Featured Gallery, NBA / Dec 1, 2010 / 12:00 pm

Top 10 Greatest NBA Homecomings

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan (photo. Chicago Tribune)

When an individual puts their heart, sweat and soul into something for an extended period of time, it can be extremely hard letting go. On the other hand, being stuck in a position where you’re not progressing, may make a task less novel to you and consequently push you to abandon what you have invested so much of your time and energy into and try something new.

After a long tenure with one specific team, usually from Draft Day, NBA players inevitably come to that road where two paths diverge and they have to decide to either remain with their current team until retirement (i.e. John Stockton, Reggie Miller) or carve out a new path with a different team. However, the moment that player who has taken a new path and joins another organization returns to play a game against his original employer, that game takes on a whole new meaning.

With the much anticipated return of LeBron James to Cleveland only a day away, I thought it would only be fitting to look at 10 legendary players from the past 20 years who have had memorable homecomings – for better or for worse – to their original teams.

***

Michael Jordan
January 19, 2002 – Washington 77, Chicago 69
It was three and a half years since MJ donned the red and white, but on January 19, 2002, a tearful Jordan finally had the opportunity to play against the team that has a statue of his likeness outside its arena. In one of his poorest performances to date, Air Jordan tallied 16 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and a career-high nine turnovers on 33.3 percent shooting, while the Bulls as a team faired even worse shooting a dismal 24.7 percent from the field in a game that was painful to watch. I’m guessing Jordan wished he would have kept his vow to never to play for a coach other than Phil Jackson.

Kevin Garnett
November 21, 2008 – Boston 95, Minnesota 78
After missing his first rematch at Target Center with an abdominal injury, the former Teen Wolf returned to his old stomping grounds on a new team, with some new hardware. He played with his trademark intensity, putting up 17 points and four rebounds on 66.7 percent shooting from the field in just 29 minutes. As the Celtics cruised to an easy victory against a struggling team, sporting starters such as Ryan Gomes, Randy Foye and Jason Collins, one couldn’t help but wonder if the gaping void that was left in the organization with KG’s departure will ever be replaced, the only real star the franchise ever had.

Patrick Ewing
February 27, 2001 – Seattle 92, Knicks 101
After 15 ring-less seasons with the Knicks, most of which were memorable, he returned to MSG for the first time as a visitor. The 38-year-old, who was in the twilight of his career at that point, was greeted with a long-standing ovation and put up 12 points, five rebounds and one block in a Knicks victory.

Hakeem Olajuwon
March 5, 2002 – Toronto 109, Houston 112
In a game overshadowed by Vince Carter‘s 43 points and Steve Francis‘ 35 points, one could not help but feel goosebumps when Olajuwon was given the classic “Hake-e-eem the Dre-e-eam” introduction to a long standing ovation at the start of the game. He was able to muster seven points, two assists and seven rebounds in 25 minutes – the worst statistical season of his 17-year career, which can be expected from a 39-year-old.

Gary Payton
January 2, 2004 – Los Angeles 109, Seattle 111
In a last ditch effort at a championship ring, Payton and Karl Malone joined forces with Shaq and Kobe in L.A. in hopes of attaining the one thing that eluded them both up to that point. In a stellar 24-point (season high), five-assist, five-rebound performance, it was all for naught for The Glove as Ray Allen hit a layup with 5.8 seconds left to steal his thunder and the game. Even Sonics chairman Howard Schultz, who feuded with Payton the previous season, stood to applaud for him.

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  • Max

    I love how the big reason Raptor fans held up to why they hated VC was “he admitted to not trying on that TNT interview”

    They do know that the interview was severely edited and took his words out of context, right?

    They do know that John Thompson personally called VC to apologize, right?

    They do know that his quote was about training in the summer after coming off an injury, right?

    Very amusing that they are holding up that “admission” as fact … when in fact, its completely taken out of context..

    39pts vs Raptors in 2005: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=edJ2MJ5PzfI

  • JAY

    @Max
    Did you watch him play in Toronto?? Do you watch him play NOW? Dude had, and HAS no heart. I don’t care what the context was. Actions speak louder than words and everyone in Toronto knew he checked out LONG before he made that statement.

    Do you remember Vince spitefully said, “I’m not dunking anymore”. What kind of idiot would say that??
    An idiot who didn’t care about playing for the city anymore.

    Watch him play today and nothing has changed. Someone will graze his face and he’ll lay on the ground for 5 minutes holding his ankle. Gimme a break.

  • Max

    Yes Jay … I have seen everything VC has done in his career pretty much.

    My point was not that VC did nothing wrong … I think his exit was very regrettable and it’s something (as a VC fan) I am not proud of. He also does not have a killer instinct that a player of his talent level should have.

    No heart? Yeah I know thats the thing everyone says about him .. you cant really say if he does or doesn’t. Its all opinion … and coming from someone who has watched every single game the dude has played since 2002 … I think he does have heart and he does care. But I can totally see how people who only look at boxscores and highlights think he doesnt. Thats the knock on him. I think if he didnt have heart, he would not have been in the league this long.

    Checked out? After his injury plagued 02-03 season, he came back very strong in 03-04 … he was a top 10 scorer and had the Raptors in the playoff chase until late March. He was being praised by the coaching staff and by the broadcasters for working hard with a sub-par team. The next year (04-05) .. yeah he wasnt getting much run in those final 20 games. It was a youth movement and he was on his way out. It was not as bad as everyone seems to think. He had some awesome games and got the Raptors out to a 3-0 start.

    Yeah I do remember the “im not dunking anymore” .. I have seen the whole interview uncut … it was another example of the immature VC getting pissed at reporters. One of the few times the media ticked him off. They were solely concerned about his dunk totals … rather than the team, the performance on the court .. all they wanted to know was “how come your not dunking as much anymore?” and VC got pissed off. Very immature indeed. He dunked 3 times the next game … it was a bad “joke” and the result of VC being mad/immature at the time. I think a lot of players have said stupid things like that. I am hoping your not holding that up as the reason you dislike him…

    VC loves toronto. He still owned property and did charity events after he left. He has said nothing but good things since leaving. Go watch the 2006 ESPN Cold Pizza interview with Chris Brousard … he says “its the best kept secret” about the city.

    While most fans get “angry” when VC falls to the ground … I am worried and hoping hes okay. As a fan, sitting on our coaches watching TV .. its very easy to say “What a loser! Hes lying there like he got shot!” … We do not know how it feels and it just shows the sincerity of fans when they criticize a player for getting injured. Makes no sense to me…

    My first post was about the TNT interview that was blown out of context. Your post seems to be about VC as a player. I hope I addressed some of your issues and you can see where I am coming from. I dont think I will change anyones mind about the guy … most fans today seem to be down on him but I think a lot of them are misinformed. The dude is the reason I started watching/playing basketball, he was the most exciting player I have ever seen, and I respect the hell out of him as a person with his off the court charities and focuses.

    FYI, I run this channel dedicated to VC’s greatest games … I suggest you go see him “quitting” on Toronto from the beginning of the 04-05 season .. and also go watch his games from this year so far…

    http://www.youtube.com/user/vc15encyclopedia

    Peace

  • s.bucketz

    damn…dude either got a soft spot or a hard on for vince carter

  • Max

    @s.bucketz

    Thank you for adding to the debate. Appreciate it.

  • egypt

    Dude might actually be vince carter…

  • http://www.roidrage.com Chicagorilla

    @Max, i agree with you 100% man. But u not gonna get anyone on this board to agree with you. I see the VC/TDOT thing the same way i see LBJ/CLV. Of course each guy couldve handled it differently, but they both were so beloved in their cities that it was going to be a bad breakup no matter what. @DIME, You guys didnt mention how the Bulls announcer was given specific instructions by Krumbs not to give MJ his special intro he would get as a Bull, but the guy did it anyway and i think he got fired like the next day. MJ also recieved the longest standing O i have ever seen. And that was the only time i rooted for my Bulls to lose a game lol.

  • danocasa

    @ eygpt
    +1
    /air high five
    //followed by eight and a half minutes of rolling on the floor holding my knee writhing in pain

  • http://www.dimemag.com Aron Phillips

    Great article Arie!

  • JAY

    @Max
    If you actually think Vince, when he’s lays on the court holding something THAT WASN’T EVEN TOUCHED, is actually hurt, I can’t help you man. There have been countless times where he’ll fall holding his face, lay there while his team runs back on defence…. then when they show the replay, NOBODY TOUCHES HIS FACE!!!! Lol.

    And let’s say for arguments sake that someone actually grazed his face…. IT’S HIS FACE!!!! He can get up and run still.

    And BTW, I might not know how bad it hurts to play when someone grazes your face but I do know how bad it hurts to play on with a dislocated shoulder. Thanks for all your excuses for Vince though. I’m sure he appreciates it.

  • Rabbitman

    That Blazer team Pippen went to was solid, they had steve smith, sabonis, brian grant, and sheed was a beast regardless. Would have went to the finals if they didnt melt down in the 4th game 7. Give credit where its due.

  • DK

    Indeed Rabbitman… shout out to B Wells. Muncie’s finest… should still be in the league now he never really got the credit he deserved–too strong for 2s, too fast for 3s. All-around great game. Might have been the best post player in the league.