Superstars returning to play for their former NBA teams are some of the special moments that can happen in the league. It brings a lot of memories that allow fans to reminisce an important segment of a great player’s NBA journey.
Although it is uncommon for players to return back to their former teams, for some, there could be some unfinished business. While for others, it is a great way to end their storied basketball careers by playing for the team they started with. For this piece, let’s take a look at the five greatest superstar returns to their former team.
5. Derrick Rose
Derrick Rose recently made headlines after the Detroit Pistons shipped the former MVP to the New York Knicks, allowing Rose to reunite with his former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. But aside from this, the youngest MVP finds himself wearing a Knicks uniform one more time.
Rose’s last stint with the Knicks was in 2016-2017, the last time he still managed to produce starter minutes, as he averaged 18.0 points and 4.4 dimes per outing in 64 games before falling to another knee injury that further slowed down his career.
With Rose getting another stint with New York, the former MVP wants to have a better impact for the franchise this time around, as he claims that he quitted on the Knicks during the first rodeo.
Now in the process of putting together one of the best comeback bids in NBA history, after making an impact for the Minnesota Timberwolves and Detroit Pistons, Rose has surely gave the Knicks a good reason why they got him again. In just five games so far, the three time all-star has put up 11.2 points and 3.4 assists per game in just 20.6 minutes of action off the bench while helping the team get three wins.
Although Rose may not be the MVP he once was, his leadership and veteran presence will be key in the Knicks’ attempt to rise to league relevancy especially with young guns Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, and Immanuel Quickley slowly developing into stars.
4. Allen Iverson
Regarded as one of the NBA’s polarizing athletes, love him or hate him, Allen Iverson has surely put together a career that fans will hardly forget. His killer crossovers and lethal scoring certainly made him a dangerous player on the court. The Answer’s most successful years were arguably in Philadelphia, as he not only won the MVP trophy but he also took a depleted Sixers team to the NBA Finals in 2001 before conceding to the Shaq and Kobe led Los Angeles Lakers in five games.
Iverson would make his return to the team during the 2009-2010 season, as he signed with his original team after being waived by the Memphis Grizzlies. In an emotional return, The Answer didn’t hold back his game, as he knew he was playing his final games in the NBA. The 6’0 guard averaged 13.9 points per outing in 25 games including a season-high 23 point game against the Los Angeles Lakers before he was waived by the team in March.
Although Iverson’s second stint with the Sixers was short lived, seeing a legend return to leave it out on the court for the last time will help fans remember just how great his basketball legacy was regardless of his notorious behavior.
3. Dwyane Wade
Dwyane Wade is arguably the most decorated Heat player in franchise history, after giving them three NBA championships. But after 13 seasons, Wade would leave Miami to play for his hometown team, the Chicago Bulls, and also play briefly for the Cleveland Cavaliers where he reunited with LeBron James with the hopes of winning another championship.
However, the Cavs just decided to trade Wade back to the Miami Heat midway through the 2017-2018 season due to a roster shake up that caught the 13 time All-Star off guard. Although his team-up with LBJ, Derrick Rose, and Isaiah Thomas was unsuccessful, Wade had a chance to find his way back to the team he found the most success with.
By this time, Wade was no longer the MVP type of player like he was during his peak years. However, The Flash still showed glimpses of his greatness as he still averaged 13.5 points per game coming off the bench in his final 93 games with Miami. But more importantly, the three time NBA champ even helped the team finish 6th in the Eastern Conference to earn the final postseason appearance of his career. Although Miami was eliminated by Philadelphia in the first round, Wade still managed to exit his final playoff stint with a bang as he finished with 28 points in Game 2, which was the Heat’s lone win in the series. Just the season after, Wade would eventually hang up his sneakers in Miami to put an end to his decorated NBA career.
2. Steve Nash
People know that Steve Nash first made a name for himself while playing for the Dallas Mavericks, as he won two straight MVPs. But before his stint with Dallas, Nash played for the Phoenix Suns, the team that drafted him. At this time, the Canadian star was hardly utilized. In fact, he even served as just the backup guard to stars Kevin Johnson and Jason Kidd. With the Suns’ 15th overall pick not being effective, the franchise eventually traded him to the Dallas Mavericks.
However after six seasons in Dallas, Nash announced his return to Phoenix, this time as an MVP caliber player. As we all know it, Nash would be the face of the Suns’ franchise that led some of the team’s deepest playoff runs in league history. From a bottom feeding team, Phoenix immediately became a legitimate Western Conference contender after the arrival of the all-star guard. The eight time All-Star took the franchise to at least three trips to Western Conference Finals. Furthermore, Nash led the league in assists on five different seasons, while also helping the team finish in the top two seeds for three straight seasons.
Although Nash never won a NBA championship for the Suns and in his career, there is no question this was one of the most impactful returns in NBA history given how he turned a rebuilding Suns team into a formidable Western Conference team. In fact, his return to Phoenix is quite instrumental to his legacy as one of the best point guards to ever play in the NBA.
1. LeBron James
If there is a return that shook the NBA landscape, it would be LeBron James coming home to Cleveland. As we all know, Cavs fans were terribly mad when James first left Cleveland to form the Big Three in South Beach in an attempt to win a championship, resulting into a lot burned LBJ jerseys and the vilifying of The King in the NBA. However, after winning two straight championships and Finals MVPs with the Miami Heat, the kid from Akron, Ohio announced his return to play for his home city in 2014.
Of course, LBJ would continue his championship quest and put together, arguably, the most impactful return in league history. Upon his arrival in Cleveland, James turned the Cavs from a irrelevant team into a championship caliber. James led the Cavs to four straight NBA Finals appearances, which goes to show his mastery over the Eastern Conference. But more importantly, he finally fulfilled his promise of bringing an NBA championship home in 2016, as the Cavs pulled off the impossible by coming back from a 1-3 series deficit against the hot-shooting Golden State Warriors led by Stephen Curry.
With James’ return, the Cavs were able to win the first ever NBA championship for the franchise. In fact, his decision to come home definitely plays a major part in LBJ’s already decorated legacy that places him among the best to ever play the game.