NBA PM: Two Stints With Same Team

LeBron James will do a second stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but he isn’t the only NBA player to return to his old team.

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Sports Editor
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Two Stints With Same Team

As we all know, LeBron James is going home to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the fact that he’s returning to the city where he made a name for himself has been a huge story over the course of the last couple of weeks. Of course, this isn’t the first time this story has been told. Plenty of players have returned for a second stint with a team after spending some years away, and here are some of the most notable:

#5 – Chauncey Billups, Denver Nuggets (1998-2000, 2008-2011) and Detroit Pistons (2002-2008, 2013-2014) – Billups’ first stint in Denver was underwhelming, but upon his return in 2008 there were plenty of people who thought he’d retire in his home state. He went to college there (Boulder), played some pretty un-miraculous pro ball there for two years in the late ’90s, and made his triumphant return in the Allen Iverson trade back in 2008. He didn’t get to go back home for long, but it was certainly fun for him while it lasted. His second stint in Detroit, meanwhile, was nowhere near as glorious as his first, but he was given the opportunity to finish his career where he won his lone championship.

#4 – Mark Jackson, Indiana Pacers (1994-1996, 1997-2000) – Grabbing Mark Jackson from the Clippers in 1994 proved to be a fantastic move for the Pacers, but when they got the opportunity to move him for Jalen Rose a couple of years later, they just couldn’t say no. Turns out maybe they should have, because the team immediately dropped out of the playoff picture and stunk so badly that they re-traded for him less than a year later. Within a couple of seasons, they’d be in the Finals—the only Finals appearance of Jackson’s career.

#3 – Derek Fisher, L.A. Lakers (1996-2004, 2007-2012) and Oklahoma City Thunder (2012, 2012-2013) – Fisher entered free agency in 2004 with quite a lot to consider. Yes, he had been a key part of three championship teams in L.A. and was a fan favorite, but with waning playing time, Shaquille O’Neal being traded to the Miami HEAT and Kobe Bryant seriously considering testing free agency himself, Fisher felt it was time to move on. Considering the Golden State Warriors offered him a six-year, $37 million deal and a guaranteed starting role, he had no choice but to leave. Less than three seasons later, Fisher was a member of the Utah Jazz when his daughter would be diagnosed with a disease that simply couldn’t be properly treated in Salt Lake City. Fisher requested his release so he could move to a city in which medical specialists were nearby. Benevolently, the Jazz acquiesced, and guess which city had the best combination of doctors and basketball prowess? Before the 2007-08 season, Fisher re-signed with the Lakers and made three consecutive NBA Finals trips with L.A. He made another one in 2012 with the Thunder, which is why they brought him back for a second stint only a few months after losing him to Dallas.

#2 – Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns (1996-1998, 2004-2012) – Nash was okay in his first two seasons in the league with Phoenix, but he wasn’t necessarily a show-stopper yet. Still, he was good enough for Dallas to give up three players and a first-round pick for him, and it was in Dallas that Nash really made a name for himself. After the 2004 season, Mark Cuban’s Mavs felt that at age 30, a high-priced, long-term extension for Nash simply wasn’t the smartest business decision, but they couldn’t have known how very wrong they’d be. Nash followed the money and went back to Phoenix, where he won two MVP awards and was productive well into his late 30s before a trade to L.A. and injuries finally slowed him down.

#1 – LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers (2003-2010, 2014-present) – The story has been well-told by now, but never has a player of James’ caliber left a team and then returned to that same franchise, all while still in his prime. It’s impossible to know if the Cavaliers will win any championships with him, but there’s no questioning that this is the biggest player return in the history of the sport, by far.

Honorable Mention:

Scottie Pippen, Chicago Bulls (1987-1998, 2003-2004) – After leaving the Bulls in 1998 when Michael Jordan retired, Pippen experienced some success with the Houston Rockets and especially the Portland Trail Blazers. In his last season as a pro, however, Chicago brought him back so he could retire in Chicago. This was in 2003 when there wasn’t a lot of good things happening with the Bulls, and at 38 years old Pip didn’t have a whole lot of gas left in the tank, but it was nice to see a legend finish his career in the city that made him a star.

Hedo Turkoglu, Orlando Magic (2004-2009, 2010-2013) – Turkoglu undoubtedly played his best pro ball as a key member of the 2009 Magic team that made the NBA Finals but that was a contract year for Turkoglu, and he turned his great performance into a monster deal with the Toronto Raptors. It wouldn’t work out well for Turkoglu in Canada, and he’d be traded to the Phoenix Suns just a year later. Less than a year after that, the Magic reacquired him, but he didn’t fare quite as well the second time around. His first half-season with Orlando went relatively well, but he only played in 11 games the next season, marking the end of his time with the Magic. Again.

Allen Iverson, Philadelphia 76ers (1996-2006, 2010) – Starting in 2004, Iverson began having some problems with the Sixers, for whom he had previously won an MVP trophy and led to the NBA Finals, and over the next 24 months those issues would continue to escalate with Iverson skipping practices, showing up late to games and missing team events off the court. It eventually led to a trade with the Denver Nuggets, where Iverson still managed to score a ton of points in his first season outside of Philly. In the next few seasons, though, he’d end up in Detroit and (very briefly) in Memphis—none of which worked out well for him. In the latter portion of his last season, his former team gave him a chance to redeem himself and brought The Answer back to Philadelphia. It would be the last 25 games he’d play in the league.

Jason Kidd, Dallas Mavericks (1994-1996, 2008-2012) – Despite the fact that Kidd led the league in triple-doubles in his rookie season and split the Rookie of the Year award with Grant Hill in 1995, Dallas’s vision of building a team around Kidd, Jamal Mashburn and Jim Jackson never really came to fruition, so they traded him to Phoenix very early in his career for several players including Michael Finley and Sam Cassell. Twelve years later, after spending his best professional years in Phoenix and New Jersey, the Mavericks traded for a 34-year-old Kidd and hoped that adding him to a good veteran team would help push the squad to a championship. Kidd and the Mavericks ended up winning a title in 2011, so the second stint worked out well for both parties.

Antoine Walker, Boston Celtics (1996-2003, 2005) – Despite the fact that Walker and Boston teammate Paul Pierce had experienced huge success in their years together on the Celtics, by 2003 it was starting to become clear that the duo wasn’t going to win a championship. Walker was traded to Dallas, where he didn’t play anywhere near the minutes he was accustomed to, and then moved again that offseason to Atlanta. After only a half a season with the Hawks, the Celtics re-acquired him, played him for 24 games and then shipped him off yet again the next summer as part of the largest trade (13 players) in league history.

Ben Wallace, Detroit Pistons (2001-2006, 2009-2012) – Wallace won a championship, made four All-Star teams and won four NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards while a member of the Detroit Pistons the first time around. But the minute he signed a four-year, $60 million deal with the Chicago Bulls, he seemed to have lost much of his former athleticism. The Pistons brought him back in 2009 out of sheer desperation for size, and Big Ben did fairly well in his second go-round with Detroit—even if that time he did it without that fantastic afro.

Wilt Chamberlain, Philadelphia Warriors (1959-1962) and Philadelphia 76ers (1965-1968) – Wilt never played for the same franchise twice, but he did play for the same city twice. Does that count?

Here are some other notable players who did two separate stints with the same team:

  • Brad Miller, Chicago Bulls (2000-2002, 2009-2010)
  • Manute Bol, Washington Bullets (1985-1988, 1993), Golden State Warriors (1988-1990, 1994-1995), Philadelphia 76ers (1990-1993, 1994)
  • Al Harrington, Indiana Pacers (1998-2004, 2006)
  • Joe Smith, Philadelphia 76ers (1998, 2006-2007), Minnesota Timberwolves (1998-2000, 2001-2003), Cleveland Cavaliers (2008, 2009)
  • Derrick Coleman, Philadelphia 76ers (1995-1998, 2001-2004)
  • Artis Gilmore, Chicago Bulls (1978-1982, 1987)
  • Horace Grant, Orlando Magic (1994-1999, 2001-2003)
  • Spud Webb, Atlanta Hawks (1985-1991, 1995-1996)
  • Tim Thomas, New York Knicks (2004-2005, 2008-2009), Chicago Bulls (2005, 2009)
  • A.C. Green, L.A. Lakers (1985-1993, 1999-2000)
  • Chris Gatling, Miami HEAT (1996, 2001-2002)
  • Delonte West, Boston Celtics (2004-2007, 2010-2011)
  • Steve Blake, Portland Trail Blazers (2005-2006, 2007-2010)
  • Theo Ratliff, Detroit Pistons (1995-1997, 2007-2008), Philadelphia 76ers (1997-2001, 2008-2009)
  • Shane Battier, Memphis Grizzlies (2001-2006, 2011)
  • Mike Miller, Memphis Grizzlies (2002-2008, 2013)
  • Kirk Hinrich, Chicago Bulls (2003-2010, 2012-present)
  • Goran Dragic, Phoenix Suns (2008-2010, 2012-present)
  • Trevor Ariza, Houston Rockets (2009-2010, 2014-present)

One on One With Kris Humphries

Washington Wizards big man Kris Humphries talks about joining a new team, playing with All-Star point guard John Wall, his expectations for next season and much more in this exclusive interview with Basketball Insiders:

Alan is an experienced writer of online betting and casino guides. He is one of the main editors of Basketballinsiders.

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