Welcome to another edition of The Friday Five! Every Friday I cover a topic related to basketball gaming, either as a list of five items, or a Top 5 countdown. The topics for these lists and countdowns include everything from fun facts and recollections to commentary and critique. This week’s Five is Part 11 in an ongoing series looking at players who only appeared on certain teams in video games.
At this point, I’ve covered many of the noteworthy names that became examples of players who only appeared on certain teams in video games. As I’ve said before, I originally planned to stop this series after seven instalments, believing that I had exhausted all of the notable examples worth discussing. Thanks to the efforts of David L however, I discovered that I’d overlooked quite a few prominent players with a phantom stint or two to their name. I discovered some more examples myself, and it seemed a shame to waste our combined research.
I’m taking a slightly different approach this week, however. Apart from one player who was an All-Star and therefore more memorable, I’m focusing on a handful of role players who only appeared on certain teams in games. Of course, I’m sure that I’m not alone in remembering them, though their phantom stints may well fly under the radar. It’s not necessarily surprising they have them, though. NBA journeymen usually have a more tenuous grip on their roster spots, meaning there’s a good chance that some of them will be released by the time a video game launches, thus preserving a snapshot of a phantom stint. I’m sure you know the drill by now, so let’s get to the examples!
1. Joe Kleine (Indiana Pacers, NBA Live 2001 PS1)
Before we get into anything else, I just want to point out that while Joe Kleine isn’t one of the all-time great NBA players, he does have one of the best nicknames in the history of the sport: “Smokin’ Joe from Slater Mo”, a reference to his high school days in Slater, Missouri. Anyway, while Kleine didn’t fill the stat sheet playing off the bench for most his career, and still posted modest numbers in a couple of seasons as a regular starter, he was a solid big man who chipped in here and there as he filled his role. He had some superstar teammates during his NBA journey though, including Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Shaquille O’Neal, and Charles Barkley to name a few.
Kleine’s final NBA season came in 2000 with the Portland Trail Blazers, though he played less than five minutes per game and only appeared in seven contests. He was traded to the Indiana Pacers along with Jermaine O’Neal for Dale Davis, but was cut in September and subsequently retired. As such, he doesn’t appear in the PC and PS2 versions of NBA Live 2001, which came out later and featured updated rosters. The PS1 version was released before he called it a day, so there you can find his phantom stint with the Pacers. Incidentally, Basketball Reference lists “Taco Joe” as one of his nicknames, which was never official, but does refer to a fun moment with the Bulls.
2. Lee Mayberry (Orlando Magic, NBA Live 2000)
Although he was never a star player, Lee Mayberry was almost always in uniform through the first six years of his seven year NBA career. From the time he was drafted by the Bucks with the 23rd pick in 1992 to his departure following the 1996 season, he didn’t miss a single game, even starting 50 times in 1995. Even after joining the Vancouver Grizzlies for the 1997 campaign, he continued to be a key bench player and occasional starter, appearing in 80 and 79 games in his first two seasons with the team. Mayberry battled knee problems during the lockout-shortened 1999 season though, appearing in just nine out of a possible 50 games and averaging career lows.
In the offseason, the Grizzlies included Mayberry in the Steve Francis trade. As long-time fans and NBA history buffs will remember, Francis wasn’t keen on the prospect of playing in Vancouver, and when an agreement couldn’t be reached, the Grizzlies sent the second overall pick and future All-Star to the Houston Rockets in a three-team deal. Mayberry was sent to the Orlando Magic via that trade, and that’s where you’ll find him in NBA Live 2000 PC. He was released in November and didn’t latch on elsewhere, ending his career. Though he wasn’t a big name, his 328 consecutive games with the Bucks made Mayberry one of the most durable players of the mid 90s.
3. Gerald Wallace (Philadelphia 76ers, NBA 2K16)
I’ll always have a fondness for Gerald Wallace as a player thanks to my Sacramento Kings Franchise in NBA Live 2002, where he was a rookie at the end of the bench. He finally had a chance to shine when the Charlotte Bobcats selected him in the 2004 Expansion Draft, and in 2010 he became the first (and last) Bobcat All-Star. Wallace also has the distinction of being one of three players – Hakeem Olajuwon and David Robinson are the other two – to average at least two steals and two blocks per game in a single season. Injuries led to a quick decline however, and sadly Wallace was out of the league by 2015, ending his NBA career after only 832 games and at the age of 32.
While Wallace’s career effectively came to a close with the Boston Celtics, he did have one more NBA stint that only happened on paper (and the virtual hardwood). In the 2015 offseason, the Celtics traded Wallace to the Golden State Warriors, who then traded him to the Philadelphia 76ers just four days later. He remained on their roster until he was released on September 27th, just two days before NBA 2K16 launched. As a result, his phantom stint is represented in the original default rosters, though an official update soon reflected his release. It may seem like an unceremonious end, but as other examples in this series have proven, it happens to stars as well as role players.
4. Cedric Henderson (Milwaukee Bucks, NBA Live 2003)
I remember Cedric Henderson for a couple of reasons. Around the time he entered the league, I was really getting into making roster updates for NBA Live 96 PC, despite it being a couple of years old at that point. My cousin was also a huge Shawn Kemp fan, and his first season in Cleveland was Cedric Henderson’s rookie campaign. I recall Henderson being touted as a promising part of a young Cavaliers core that included Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Derek Anderson, and Brevin Knight, with The Reignman as their established star and leader. Henderson seemed to have potential, and garnered Second Team All-Rookie honours, demonstrating flashes of brilliance as a scorer on the wing.
Unfortunately, both he and the Kemp-led Cavaliers peaked in the 1998 campaign. Kemp’s downfall is well-documented, and while Henderson’s decline wasn’t nearly as controversial, he didn’t quite live up his perceived potential. By 2000, he was mostly coming off the bench. He was traded to the Golden State Warriors in 2001, where he appeared in only 12 games playing very limited minutes. Henderson signed with the Bucks in September 2002, but was released a month later, thus he never played for them (or in the NBA again). That signing placed him on their roster in NBA Live 2003 however; an extra wing player while Michael Redd was temporarily misplaced.
5. Roshown McLeod (Boston Celtics, NBA Live 2002/2003 & NBA 2K2/2K3)
Talk about a player whose name sticks in my mind despite having an extremely brief NBA career! Roshown McLeod played all of 113 games in three seasons with the Atlanta Hawks and Philadelphia 76ers, and was out of the league by the age of 25. It probably helps that he was part of the midseason trade between the Hawks and 76ers in 2001 that sent Dikembe Mutombo to the City of Brotherly Love. Once again, I was very involved in making roster updates for NBA Live around that time, so if nothing else, I was moving him around and seeing his name in the lineups. The fact that he spent a season on the injured reserve in real life and video games certainly helps, too.
McLeod was traded to the Celtics in the 2001 offseason, and thus appears on their roster in NBA Live 2002 and NBA 2K2. He suffered an injury that caused nerve damage in his left leg, abruptly forcing him to retire a year later after missing the entire 2002 campaign. McLeod was still on the Celtics roster in NBA Live 2003 and NBA 2K3, but his career was done by that point. Since then, he’s written about his experiences via an open letter to his late mother, who passed away the same year he suffered his career-ending injury. It’s quite an inspirational read, as it sounds like he’s found peace and purpose helping his young charges to succeed on and off the court.
Do you remember Gerald Wallace’s phantom stint to end his career? Do any of these role players who only appeared on certain teams in games ring any bells? What are some of the phantom stints that you recall that I haven’t covered yet? Let me know in the comments, and as always, feel free to take the discussion to the NLSC Forum! That’s all for this week, so thanks for checking in, have a great weekend, and please join me again next Friday for another Five.