Wayback Wednesday: Familiar Faces in Strange Places (Part 6)

Wayback Wednesday: Familiar Faces in Strange Places (Part 6)

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! From retrospectives of basketball games and their interesting features, to republished articles and looking at NBA history through the lens of the virtual hardwood, Wednesdays at the NLSC are for going back in time. This week, I’m taking a look back at ten more players who became familiar faces in strange places.

With decades of NBA history and basketball video games to draw upon, are you surprised that I’m up to the sixth instalment in this series? For the uninitiated, this series looks back at stars and other noteworthy players who are usually associated with a particular team, having spent most of their career or enjoying the most success there, only to move on to another team where they looked very out of place. They are the familiar faces who wind up in strange places. This is in contrast to the players that become familiar faces back in familiar places, which is a different series altogether.

As I always explain with both series of articles, I’m looking back at these strange and sometimes forgotten stints from the perspective of basketball video games. This is keeping in line with our content – we are a basketball gaming site and community, after all – and as I always say, I love the interactive almanac aspect of retro basketball gaming. Not all of these stints can still be seen in games due to roster updates (or a lack thereof), but at some point, they were represented on the virtual hardwood. Let’s take a look back…way back…

Michael Redd: Suns (2011-2012)

Familiar Faces in Strange Places: Michael Redd on the Suns (NBA 2K12)

Talk about a player who would thrive in an NBA that values getting players open for a ton of three-pointers! Michael Redd was a second round success story, being taken 43rd Overall in the weak Class of 2001, and playing just six games in his first season. Redd began turning heads in his second season, and almost left the Bucks via an offer sheet from Dallas before his third; a negated move that as I’ve discussed, appears in NBA Live 2003. He established himself as an elite scorer, but serious knee injuries in consecutive seasons derailed his career before he was even 30. After 11 seasons with the Bucks, he played one year for the Suns, as seen in updated rosters for NBA 2K12.

Brandon Roy: Timberwolves (2012)

Familiar Faces in Strange Places: Brandon Roy on the Timberwolves (NBA 2K13)

Speaking of knees, it’s fair to say that due to a degenerative condition, Brandon Roy was on borrowed time when he entered the league. It cut short the career of a player who had the talent to be one of the league’s top swingmen throughout the late 2000s and well into the 2010s. He retired in 2011, and the Portland Trail Blazers utilised the amnesty clause to shed his contract. As such, when he attempted a comeback in 2012, he couldn’t rejoin the team that had drafted him. Unfortunately, another injury made his comeback with the Minnesota Timberwolves all too brief, and he retired again for good after being cut in May. His return made him playable again in NBA 2K13.

Vin Baker: Knicks, Rockets, Clippers (2004-2006)

Vin Baker on the Knicks in NBA Live 2005

While the big offseason swap that saw Vin Baker, Shawn Kemp, and Terrell Brandon play musical chairs wasn’t what derailed their careers, it was still a turning point for them. Baker got the best of the deal, landing on a Seattle team that was still highly competitive. Unfortunately, both he and Kemp had issues with substance abuse, while Brandon only played 32 games beyond his 31st birthday due to a knee injury. Baker’s career lasted the longest, though his final couple of seasons saw him playing limited minutes for the Knicks, Rockets, and finally the Clippers. You’ll find him on the deep bench for those teams in the 2005 and 2006 season releases, with much lower ratings.

Otis Thorpe: Grizzlies (1997-1998)

Otis Thorpe on the Grizzlies in NBA Live 98

When the Detroit Pistons traded Otis Thorpe to the Vancouver Grizzlies in 1997, the 2003 first round pick they received in return seemed far off into the future. The player they used that pick on? Darko Milicic! At the time though, it just made the one-time All-Star and NBA champion a member of the familiar faces in strange places club. The Grizzlies were still a fledgling team and not a particularly desirable destination for a veteran, or indeed anyone who wanted to be on a competitive squad. Thorpe’s Vancouver tenure lasted half a season, when he was traded to Sacramento. He was then involved in the Chris Webber trade, another move that became quite significant.

Steve Smith: Bobcats (2004-2005)

Familiar Faces in Strange Places: Steve Smith on the Bobcats (NBA Live 2005)

Following a decade of being a reliable scorer with an All-Star appearance in 1998, Steve Smith settled into a bench role, winning a championship with the Spurs in 2003. He played a couple more seasons after that, signing with the New Orleans Hornets for the 2004 season, and then joining the expansion Charlotte Bobcats a year later. Both tenures arguably qualify for the familiar faces in strange places club, but Smith’s stint as a Bobcat somehow feels like the weirder sight. You’ll see it upon revisiting NBA Live 2005 or ESPN NBA 2K5, though the stint didn’t last the season. He was traded for Malik Allen, finishing the year and his NBA career where it all began, in Miami.

Shawn Marion: Raptors (2009)

Shawn Marion on the Raptors in NBA Live 09

We tend to associate Shawn Marion with the Phoenix Suns, where he spent the first eight and a half seasons of his career. Funnily enough though, the most memorable part of his Suns tenure – the “seven seconds or less” squad – only lasted a couple of seasons. Phoenix weren’t keen on paying Marion the max, and he was traded for Shaquille O’Neal in February 2008. His stint with the Heat is worthy of an honourable mention, but it’s his half season in Toronto that is likely forgotten. The February 13th 2009 trade that sent him there is reflected in updates for NBA Live 09 and NBA 2K9, and included Jermaine O’Neal, making it a swap of familiar faces in strange places.

Tim Hardaway: Mavericks, Nuggets, Pacers (2001-2003)

Tim Hardaway on the Mavericks in NBA Live 2002

I’ve previously discussed how Tim Hardaway is a player with a longer stint than I sometimes recall, as I’ve erroneously pegged his Heat tenure as ending a couple of years earlier than it did. This is likely due to those Miami teams’ lack of postseason success making them less memorable. In any case, after that, Tim Bug played for three teams in two seasons. In NBA Live 2002 and NBA 2K2, you can see the master of the UTEP Two-Step in Dallas, though you’d have to make his trade to Denver yourself. Likewise, Hardaway was a Free Agent in the 2003 season games, so it was up to the user to add him to the Indiana Pacers roster after they signed him in March.

Mark Price: Bullets, Warriors, Magic (1995-1998)

Familiar Faces in Strange Places: Mark Price on the Bullets (NBA Live 96)

A player born a couple of generations too early, Mark Price’s sharpshooting and point guard play is often overlooked by fans who believe players prior to 2015 all lacked skill and athleticism. In all fairness though, he’s perhaps overlooked by older fans as well, likely due to his prime ending somewhat unceremoniously. With his injuries and Terrell Brandon waiting in the wings, the Cavaliers decided Price was expendable, and traded him to Washington in 1995. He undoubtedly saw more court time in NBA Live 96, as he was out most of that season due to injury. The ’97 and ’98 season games captured his stints with the Warriors and Magic, which are also rarely talked about.

Dikembe Mutombo: Nets (2002-2003), Knicks (2003-2004)

Dikembe Mutombo on the Nets in NBA Live 2003

If I had to name a period of Dikembe Mutombo’s career that most fans have forgotten – or would like to forget – it’s his tenure with the Nets and Knicks. I’m guessing most people remember his early career with the Nuggets and Hawks, as well as his later years in Houston. The 2001 76ers being a retro team in NBA 2K probably reminds gamers of that stint, too. Before he joined the Rockets in 2004 however, he spent an injury-plagued season with the Nets, as seen in NBA Live 2003 and NBA 2K3 among other titles. This was followed by a year in New York (seen in NBA Live 2004, ESPN Basketball, et al); a season that was solid, but definitely a sign he was past his prime.

Andrei Kirilenko: Timberwolves (2012-2013)

Andrei Kirilenko on the Timberwolves in NBA 2K13

Beginning his Jazz career as a teammate of Karl Malone and John Stockton, Andrei Kirilenko ended up bridging the gap between eras in Utah. His ten seasons with the Jazz included four Playoff appearances from 2007-2010, alongside Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams. Boozer left for the Bulls in 2010, coach Jerry Sloan stepped down in 2011 after clashing with Williams, and then Williams himself was traded to the Nets soon afterwards. It left AK-47 as the last man standing, but not for long. He played in his native Russia during the lockout, before returning to play for the Timberwolves in 2012. It’s a strange sight after his lengthy Jazz tenure, and can be seen in NBA 2K13.

Although it could be jarring to see these familiar faces in strange places, it led to intriguing scenarios, both in real life and on the virtual hardwood. Given that most of these players were approaching the end of their prime – if not their careers – their impact was arguably greater in video games. It can be surprising to dust off an old favourite, only to find these noteworthy names on unexpected teams. In many cases, they’re stints that fans and the players themselves would probably like to forget. Once again though, those overlooked and inglorious tenures are interesting in their own right, and we can both recall and re-play them in various classic NBA video games.

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