This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content. This week, I’m taking a look back at some more NBA players who became familiar faces in strange places, and those stints in video games.
As I said in my first Wayback Wednesday article covering this topic, there’s definitely something oddly fascinating in seeing familiar faces in strange places. We often claim that we wish that those stints didn’t happen or that we could forget all about them, yet they’re burned into our memories. It’s hard to forget something that looks strange and out of place, and that certainly describes the image of players wearing the uniform of a team other than the one we associate them with the most. The time capsule-like nature of video games helps us to remember – and also replay – these unusual stints.
I mentioned that there were more examples than the ten I covered in my first article, and to that end, I have another ten to share today. This time, not all of the players were perennial All-Stars, but they are familiar names who ended up in strange places. In fact, a couple of these stints were so brief that the only way to experience them again on the virtual hardwood is to load very specific roster saves – assuming that you still have them, of course – or by recreating them. Let’s take a look back…way back…
Allen Iverson: Pistons, Grizzlies (2008-2009)
You may recall that Allen Iverson began and ended his career with the Philadelphia 76ers, and teamed up with a young Carmelo Anthony in Denver in between. He only played one full season with the Nuggets though, as they traded him to Detroit early in the 2009 season; a move that can be seen in NBA Live 09 following a roster update. Shortly after NBA Live 10 was released, he signed on with the Memphis Grizzlies, where he played all of three games before he was cut, finally returning to Philadelphia for his homecoming with the Sixers. The Answer’s stint with the Grizzlies is rather unusual, even among other familiar faces that ended up in some rather strange places.
Sean Elliott: Detroit Pistons (1993-1994)
Another strange stint found in the console versions of NBA Live 95 is Sean Elliott’s brief stay with the Detroit Pistons. Traded for Dennis Rodman in 1993, his tenure in the Motor City is often overlooked because he was back with the San Antonio Spurs the very next season. During that time, he was also traded for Robert Horry in a deal that fell apart due to Elliott failing his physical, though that trade did make it into the fourth revision of the arcade version of NBA Jam Tournament Edition. In the PC versions of NBA Live 95 and NBA Live 96, he’s also wearing a Pistons jersey in his portrait, as both games featured several headshots taken during the 1994 season.
Paul Pierce: Wizards (2014-2015)
In a more recent example, Paul Pierce’s tenure with the Washington Wizards certainly qualifies when we’re talking about familiar faces in strange places. His stints with the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Clippers are worth mentioning as well, but for some reason, his time with the Wizards feels much stranger. The Nets were looking to go all-in with a stacked lineup, and jumped at the chance to bring in Pierce along with Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry. The Clippers offered Pierce a chance to rejoin Doc Rivers and bolster their lineup in the waning years of Lob City. He just seems out of place in Washington though, as you can see in NBA Live 15 and NBA 2K15.
Moses Malone: Spurs (1994-1995)
The first high schooler to jump directly to the professional ranks, Moses Malone was notoriously nomadic in his career. That trend began when he was sold to the Spirits of St. Louis after the Utah Stars folded. He was also traded by the Buffalo Braves to the Houston Rockets after two games in the NBA. Although he changed jerseys often, Malone did spend at least a couple of years everywhere he went until his second stint with the Philadelphia 76ers, and then his final year with the San Antonio Spurs. In NBA Live 95 PC, he actually starts in place of the absent David Robinson; something he didn’t do in real life. He did, however, make this amazing shot to end his career.
Michael Finley: Celtics (2010)
An ironman in his first eight seasons in the league, Michael Finley never missed a game; even when he was traded from the Phoenix Suns to the Dallas Mavericks in his second season. In fact, he played 83 games that year! Iron Mike (or Fin Dawg, if you prefer) spent most of his career in Texas, first with the Mavericks and then with the Spurs, with whom he won a championship in 2007. He also had a shot at a second ring when the Spurs let him go to join Boston late in the 2010 season, but the Celtics fell to the Los Angeles Lakers in seven games in the NBA Finals. The official roster updates for NBA Live 10 and NBA 2K10 reflect his brief stopover in Beantown.
Bill Cartwright: SuperSonics (1994-1995)
A 20 ppg scorer for the New York Knicks and an All-Star as a rookie, Bill Cartwright wouldn’t put up huge numbers after joining the Chicago Bulls. He was nevertheless a vital part of the Bulls’ first threepeat, starting as the man in the middle. Cartwright remained with the Bulls when Michael Jordan retired in 1993, starting 41 of the 42 games he played in 1994. By the time MJ returned in 1995 though, Dollar Bill had moved on. In the PC version of NBA Live 95, you can find him starting for the Seattle SuperSonics, where he concluded his career after fifteen seasons. He may not be as famous as the other familiar faces, but it still stands as a recognisable oddity.
Steve Nash: Lakers (2012-2014)
With superteams becoming all the rage at the beginning of the last decade, the Lakers decided to add a couple more stars to a team that already included Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. They traded for Dwight Howard – who of course is now in his second stint with the team – and signed Steve Nash, following eight years with the Phoenix Suns during which he won two MVPs. A lack of chemistry and injuries to Nash and Kobe rendered that team a “What If”, and in Nash’s second season in LA, he played just 15 games before being sidelined for good. NBA Live 14-15 and NBA 2K13-15 all have Nash on the Lakers, though his most memorable moment came on the freeway.
Dwyane Wade: Bulls, Cavaliers (2017-2018)
The cover player for NBA 2K20’s Legend Edition, Dwyane Wade is synonymous with the Miami Heat. However, there were a couple of detours on the way to ending his career with a triple-double against the Nets in Brooklyn. When he joined the Chicago Bulls in 2016 – as seen in NBA 2K17 – it looked as though he might end his career playing in his own hometown. He was then released and sought one more ring with LeBron James in Cleveland, only to be released again and return to South Beach, where he’d go on to enjoy a retirement tour in 2019. In hindsight, he should have just remained with the Heat all along, though he did ultimately have a fitting finale.
Derrick Rose: Knicks, Cavaliers (2016-2018)
Speaking of former All-Stars who briefly teamed up with LeBron James in Cleveland, Derrick Rose signed with the Cavaliers in 2017. That stint was represented in NBA Live 18 and NBA 2K18’s default rosters, though by the end of the year he was with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Before that however, he spent a year with the New York Knicks, a tenure reflected in NBA 2K17. Because the Bulls traded him to the Knicks a day before the Draft, the deal was pushed through in a special end-of-year roster update for NBA Live 16. I was hoping that Rose might return to the Bulls this past offseason, and he was apparently open to it, but he instead signed with Detroit.
Tony Parker: Hornets (2018-2019)
We’re not going too far back for this one, but it’s hard to go past it when we’re talking about familiar faces in strange places. After seventeen seasons with the San Antonio Spurs, including four titles and the Finals MVP in 2007, Tony Parker played his final season with the Charlotte Hornets. It doesn’t look right, but you can see it in NBA Live 19 and NBA 2K19. The irony is that it needn’t have happened, if the rumours are true regarding the Spurs letting him go in an effort to appease Kawhi Leonard, with whom he’d reportedly had a falling out. Leonard was traded to the Toronto Raptors anyway, won a title, and Parker looked out of place ending his career in Charlotte.
Whether it’s seeking out one more ring, more minutes as their former team looks to retool or rebuild, or because the pay is too good to pass up, we end up seeing these familiar faces in strange places. As weird as it can look and as disappointing as it can sometimes be to witness, it can at least lead to fun in basketball video games. When games are new, they provide us with an interesting story and a fresh lineup to play with. When we’re revisiting an older title, they’re part of that glance into yesteryear that yields the things we remember, and a few things that we don’t. Bizarre as they may seem, those stints are there for us to see, preserved in polygons and pixels.