The grave for the one-team superstar is not a new plot. When the game’s best players stick around with one team for an entire career, it’s the exception, not the rule.
Kobe Bryant is the only player in the NBA’s career top-10 in scoring who has played with one team. His story intertwines with that of Peyton Manning up until this week: precocious young players who became MVPs and world champions, and whose own identities completely meshed with that of the franchise they played for. Lucas Oil Stadium was Peyton’s place; Staples Center is Kobe’s domain.
With today’s official announcement that Manning has been cut by the Colts, we look at the top 10 players who moved on late in their careers. Nine of the 10 had once been franchise players until their late-in-the-game move. None had overwhelming success in their new home(s), but we wanted to take a look back at how these moves worked out for the game’s elite players — much as Manning is in the class of uber-elite quarterbacks.
And who knows, maybe it’ll show Kobe the roadmap should he ever depart Los Angeles (We’re looking at you, Ric Bucher).
*** *** ***
10. HAKEEM OLAJUWON to Toronto
He really wanted to play. That’s all you can say for why The Dream decided to pull up roots and head north to play for a Raptors team that finished third in the Central at 42-40.
He played like the opposite of his superstar days in Houston, and became a 7.1-point-per scoring, 6-board-per grabbing non-factor for a franchise in just its sixth season. One of the sadder final chapters in an NBA uniform. There’s barely any video evidence of this season.