While legends like Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Kobe Bryant, and Tim Duncan got to live out the fairy-tale story of playing their entire legendary careers with only one team, the truth is that this narrative does not happen very often.
Whether due to financial disagreements, broken relationships, difference in direction, or a number of other reasons, many franchise players end up playing for random teams to end their careers. And with the emergence of the trend of different superstars teaming up to form superteams, we may see less and less of the “loyal” NBA superstar.
The 2018-2019 NBA season hasn’t officially started yet, but we all know that seeing Tony Parker in the Charlotte Hornets’ teal and purple and not the black and white of the San Antonio Spurs is going to be weird. Here are other NBA legends whom you may have forgotten played for random teams to end their respective careers:
Michael Jordan, Washington Wizards
To show that the even the best of the best are not spared from having to finish their careers on a different team, here is, well, quite literally the best of the best. Michael Jordan’s playing career is, and always will be, associated with the Chicago Bulls, the franchise he won six championships with.
Jordan was a pioneer of the sport in many ways and definitely had a unique career. Aside from arguably being the greatest player of all time, he actually retired from the game three different times. After having two different and wildly successful stints with the Bulls, His Airness’ comeback from his second retirement to play for the Washington Wizards for two seasons was a forgettable one. Most of his fans actually literally choose to forget that he even ever played for a team outside of the Chicago Bulls.
Shaquille O’Neal, Boston Celtics
Shaquile O’Neal is the rare player who can actually claim to have contributed to more than one franchise as a superstar. We best remember him for his time with Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers, wherein he won three straight championships from 2000 to 2002 together with his lone MVP award (2000). We also remember him for his time with the Orlando Magic, the team that drafted him which he led to their first franchise Finals appearance. And of course we remember Shaq with the Miami Heat, the team he was traded to from the Lakers in 2005 and which he led to their first championship in franchise history.
Despite all this success with three different teams, O’Neal ended his career just like a token NBA journeyman. One of the greatest careers in NBA history finished off with one year stints with the Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Boston Celtics, none of which provided any significant moments for Shaq’s legacy.
Patrick Ewing, Orlando Magic
The number one overall pick in the 19885 NBA draft is one of the, if not the, most iconic members of the New York Knicks. Although he never won a title for the franchise, Ewing’s Knicks served as one of the biggest Eastern Conference rivals for Jordan’s Bulls. Unfortunately, the Georgetown product cannot claim to be a one-franchise player.
Ewing spent 17 seasons with the Knicks (11 All-Star appearances, seven All-NBA selections), but was traded to the Seattle Supersonics in 2000. He then played his final season with the Orlando Magic in 2001-2002.
Tracy McGrady, San Antonio Spurs
Speaking of the Orlando Magic, one of their best players in history, and one of the best scorers the game has ever seen, Tracy McGrady, also ended his career as a journeyman.
While McGrady is also fondly remembered as a member of the Houston Rockets and the Toronto Raptors, not many recall the various teams he played for in his last few seasons in the league – the New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons, Atlanta Hawks, and the San Antonio Spurs. By the time T-Mac played for these teams, his body had already been ravaged by numerous injuries, which made him just a shell of his former self.
Hakeem Olajuwon, Toronto Raptors
If McGrady is one of the best players to play for the Houston Rockets, Hakeem Olajuwon is undoubtedly the best player in Rockets history. And if the Toronto Raptors was where T-Mac started his career, Hakeem ended his career with the team from the north.
The number one overall pick in the 1984 NBA draft and 1994 NBA MVP played all but one of his 18 seasons in the NBA with the Rockets, but he was already on the decline in his last few years with the franchise before he moved to the Raptors. Although the Raptors made the playoffs during Olajuwon’s only year with them, it was apparent that “The Dream” was nowhere near the player that he once was anymore.
(Photos courtesy of Getty Images)