The trajectory of a player’s career doesn’t always include the storybook ending of playing in the location that meant most to them. Often times, you’ll find veterans bouncing from franchise to franchise, what you might call ring chasing. As you’ll see in the case of the veterans on this list, the traditional colors they wore throughout their career were sometimes traded in for the colors of a team they rode the bench with.
There’s nothing wrong with that. You paid your dues for years and were unfortunate enough to never win a title. It happens for a variety of reasons, whether it’s because of injuries or Michael Jordan greedily hording all the titles to himself.
The only factor that’s affected is how a player’s legacy looks when it’s all said and done. It’s always off-putting to see a player spend nearly two decades with the same team they poured their heart into only to move on to a team that has a better chance of winning. Once again, there’s nothing wrong with this, but it is strange to see the likes of Hakeem Olajuwon wear anything that isn’t the Houston Rockets jersey or Dominique Wilkins not in an Atlanta Hawks uniform.
A few years down the road, we may end up saying the same thing about Steve Nash in his time with the L.A. Lakers or Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce with the Brooklyn Nets.
We took the time to point out these oddities by finding ten memorable retired players and the journey it took to find them in the most unexpected places.
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10. Moses Malone finishes with…the San Antonio Spurs
And here you thought Shaquille O’Neal played for too many teams near the end of his career.
Moses Malone, three-time NBA MVP and one-time Finals MVP, played for seven NBA teams and two ABA teams. He wasn’t ring-chasing, either. He was trying on a bunch of different hats and seeing which one fit.
Malone is mostly known for his time with the Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers, but little recall the time he spent afterwards with the Washington Bullets for two years, the Atlanta Hawks for three years, the Milwaukee Bucks for two years and then the 76ers once more.
His final destination? Two decades after starting out his career as a member of the ABA’s Utah Stars, Moses Malone found himself on a championship-contending San Antonio Spurs team. Although the Spurs went into the playoffs as the No. 1 seed out West, they were upended by Hakeem Olajuwon’s famed destruction of David Robinson.
Malone, however, didn’t play in any of those contests. In fact, he barely played in any of the Spurs’ games. He didn’t play a game after facing off with the Charlotte Hornets on December 27, a game in which he hit one of the eight three-pointers he hit over his 20-year career.
That three-pointer was impressive, to say the least:
9. Robert Parish finishes with…the Chicago Bulls
As we’ll later see with another elite center, Robert Parish just never wanted to call it quits, even at the age of 43 as a member of the Chicago Bulls.
Parish, most remembered for his days as the Boston Celtics starting center, spent the final three years of his 21-year career in a pair of locations it was difficult to picture him in. After 14 years with the Celtics, Parish, a 40-year-old at the time, decided to sign as a free agent with one of the NBA’s newest franchises in the Charlotte Hornets. He’d only miss nine games in the two seasons he’d spend with the Hornets, but would fail to average more than five points and five rebounds in either season.
He’d get released shortly after the 1995-96 season, which turned out to be one of the greatest events in his career as he’d wind up a part of a Chicago Bulls team that would go on to win 69 games.
At the age of 43, Parish would become the second-oldest (now third after Kevin Willis suited up for Dallas) player in NBA history to play in an NBA game. In 43 games with the Bulls, three of which he actually started, Parish averaged 3.7 points in less than 10 minutes per game. He’d even get some playing time in one of the most storied runs in NBA history.
Parish finished his career playing more games than any other player in the history of the game with 1,611 contests under his belt. By comparison, the player with the second-most games, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, finished with 1,560. The active player with the most games played in Kevin Garnett with 1,372 games. Jason Kidd also had 1,391 before retiring.
For Garnett to beat Parish, he’d have to play every single regular-season game over the next three years. He’s struggling just to play now at the age of 37.
Before playing in only 43 games with Chicago, Parish went 20 seasons playing in at least 72 games per season.