The Friday Five: 5 Players Who Only Appeared on Certain Teams in Games (Part 10)

The Friday Five: 5 Players Who Only Appeared on Certain Teams in Games (Part 10)

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 10 in an ongoing series looking at players who only appeared on certain teams in video games.

When I posted my first list of players who only appeared on certain teams in games – or “phantom stints”, as I really should’ve called it – I didn’t realise that it would turn into a series with ten parts and counting! I thought I’d discovered some rather unique examples while dusting off games for Wayback Wednesday features and my own retro gaming sessions, but the names kept on coming. Once I reached the seventh instalment, I believed that I’d covered all of the examples who were noteworthy names. David L quickly proved me wrong, though!

As such, this series continues, and there are some more examples that I’ll be getting to beyond today’s feature. Once again, these phantom stints occur for the same basic reason: a player’s tenure with a team is more or less on paper only since they never officially tally a minute in real life, but because the stint is represented in at least one video game, it can actually play out on the virtual hardwood. Whether it’s due to leaving soon after a transaction that’s included in the default rosters or an official update, an injury lasting their entire tenure, or a trade or signing that was nullified, a number of players end up only appearing on certain teams in basketball video games.

1. Dana Barros (Dallas Mavericks, NBA Live 2001 PS1)

Dana Barros on the Mavericks (NBA Live 2001)

Let’s tip things off with a call back to a trade that I mentioned in Part 9. During the 2000 offseason, there was a four-team swap involving role players, journeymen who were past their prime, and one former All-Star: Dana Barros. That trade saw Robert Pack have a phantom stint with the Boston Celtics, as seen in the PlayStation version of NBA Live 2001. He and Dana Barros essentially switched places in that deal, as Barros went to the Dallas Mavericks. However, Barros also ended up moving on before ever playing for the team he landed on in that trade. It resulted in a two-year stint with the Detroit Pistons, who were reeling from the departure of Grant Hill.

Just as the timing of Pack’s subsequent return to Denver missed the cut-off for NBA Live 2001 on PS1, leaving him in Boston, Barros’ phantom stint with the Mavericks placed him in Dallas in that release. Funnily enough, both players moved on a day apart, with Pack being traded to the Nuggets on October 16th and Barros going to Detroit a day later on the 17th. Notably, it was also Barros’ second phantom stint, as the SuperSonics had traded him to the Hornets in September 1993, only for Charlotte to trade him to Philadelphia two days later. That move wasn’t represented in any video games, nor was his return to Boston for a farewell game at the end of the 2004 season.

2. Jiri Welsch (Dallas Mavericks, NBA Live 2004)

Players Only On Certain Teams in Games: Jiri Welsch, Mavericks (NBA Live 2004)

While we’re making call backs to Part 9 in this series, you may recall that Chris Mills had phantom stints with two teams over the years: the Boston Celtics, as seen in NBA Live 98, and the Dallas Mavericks, as seen in NBA Live 2004. The circumstances of the latter phantom stint also contributed to Jiri Welsch becoming a player who only appeared for certain teams in video games. As a rookie, Welsch was a teammate of Mills with the Golden State Warriors in 2003. Come the offseason, both players were included in the deal that sent Antawn Jamison to the Mavericks, and Nick Van Exel to the Warriors. This August trade was completed in time to appear in NBA Live 2004.

It resulted in a phantom stint for both Welsch and Mills when they were both traded to Boston in October, too late to be included in NBA Live 2004 on any platform. While Mills missed the entire season and retired after being traded to Atlanta as part of the three-team deal that sent Rasheed Wallace to Detroit, Welsch did spend the year in Boston. It turned out to be his best year in the league, making him a fan favourite and virtual hardwood legend among Celtics fans. Incidentally, the deal that sent Mills and Welsch to the Mavericks also resulted in a phantom stint for Evan Eschmeyer, which I’ve covered in a previous article. It was certainly a good offseason for roster trivia!

3. Robert Traylor (Philadelphia 76ers, NBA Live 2002)

Robert Traylor on the 76ers in NBA Live 2002

Speaking of trivia, do you recall that the late Robert “Tractor” Traylor was drafted by the Dallas Mavericks sixth overall in 1998, and then traded to the Milwaukee Bucks for the ninth overall selection; some guy named Dirk Nowitzki? Apart from shattering a backboard in college and his untimely passing just a few years after the abrupt end to his NBA tenure, it’s unfortunately the most notable fact about his career. There is some other trivia that I can share about the big man out of Michigan, though. After two years with the Bucks, Traylor was sent to Cleveland as part of a three-team trade that was basically another shuffling of role players and past-their-prime journeymen.

Following a season with the Cavaliers – the first of two stints – Traylor was traded to Philadelphia in a deal that included former Bucks teammate Tyrone Hill, who became a familiar face back in a familiar place in Cleveland. This move in the 2001 offseason placed him on the 76ers’ roster in NBA Live 2002, but just days before the game was released, Traylor was part of another three-team trade that saw Derrick Coleman return to Philadelphia for his second stint with the team. Traylor was therefore a Hornet in the original team’s final year in Charlotte, and remained with them for their first two years in New Orleans. Outside of video games though, he was never a 76er.

4. Justin Reed (Houston Rockets, NBA Live 08 & NBA 2K8)

Justin Reed on the Rockets in NBA 2K8

Although he’s far from the most noteworthy name on this list, Justin Reed is the most recent example (though at this point, 2007 isn’t exactly recent either!). Sadly, like the aforementioned Robert Traylor, he also passed away far too young in his mid 30s, back in 2017. Reed had a very brief NBA career after being selected by the Boston Celtics in the second round of the 2004 Draft. He played sparingly in his rookie year, but after being traded to Minnesota in the deal that sent Wally Szczerbiak to Boston, he had an opportunity for more playing time as one of the first players off the bench. It wouldn’t last however, as Reed was relegated to a deep bench role in his final year.

Before his NBA career drew to a close however, Reed was traded along with Mike James to the Houston Rockets for Juwan Howard. You may remember that this trade to the Timberwolves actually resulted in a phantom stint for Howard as well. Though he appeared in Minnesota in the default rosters of NBA Live 08, he was cut and then signed with the Mavericks. Meanwhile, the trade placed Justin Reed in Houston in the default rosters of NBA Live 08 and NBA 2K8, but the Rockets waived him the same day that the Timberwolves released Juwan Howard. As I noted, Reed sadly passed away following a battle with angiosarcoma, a rare and aggressive blood cancer.

5. Dale Ellis (Miami Heat, NBA Live 2001 PS1)

Players Only On Certain Teams in Games: Dale Ellis, Heat (NBA Live 2001)

Despite a notably more successful career than Justin Reed, Dale Ellis similarly ended his career with a phantom stint following an offseason trade. A now often-overlooked sharpshooter who would no doubt thrive in today’s game, Ellis consistently put up double digits in points from his fourth season through to his sixteenth and second-last campaign, whether starting or coming off the bench. In his seventeenth and final year, split between the Bucks and Hornets, he took on a smaller bench role for the first time since his early years with the Dallas Mavericks. Ellis called it a day after finishing with career lows of 4.2 ppg in 13.4 mpg following the midseason trade to the Hornets.

Ellis moved on one last time before hanging up his sneakers, though. He already had one phantom stint to his name when the SuperSonics traded him to the Magic for Horace Grant in June 1999. Orlando traded him to Milwaukee along with Danny Manning in August, a transaction that was accounted for in NBA Live 2000 PC. A year later, Ellis was part the Hornets-Heat swap that included (among others) Eddie Jones and Anthony Mason changing places with Jamal Mashburn and Otis Thorpe. The Heat released Ellis just before the season tipped off, but due to the earlier release of NBA Live 2001 for the original PlayStation, he’s still in Miami in that version.

Do you recall any of these phantom stints and the games they appeared in? Which other examples of players only appearing on certain teams in games come to mind for you? 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.

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April 1, 2023 9:57 pm

R.i.p Tractor Traylor

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