Tony Parker is now a Charlotte Hornet and it couldn’t feel any weirder. TP is and always will be a Spur, but it doesn’t change the fact we have to watch him in a Hornet jersey for the next two years. It always feels uncomfortable watching a player whose career is wound tightly with one franchise leave at the end. Unfortunately, not every star finishes with the franchise we identify with them the most like Kobe and Magic with the Lakers, Duncan and the Spurs, or Bird and the Celtics. We tend to almost erase the end from our memories. In this article we are going to dive into the uncomfortable, and look back at five of the most NBA Awkward Endings.
Malone was a staple of Salt Lake City. He spent years fighting for a title while becoming one of the greatest power forwards to ever play the game. The “Mailman” as they came to call him was drafted in 1985 and spent 18 years in Utah. Even though Malone is most often brought up in the “best player to never win a title” debate we forget this is a 14-time all-star, 14-time All-NBA selection, 4-time all-defensive selection and a 2-time MVP. Malone spent the last year of his career however, chasing that elusive ring with Shaq and Kobe. His 19th and final season was spent in an NBA Finals loss at the hands of the Pistons. While Utah fans understood his quest, the feeling in their stomachs seeing Malone in a Lakers jersey couldn’t have been pleasant throughout that season.
This is the man with the cornrows. The man who stepped over Ty Lue in the Finals. The legend who in the end said he would be a Sixer until the day he died. He spent the first 10 of his 14-year career in Philly and he became a larger than life athlete. The MVP jumped around a lot in his final years in the league. He played in Denver which was weird at first, but in the end I think we got used to it. Things got real awkward when he played in Detroit. It was unsettling seeing him in that jersey. The next phase of a weird ending came when he donned a Grizzly jersey for just three games! He even played in Turkey for a while before finally hanging up the shoes for good.
Shaquille O’ Neal
Am I allowed to speak for everyone when I ask if we can just forget the carousel Shaq took us on at the end of his career? It was the strangest thing watching a once unstoppable force of nature jump around the league so quickly. He wasn’t an abomination in Phoenix, but after the trade to Cleveland he was a shell of his former self. The final move of his 19-year career was with Boston where he… well let’s just forget it and remember The Diesel for what he was.
Hakeem gave the Rockets 17 wonderful years and the only championships the franchise has ever known. A two-time Finals MVP and 12-time All-Star Hakeem didn’t finish his career in Houston. After the 2000-01 season the Rockets felt his career needed to come to an end. Hakeem thought differently and spent his last season in Toronto where he played for Lenny Wilkens and with future Hall of Famer Vince Carter. This was one of the strangest sights ever for NBA fans and most forget it ever happened.
The most iconic American sports figure ever Michael Jordan spent two awkward years playing in Washington. I remember getting my picture taken with the awe inspiring statue of this man outside the United Center. There may not be a sports figure attached to a franchise like Jordan is to the Bulls. Five MVP’s, an undefeated Finals record and perhaps the greatest career in sports history didn’t mean he was immune to an uncomfortable ending. Seeing Jordan return in 2001 to play in a Wizards uniform had to almost physically hurt. It felt like you were cheating on the man, but you couldn’t be since he was the one wearing the jersey.