Tales of Bittersweet Loyalty

Perfecting the Top 10: Superstars in Surprising Places

July 25, 2011

For many of us, the off-season and the trade deadlines can be a time as exciting as the season itself. You can find yourself in agony when a favorite departs or on the other side of the fence when a fresh face or seasoned veteran makes their way onto your club.  And with today’s salary cap limitations, fire sales and trades in the name of “rebuilding,” cornerstone members of franchises often find themselves in jerseys different than the one they’ll be remembered for. While most of these are forgotten over time, here are the most random (and jarring) ones over the last few decades until LeBron ultimately ends his career in Minnesota.

10. Wade Boggs, Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Boggs is a member of the 3,000 hit club, and he did it while wearing one of the ugliest uniforms in sports history. After a long run in Boston and a World Series for the Yankees, Boggs signed on with Tampa Bay in 1998. The Hall of Famer spent the last two seasons of his career in the basement of the AL East after years of sitting on top of it.

9. Thurman Thomas, Miami Dolphins

After being cut by the Buffalo Bills in 2000, Thomas signed on with the Miami Dolphins as a backup to Lamar Smith (and probably because Florida is a retiree paradise). The future Hall of Famer saw action sparingly before an injury ended his career twelve year career.

8. Mike Piazza, Florida Marlins

One of the greatest offensive catchers of all-time, the one time Dodger bat boy was traded by L.A. to the Florida Marlins in 1998 for exactly a week. He was nothing more than a poker chip to the Marlins to purge contracts from their World Series team the year before. The twelve-time All-Star managed to play a whole five games before being flipped to the New York Mets where he spent the next seven seasons of his career.

7. Karl Malone, Los Angeles Lakers

The definition of a ring chase: Karl Malone spent eighteen of his nineteen years with the Utah Jazz and John Stockton perfecting the pick and roll. After Stockton’s retirement in 2003, Malone, at the age of 40, decided to move out further west to the Lakers for one last attempt at the NBA Finals. Things didn’t go as planned as the Lakers ran into a staunch Pistons team who caused The Mailman to retire with many accolades, but no championship.

6. Wayne Gretzky, St. Louis Blues

“The Great One” to some will always be seen as an Oiler while many will reference him as a King. While he did spend the end of his career in New York, his brief stint alongside Brett Hull for the St. Louis Blues is often forgotten. Acquired for their playoff run in 1996, he departed the following off-season.

5. Eddie George, Dallas Cowboys

Forgot this ever happened even though it wasn’t all that long ago. Eight years after being drafted by the Oilers and then moving with them to Tennessee, George made his way back to Texas as a member of the Dallas Cowboys. From there, he pretty much did nothing until hanging it up. Playing in only 13 games for Dallas, he managed just over ten yards per game.

4. Hakeem Olajuwon, Toronto Raptors

The Dream was Houston. He spent his college years a Cougar and led the Rockets to two championships over his seventeen years with the franchise. However, after the 2000-01 season, Olajuwon and the Rockets could not settle on a contract for the fading superstar and traded him north to the Raptors. He retired after the season, but he got to hang out on Toronto’s bench for half of it.

3. Emmitt Smith, Arizona Cardinals

As odd as it was to see Eddie George in Cowboy blue, it was even more awkward to see the NFL’s all-time leading rusher not in it. Determined his career wasn’t over, Smith made his way to the Cardinals after the 2002 season and spent his last 2 years in the backfield of some really bad teams. Thankfully, Emmitt retired as a Cowboy after signing a one-day contract worth zero dollars.

2. Joe Montana, Kansas City Chiefs

Still remember the Sports Illustrated cover with Montana, his ring and the title Kansas City, Here I Come. After 13 seasons in San Francisco, the Hall of Fame quarterback was traded to the Chiefs who he took to the playoffs both years before retiring. Regardless of this success, the guy who threw that pass will always be remembered in red and gold.

1. Michael Jordan, Washington Wizards

This one is easy. Michael Jordan is a Chicago Bull. While his numbers were decent, the Wizards weren’t and his tenure there just didn’t feel right.

Disagree on the order?  Have we left out some obvious choices?  Let us know in the comments!

  • Nothing will ever beat Hakeem for me, but I imagine many will wonder why Favre was omitted.  Regardless of how you view his career and talents, the man will ultimately be remembered as a Packer.

  • What about Gary Payton?  He spent 13 years in Seattle then played a partial season with the Bucks before joining the mailman in LA.  He finally got his ring with the Heat.  If Karl Malone defines ring chaser, then Payton is up there too, except he had the fortune of playing with Shaq and Wade versus a soft Dallas team.

  • Wade Boggs on the Devil Rays is one of the worst, simply because there was a clause in his contract that said he’d wear a Tampa Bay hat into the HOF. That one event changed the way the HOF worked with hats (and gave them more power over the whole “history” of baseball).

    Favre doesn’t count for me. I think it’s just because his being on another team became bigger than the uniform or the player.

    Thurman Thomas on the Dolphins was indeed weird. I believe the Dolphins cut him (requested by Thomas) so he could retire as a Bill. 

  • Anonymous

    There is a kind of unwritten rule among hockey fans that Mark Messier’s three seasons as a Canuck never happened. He was an Oiler, then a Ranger and then mysteriously a Ranger again. 

    Gordie Howe as a Whaler was also an odd sight, as much for the uniform as the fact that he was 97 years old when he was a Whaler. 

  • This is a bit obscure in the US, but Patrick Kluivert did a stint at Newcastle United.  Kluivert was a known party animal who loved nightlife and fancy restaurants, even if it meant ruining his career and increasing his waistline.  So to move from Barcelona (known for both) to Newcastle (known for neither) was definitely strange.

    I’d also throw out Scottie Pippen in Portland.  Yeah, he was there for a few seasons, but how many people remember that he had a career that didn’t involve MJ?  Pippen also had one season in Houston, too.