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Tom Brady ends career in non-Patriot uniform? NBA legends been there, done that.

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We will forever picture in our minds Tom Brady in a… Tampa Bay Buccaneers uniform?

Or maybe the lightning bolt helmet of the Los Angeles Chargers, because he pulls the Kawhi Leonard and looks to elevate the little brother in the L.A. market to elite status on and off the field.

Whatever Brady chooses, NBA fans have been down this road. We have seen the greatest players in our game finish out their careers in strange uniforms. We tend to block from our memory. It’s not just a hoops thing, as Hardball Talk’s Craig Calcaterra noted for baseball, Joe Prince-Wright did for soccer, and James O’Brein noted for hockey, legends ending their careers wearing strange uniforms is not a new nor sport-specific phenomenon.

Here are a few of the NBA legends that didn’t finish their career in the uniform you’d expect (with honorable mention to Tony Parker in Charlotte and Bob Cousy in Cincinnati, which just missed the cut).

MICHAEL JORDAN

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The NBA’s greatest and most iconic player had the greatest walk-off play to retire on ever: In Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals, Michael Jordan stripped Karl Malone in the post on one end, brought the ball up, waited until there were less than 10 seconds left, drove hard to the middle of the floor, stopped and crossed back to his left, gave Bryon Russell a little shove, rose up and drained the title-winning jumper with 5.2 seconds remaining. It was an exit fitting a legend.

Then three years later, he came back and played two seasons with the Wizards.

The ultimate competitor could not get his fix working as a team president (and pushing toward ownership, something that happened years later in Charlotte), so he laced them up again. It wasn’t the same. Jordan was still good, averaging more than 20 points a game on some bad teams, and there were flashes of him being his old self.

But, for the most part, we as fans just want to block out those years and remember Jordan stepping off the court as a champion in Chicago.

HAKEEM OLAJUWON

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The center with the best footwork the game had ever seen, the guy who brought two titles to Houston (and the guy drafted in front of Jordan where nobody thinks it was a mistake) ended his career doing the Dream Shake north of the border in Toronto. The Rockets had faded in the West since their championship years (behind a dominant Lakers team at the end) and were looking to move on, while Olajuwon still thought he had a lot to prove, so he eventually agreed to the trade. Houston got the Raptors 2002 first-round pick (Boštjan Nachbar was their pick) and second-rounder (Tito Maddox).

The Dream only played one season with the Raptors, but he was banged up, came off the bench a lot, and averaged just 7.1 points a game for a team led by the high-flying Vince Carter (then just 25). When Olajuwon retired, there was no question he would be pictured in the Hall of Fame as the greatest Rocket ever.

PATRICK EWING

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After 15 seasons in New York, leading the team to the NBA finals and dragging Jeff Van Gundy around on his leg, the Knicks icon that was Patrick Ewing was traded to the Seattle Supersonics in a four-team deal. The next summer, he signed as a free agent in Orlando and played there for one season. Father time was winning the race with Ewing those last couple of seasons, he started in Seattle and averaged 9.6 points a game, but was banged up (finger surgery) and coming off the bench in Orlando for 6 points a game. He went on to be an assistant coach for years in the NBA, never getting a shot in the big chair, so he jumped to his alma mater and is now the coach at Georgetown University.

He wasn’t the only Knicks legend shipped out at the end…

WALT “CLYDE” FRAZIER

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The best dressed Knick ever and current team color analyst was sent to Cleveland for the final two-plus years of his career (the Knicks had signed Jim Cleamons as a veteran free agent in 1977, and at the time that meant compensation had to go back to Cleveland, and Frazier was the guy). Frazier was not happy with the trade, saying being sent to Cleveland was like “being traded to Siberia.” Injuries and age were catching up with Frazier at that point, and he played in just 66 games across three seasons for the Cavaliers before he left the game, but he averaged 14.6 points a game in those contests. It was not that long before he was rhyming on the broadcasts of Knicks games and cementing himself as a legend in New York. A city that just fits him better than Cleveland.

KARL MALONE

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In 2004, Karl Malone — arguably the greatest Utah Jazz player ever, forever joined at the hip with John Stockton — came to the Shaq/Kobe Lakers to chase a ring, along with Gary Payton. At that point not even the glue of Phil Jackson could keep the dueling egos of the Lakers stars from spilling over, and the team’s role players had aged, but Malone was going to solve those problems, providing depth and a locker room presence. Malone played well that season — 13.2 points and 8.7 rebounds a game — when healthy, but he only played in 42 games that season as injuries caught up with him. Malone was exactly what those Lakers needed in the playoffs, but the injury that had him miss the NBA Finals gave Detroit the opening the Pistons needed to take the 2004 NBA crown. By the next year, Shaq was in Miami and Malone was on his ranch, retired, waiting for the call from the Hall of Fame.

All Cedric Maxwell got for winning NBA Finals MVP was this janky watch (video)

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Just two NBA Finals MVPs who are eligible for the Basketball Hall of Fame haven’t been selected for induction:

  • Cedric Maxwell (1981 Celtics)
  • Chauncey Billups (2004 Pistons)

Andre Iguodala (2015 Warriors) could join them, but he at least has some Hall of Fame chatter surrounding him. Billups is absolutely a legitimate Hall of Fame candidate, even if not enshrined.

Maxwell, on the other hand, wasn’t on that level. He never even made an All-Star team. He was just a good player who had an excellent six games against the Rockets in the 1981 NBA Finals.

Really, it’s a neat distinction to be the lone NBA Finals MVP who was never a star. Maxwell can cherish that.

And this watch, which he reveals in this entertaining video.

NBPA reaching out to players, getting feedback on return scenarios

Michele Roberts
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NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has been in information gathering mode since the day he was forced to shut the league down. He’s gathered information from medical experts on how a return would work, talked to owners and GMs about the financial end and what they hope to see, and had conferences with the league’s broadcast partners.

Most of all, Silver wanted to know what the players thought. With the NBA closing in on a return strategy — Friday Silver and team owners will have a conference call that could lead to a decisive plan — players’ union executive director Michele Roberts is taking the return plans to the players for feedback, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

It looks like the NBA will return to play in Orlando, with training camps starting in late June and games in mid-July.

The questions to be answered are:

• Do all 30 teams report to Orlando to play a handful of regular season games, getting teams over the 70 game threshold?
• Do just the top 16 teams report with the league jumping straight to the playoffs?
• If the league does go straight to the playoffs, how will that impact player pay, which is tied to the regular season?
• Will there be a play-in tournament for the final playoff seeds?
Should the NBA do a 1-16 seed playoff format, or keep the traditional Eastern/Western conference format?
• Will each playoff round have seven games, or will the first round (or two) be best-of-five?

Everything option is still on the table (as officials will be quick to say). However, the buzz around the league has grown louder that just the top 16 teams will go to Florida, and there will be seven-game series for every round, as the league tries to squelch any asterisk talk.

We may know a lot more on Friday. And the players will have their say.

Michael Jordan on tape saying he wouldn’t play on Dream Team with Isiah Thomas

Pistons guard Isiah Thomas and Bulls guard Michael Jordan
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In “The Last Dance,” Michael Jordan was asked to react to Isiah Thomas’ explanation of the Pistons’ infamous walk-off. Jordan replied immediately:

I know it’s all bulls—. Whatever he says now, you know it wasn’t his true actions then. He’s had time enough to think about it. Or the reaction of the public, that’s kind of changed his perspective of it. You can show me anything you want. There’s no way you can convince me he wasn’t an a—hole.

Maybe there was some projection in that answer.

For years, Jordan has denied any involvement in Thomas not making the Dream Team. Rod Thorn, who was on the selection committee for the 1992 Olympics, has backed Jordan’s version of events.

But Jordan once revealed a different story.

Jordan on Jack McCallum’s “The Dream Team Tapes:”

Rod Thorn called me. I said, “Rod, I won’t play if Isiah Thomas is on the team.” He assured me. He said, “You know what? Chuck doesn’t want Isiah. So, Isiah is not going to be part of the team.”

Yes, the Pistons were being poor sports when they left the floor without shaking the Bulls’ hands in the 1991 playoffs. But that neither began nor ended the story.

The Bulls repeatedly disrespected the Pistons while finally overcoming Detroit. That particularly bothered the Pistons, because, on their way up, they paid deference to to the Celtics and Lakers. So, while the walk-off was – even according to Thomas – regrettable, it happened for a reason.

Jordan carrying his vendetta to the Dream Team only escalated matters. Yet, unlike the Pistons for not shaking hands, Jordan receives minimal scorn for his poor sportsmanship. Threatening not to play if a rival player is also included is the antithesis of what people want the Olympics to stand for.

And Jordan is now on published audio admitting that’s exactly what he did. You can listen to him for yourself.

As the best player and marketing giant, Jordan had the power. Thomas felt the consequences.

In 1992, Thomas was a marginal choice for the Dream Team. He wasn’t clearly better than the players who made it on current ability. He wasn’t as great as the players – Magic Johnson and Larry Bird – who made it on career accomplishments. It would’ve been fine to select Thomas. It would have been fine to omit him.

But it’s a shame he never got proper consideration on merit.

It’s also a shame Dream Team coach Chuck Daly, who coached Thomas in Detroit, is no longer alive to give his account. Did Dally really tell Thorn not to put Thomas on the Olympic team? Did Thorn really tell that to Jordan? Jordan and Thorn are just so untrustworthy on this matter.

Kendrick Perkins: LeBron James-Paul Pierce rift stems from Pierce spitting at Cavaliers bench

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In 2004, Celtics forward Paul Pierce got fined for spitting at the Cavaliers bench during a preseason game.

Why did Pierce do that?

Apparently, LeBron James.

Kendrick Perkins, via ESPN:

When LeBron was coming into the league, he was getting a lot of heat from players. “Oh he’s not going to do that to us. The Chosen One. Wait til he play against grown men.”

So, Paul is talking noise to the bench, right? He’s talking big noise to the Cavs bench. And they’re sitting over there. Bron and them, they’re all sitting over there.

Paul actually spits over there at the bench, right? The ultimate disrespect, OK?

It ended up turning up. After the game, both teams were meeting in the back. Guys was ready to fight. We had to hold people back. It went up from there.

Ever since that moment, LeBron James and Paul Pierce hate each other. They don’t speak to each other.

This was entering LeBron’s second season, not his rookie year. But Pierce was still the established star, LeBron the riser trying to prove himself. As we’ve seen since, Pierce is very protective of his place in the game.

The feud deepened over the years as Pierce’s Celtics battled LeBron’s Cavaliers and Heat in the playoffs. Pierce took other shots at LeBron, even indirectly. Most recently, Pierce named a top-five list that didn’t include LeBron.

But spitting? That’s low.

There’s just something about Boston players from that era.