I was thinking about Tony Parker the other day when the news about his poker excursion broke. When he left the San Antonio Spurs I was sad because I thought he should have spent his entire career with the Silver & Black.
There’s no logical data to sustain this belief, it is more a romantic notion that a player needed no other locale to fulfill his professional needs. There were no greener pastures in the man’s eyes.
But the reality is that the NBA is a business and players move for a number of reasons- pay, location, and title contention just to name a few.
On the other hand, perhaps a player would willingly spend his whole career with the same team, but gets traded. It works both ways.
In today’s NBA, player longevity on a lone team seems more rare than it did in the last generation, at least from a star or marquee player standpoint. Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, David Robinson were three of the biggest stars and they anchored with the respective teams throughout. Recent hall-of-fame inductee Tim Duncan is a member of that club. The same could have been said of Michael Jordan, until he went to Washington.
Here are a few other memorable players who are noted for their role with a team, yet played out their final days on another franchise. This list is by no means exhaustive, so I encourage you all to add other players in the comments:
George Gervin- Before he played with the Spurs, The Iceman was with the Virginia Squires, but as far as his NBA career, he was a lifelong member of the Spurs. That is, until he left and played his final season with the Chicago Bulls.
Karl Malone may be synonymous with the Utah Jazz, but he went after a ring in 2003 and joined the Los Angeles Lakers. Alongside Kobe Bryant, Shaq, and Gary Payton (who was also hoping to capitalize on the Lakers chances), the veritable All-Star starting team was ousted by the Detroit Pistons in five games.
Hakeem Olajuwon could very well be considered the face of the Houston Rockets. The only player in recorded NBA history to accrue two quadruple-doubles, he also led the Rockets to back-to-back titles in the wake of Michael Jordan’s foray into minor league baseball. But The Dream did not retire with Houston. Instead, he hung up his shoes fifteen-hundred miles north in Toronto while playing with Raptors.
Three legends who spent their entire career with one franchise, sans a lone final season.
Are there any others? Play along, Pounders.
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