. In the trade, the Knicks sent Ewing to Seattle and Chris Dudley to Phoenix and received Glen Rice, Luc Longley, Travis Knight, Vladimir Stepania, Lazaro Borrell, Vernon Maxwell, two first-round draft picks (from the Los Angeles Lakers and Seattle) and two second-round draft picks from Seattle. Even though Patrick Ewing was pushing 40, he was still Patrick Ewing.
His time with Seattle was nothing special as the man who helped lead New York to the NBA Finals the year before averaged 9.6 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks in 26.7 minutes per game. Ewing played 62 games that year as the SuperSonics finished the 2000-01 season 44-38.
After a year with the Sonics and another with the Orlando Magic, he announced his retirement in 2002 and began his coaching career.
2. Allen Iverson – Memphis Grizzlies
Pound-for-pound one of the greatest players to ever play. A man who changed the game on and off the court. Allen Iverson is what you call an originator—his grit, how he conducted himself, how he dressed… the “practice?” incident. Iverson’s impact on the league digs deep.
Whatever team he was on, it was pure entertainment. Again, not just for his lightning quick speed, killer crossover, or effortless ability to score the ball, but the aura that surrounded him.
Iverson made a name for himself with the Philadelphia 76ers, playing his first 10 seasons with the team and single-handedly leading them to the 2001 NBA Finals (lost 4-1 to Lakers). Iverson, who was named Rookie of the Year in 1996 and MVP in 2001, later spent time with the Denver Nuggets and Detroit Pistons before making a quick pitstop in Memphis. Quick, indeed.
Iverson played in three games for the Grizzlies in 2009-10 averaging 12.3 points and 3.7 assists in 22.3 minutes per game before leaving the team for “personal reasons.” Iverson came off Memphis’ bench and made it known he was not a bench player. Iverson then returned to Philly the next season and officially retired from the game in 2013 after declining a few D-League offers.
1. Rasheed Wallace – Atlanta Hawks
ONE game. Only Sheed.
Rasheed Wallace was once a star player and is almost eligible to be called a legend. But, with this story, the legend of Rasheed Wallace goes beyond the number of points he scored or All-Star teams he was named to in his career.
After eight seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers, they shipped him to the Atlanta Hawks for Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Theo Ratliff, and Dan Dickau. Wallace had spent most of those eight years as the Blazers’ best player, and he nearly took them to the NBA Finals in 2000. But, he was a loudmouth who once received 41 technical fouls over a span of 80 games in 2000-01 (an NBA season record) and the front office had enough.
In his one and only game with the Hawks on February 18, 2004, Wallace played 42 minutes, scoring 20 points on 8-24 shooting along with six rebounds and five blocks in an Atlanta loss to the New Jersey Nets.
The next day, the Hawks traded Wallace to Detroit in a three-team deal that landed them Chris Mills, Bob Sura, and a future first-round pick that later turned into Josh Smith. “Sheed” helped the Pistons win an NBA championship later that season and after all, called Detroit his home for six seasons.
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