Can You Name the NBA Team If We Give You Three of Their Franchise Legends?

By: Raj Chander
Image: tookapic / Pixabay

About This Quiz

Is it possible to think of legendary NBA players without also thinking of the team they played for?

Can we imagine Michael Jordan, for example, without the booming roar of announcer Ray Clay or the intense red of Chicago's jersey? Would Magic Johnson's easy charm and flashy on-court passes have been as legendary in a place that wasn't Los Angeles, home of the biggest stars in the world? 

While today's NBA stars don't feel as many qualms about changing teams, there was a time when finishing your career with a single franchise was considered a major honor. Single-team stars like Paul Pierce, Kobe Bryant and Manu Ginobili have all etched themselves permanently in the history books of their respective franchises, if from nothing else than sheer longevity.

Conversely, there are a few stars who probably should have stayed on one team for their entire career Allen Iverson was a dominant force in Philadelphia, but never quite reached the same heights in his last few years on the Denver Nuggets and Detroit Pistons. After jumping to Los Angeles from his longtime home in Utah, Karl Malone made it back to the finals in his last season with the Lakers but came up just short, losing to the Pistons in a major championship upset.

Now it's time to test your knowledge of the stars and the cities they represented - at least for most of their careers. How many of these famous NBA players can you match to their franchises?  

Jordan and Pippen had already won three titles before their partnership was enhanced by a Chicago trade for Dennis Rodman in 1995. Rodman's defensive toughness and prowess on the glass helped the Bulls take home three more championships in 1996, 1997 and 1998.

Pierce was the homegrown star, but Garnett and Allen were added to the team in the 2007 offseason. This trio was also nicknamed, "The Boston Three Party."

After his much-derided "The Decision" broadcast special, where LeBron James announced he would be going to Miami to play with Wade and Bosh, the Heat got out to a slow start and lost in their first appearance in the NBA finals. Eventually they righted the ship, figured out who should run the team, and won back-to-back titles for Miami.

Although they enjoyed success, ego and personal clashes ended up destroying this group - Shaq asked for a trade in 2004 and was dealt to the Heat, where he would go on to win another title with young superstar Dwyane Wade.

The underdog Pistons actually might not have been that underrated, since they ended up making it back to the championship the next year, but were overwhelmed by the prime years of the Spurs' early 2000s trio of Parker/Duncan/Ginobili.

The Heat's Big Three was widely expected to win a title in their first year together. Though they made it to the championship, a lack of chemistry on their side didn't quite combine with the expert teamwork of this trio.

The threesome, formed in 2002, went on to win three titles in 2003, 2005 and nine years later in 2014. Duncan retired shortly after winning his fourth ring (he won one in 1999 before Ginobili and Parker joined the team).

The Rockets lost Ariza after this offseason, and many wonder if they will ever reach similar heights - especially after the Warriors upgraded by adding all-star center DeMarcus Cousins.

Ownership never expected Harden to reach the heights he did - after his time in OKC, he went on to win the aforementioned MVP, make seven All-Star games, and be named to the All-NBA first team four times.

After a contentious divorce with Shaq, Kobe Bryant felt compelled to prove he could win without him. He ended up achieving this goal in back to back years, 2009 and 2010, though he was never able to match Michael Jordan's total of six rings.

After a series of embarrassing, high-profile losses by Houston sports teams, this era in the Rockets' history birthed a new chapter of performance in H-Town, earning Houston the nickname "Clutch City."

After winning the title in 2015, the Warriors followed it up with another unbelievable run, setting the NBA record for single-season wins with 73. Though they would fall to LeBron James and the Cavs in the 2016 finals, the Warriors got the last laugh, reloading later that summer by adding Durant.

Magic Johnson, with his dynamic passing ability and trademark ear-to-ear grin, also helped build the legend of "Showtime," an era in Lakers history still discussed today.

Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish anchored the Celtics in one of their most dominant eras: Between 1981 and 1988, the Celtics made the NBA Finals five times, winning three of them.

In 2018, Shaquille O'Neal expressed some regret about leaving the Magic to play for the Lakers before he got a chance to win a title with his first superstar running mate, Penny Hardaway. "I think if we had stayed together we definitely would have gotten one. Maybe two."

Payton and Kemp were known for their rough-and-tumble, physical style, while Schrempf added a slick European style to the team with great three-point shooting. Unfortunately, they ran into a team considered by many basketball experts to be the best in history - the 1996 Chicago Bulls won an NBA-record 72 games on their way to beating the Sonics in the championship.

Malone, Stockton and Hornacek were a great team for the Jazz in the '90s, but they had trouble with familiar foes throughout their time together. Their first nemesis was the Houston Rockets, who eliminated the Jazz from the playoffs in 1994 and again in 1995. After losing to the SuperSonics in '96, they lost back-to-back championship series to the Chicago Bulls in 1997 and 1998.

GM Red Auerbach pulled off another of his famous heists to put this group together, trading Cliff Hagan and Ed Macauley to the St. Louis Hawks for Bill Russell. While Hagan carved out a very respectable career for himself on the Hawks, Macauley only played two more seasons before leaving the game. Neither player would ever sniff the years of dominance enjoyed by Russell and his teammates.

Through the years, LeBron James has been a particularly sharp thorn in the Hawks' side. His Cavaliers swept them out of the playoff to end three separate seasons: once in 2009 and twice in a row in 2015 and 2016.

Arenas was suspended for the second half of the 2010 season and convicted of a felony charge of carrying an unlicensed firearm outside a home or business. Though he came back to the Wizards next season (with a different jersey number), his relationship with the team was clearly damaged beyond repair, and he was traded just 24 games into the year.

Before Durant's arrival, the Warriors had already won a championship in 2015. They made it back the next year but lost to LeBron's Cavs. So far, the Warriors have made it to four straight NBA Finals, winning three.

After a dominant opening chapter to his career that saw him win Rookie of the Year and MVP in his first three seasons, Rose's career unraveled after tearing his ACL in 2012, missing a full year, then tearing his meniscus after just a month back in 2013 and missing the remainder of that season as well.

With Oakley's toughness, Ewing's scoring and Houston's precision shooting, the Knicks were a formidable force in the east, making the playoffs every year during the '90s. Yet despite their combined star power, the Knicks were unable to win the big one and remain title-less since their ring in 1973.

Like the Hawks or Clippers, the Grizzlies appear to be another one of those teams that perpetually competed in the postseason but never really came close to a championship. In seven straight appearances, the furthest they got was 2013's Western Conference Finals, where they were swept by the San Antonio Spurs.

Another big reason this group broke up was tension between Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant. When they met on different teams in 2014, Bryant famously called his former teammate "soft" for throwing elbows.

After this incarnation of the team, another version of the Pacers in the late 2010s anchored by Victor Oladipo made the playoffs three times from 2016 - 2018. In two out of three of those years, they were eliminated by the same man who haunted the team's earlier version - LeBron James.

Playoff failures combined with tension between head coach and star point guard Chris Paul led to Paul's departure for Houston in 2017. The next year, in 2018, Jordan and Griffin were traded, putting the final nail in Lob City's coffin.

After championship highs in 2006, injuries and friction between Shaq and coach Pat Riley unraveled this threesome. Wade would have to wait another five years to compete for a title again, when LeBron James came to the Heat in 2010 and helped them win back-to-back rings.

Although hopes were high, in 2018 this trio's full potential was derailed by a season-ending knee injury for Oladipo. If they can stay together, they should be a tough team in the east for years to come.

This team was involved in one of Shaq's most famous quotes, when he dubbed them the "Sacramento Queens" in an interview before the 2003 season.

This team was definitely the highlight of all three players' careers. Turkoglu is now retired, and Nelson has not been on an NBA roster in over a year. Howard is struggling to shake off lingering physical issues and a reputation as a bad teammate.

D'Antoni later moved versions of this approach to the Knicks and the Rockets - it was especially successful on the latter team, serving as the foundation for Houston to make the Western Conference Finals in 2018.

The Cavs enjoyed some success with LeBron, but 2019 hasn't been as nice to the team: The King has moved west to play with the Lakers, and star Kevin Love has missed significant time with injuries.

This was also the year that Julius Erving performed his famous "Rock the baby" dunk, rolling the ball onto his forearm and slamming it home one-handed.

Besides the incident involving Isiah Thomas, Laimbeer was also famously the recipient of a hard forearm from Celtics legend Robert Parish. Despite knocking Laimbeer to the ground and drawing blood, Parish only received a common foul for the swing.

Guard Jerry West, who believed he had a bad series in the Lakers' 1972 championship, went on to become known as "The Logo," after designer Alan Siegel admitted that in 1969 he used a photo of West as inspiration for the silhouette that appears in the NBA's logo.

While Mutumbo successfully ported his finger-wag to television commercials, Blaylock has had a darker time since his Hawks heyday: He was sentenced to multiple years in prison in 2014 after having an alcohol-related seizure while driving and causing a crash that killed a woman in Texas.

This group completely broke up after the 2018 season, with Leonard getting traded to Toronto, Parker signing with the Hornets and Ginobili retiring after over 15 years playing for the Spurs.

When flashy point guard Earl "The Pearl" Monroe was traded to the Knicks to pair with Walt Frazier, they earned the nickname, "The Rolls-Royce Backcourt."

Run TMC was a part of the highest-scoring regulation game in NBA history, a 1990 win over the Denver Nuggets with a remarkable final score of 158 - 162.

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