The average NBA career for role players is approximately 4.5 years, but if you’re an all-star player, it lasts about 11 seasons. According to Weak Side Awareness statistics, NBA players generally play for 2.5 teams over their careers, which equates to about three teams overall. When they do remain with a team, they typically do so for about two seasons.
While these are the averages, there are many notable NBA players who surpass these statistics and labels; some players play for numerous teams like Shaquille O’Neal and Rajon Rondo, while others spend their whole careers with only one team like Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki, and Tim Duncan.
For this article, we will rank the best NBA player at every team total overall based on their individual merit and impact to the teams that they played for.
Best NBA player at every team
Without further ado, let’s break down the list!
1 – Larry Bird
Career Averages: 897 GP, 38.4 MPG, 24.3 PTS (49.6 FG%, 37.6 3PT%), 10.0 REB, 6.3 AST, 1.7 STL, 0.8 BLK
Team(s) played for: Boston Celtics
Notable achievements: 3× NBA champion, 2× NBA Finals MVP, 3× NBA Most Valuable Player, 12× NBA All-Star, 9× All-NBA First Team, 1980 NBA Rookie of the Year, 3× Three-point Shootout champion, NBA 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams
This discussion could go on for hours and it deserves a separate article for discussion given the list of legends that are on this list like Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, Bill Russell, John Stockton Dirk Nowitzki, Reggie Miller, Isiah Thomas, and Tim Duncan to name a few (47 total of qualified players for this spot). But if we had to choose one, it has to be Larry Legend.
You might be wondering why we chose Larry over Magic since Magic’s Los Angeles Lakers won over Larry’s Boston Celtics in their rivalry NBA Finals matchup, but we based this selection purely on individual skill and impact on the team.
Larry was a better two-way player than Magic and even though Magic had a lot of tricks in his bag, the Boston legend’s career stats speak for himself to solidify his place on this list.
2 – Michael Jordan
Career Averages: 1,072 GP, 38.3 MPG, 30.1 PTS (49.7 FG%, 32.7 3PT%), 6.2 REB, 5.3 AST, 2.3 STL, 0.8 BLK
Team(s) played for: Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards
Notable achievements: 6× NBA champion, 6× NBA Finals MVP, 5× NBA Most Valuable Player, 1x NBA Defensive Player of the Year, 10x NBA Scoring Champion, 3x NBA Steals Leader, 14× NBA All-Star, 10× All-NBA First Team, 1984 NBA Rookie of the Year, NBA 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams
If choosing Larry Bird was so difficult for the one team portion of this list, this part was rather the easiest as there shouldn’t be a debate on who the best player is who played for two teams. Honestly, no matter how many NBA teams Michael could’ve played for, he’ll take over that spot in this list.
After retiring twice in the Chicago Bulls franchise, Michael decided to come back and play for the Washington Wizards and prove to the world that he can still compete in the 2000s era of the NBA. His two-year stint with the Wizards marked the end of his illustrious NBA career.
3 – LeBron James
Career Averages: 1,366 GP, 38.2 MPG, 27.1 PTS (50.5 FG%, 34.6 3PT%), 7.5 REB, 7.4 AST, 1.6 STL, 0.8 BLK
Team(s) played for: Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, and Los Angeles Lakers
Notable achievements: 4× NBA champion, 4× NBA Finals MVP, 4× NBA Most Valuable Player, 18× NBA All-Star, 13× All-NBA First Team, 3x All-Star Game MVP, 2004 NBA Rookie of the Year, 5x All-NBA Defensive First Team, 1x NBA Scoring Champion, 1x NBA Assist Leader, 75th Anniversary Team
This was a tough one as well as there were a few notable players who played for three teams as well like Wilt Chamberlain, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Scottie Pippen, Kevin Durant, and Steve Nash to name a few. If we had to choose, it was a tough choice to go for LeBron over Wilt given the insane scoring records that Wilt set during his time in the NBA.
LeBron’s longevity and consistency gave him the edge as he was able to lead and dominate in all three teams; not to mention winning the NBA championship plus all the Finals MVPs too in all teams.
4 – Allen Iverson
Career Averages: 914 GP, 41.1 MPG, 26.7 PTS (42.5 FG%, 31.3 3PT%), 3.7 REB, 6.2 AST, 2.2 STL, 0.2 BLK
Team(s) played for: Philadelphia 76ers, Denver Nuggets, Memphis Grizzlies, and Detroit Pistons
Notable achievements: 1x NBA Most Valuable Player, 11× NBA All-Star, 2x NBA All-Star MVP, 7× All-NBA First Team, 3x NBA Scoring Champion, 3x NBA Steals Leader
If we based the list on team achievement, we would’ve chosen Robert Parish but Allen Iverson’s individual skill and impact secured his spot on this list. Allen was a walking bucket and he was able to carry the 76ers to the Finals as well. Talk about practice!
5 – Derrick Rose
Career Averages: 672 GP, 31.7 MPG, 18.2 PTS (45.7 FG%, 31.6 3PT%), 3.3 REB, 5.4 AST, 0.8 STL, 0.3 BLK
Team(s) played for: Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, Minnesota Timberwolves, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Detroit Pistons
Notable achievements: 1x NBA Most Valuable Player, 3× NBA All-Star, 1× All-NBA First Team, 2009 NBA Rookie of the Year
Again, this was a tough choice to make since there are a few iconic players on this list like Dennis Rodman, Chris Paul, Gary Payton Pau Gasol, and Carmelo Anthony. And among these players, a healthy Derrick Rose was the most talented and skilled player.
The youngest MVP the NBA has ever seen, D’Rose was projected as a future Hall of Famer not until his injuries slowed down his career.
6 – Shaquille O’Neal
Career Averages: 1,207 GP, 34.7 MPG, 23.7 PTS (58.2 FG%, 4.5 3PT%), 10.9 REB, 2.5 AST, 0.6 STL, 2.3 BLK
Team(s) played for: Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Boston Celtics
Notable achievements: 4× NBA champion, 3× NBA Finals MVP, 1x NBA Most Valuable Player, 15× NBA All-Star, 8× All-NBA First Team, 2x NBA Scoring Champion, 3x NBA All-Defensive Second Team, 75th Anniversary Team
Despite the qualified stars in this portion of the list like Dikembe Mutombo, Tracy Mcgrady, and Dwight Howard, this is an easy choice of Shaq the Diesel and it’s not even close. No one in the entire world has seen pure dominance in the paint before Shaq entered the NBA.
If it weren’t for his inability to shoot free throws and from the perimeter, he would’ve made a strong GOAT case among Michael Jordan and LeBron James.
7 – Moses Malone
Career Averages: 1,329 GP, 33.9 MPG, 20.6 PTS (49.1 FG%, 10.0 3PT%), 12.2 REB, 1.4 AST, 0.8 STL, 1.3 BLK
Team(s) played for: San Antonio Spurs, Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks, Atlanta Hawks, Washington Wizards, Houston Rockets, and Los Angeles Clippers
Notable achievements: 1× NBA champion, 1× NBA Finals MVP, 3x NBA Most Valuable Player, 13× NBA All-Star, NBA 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams
This was a tough call between Moses and Bob McAdoo but we had to go with Moses since we’re looking purely at individual skill and talent. Moses has 3 MVPs while Bob only has one.
8 – Vince Carter
Career Averages: 1,541 GP, 30.1 MPG, 16.7 PTS (43.5 FG%, 37.1 3PT%), 4.3 REB, 3.1 AST, 1.0 STL, 0.6 BLK
Team(s) played for: Utah Jazz, Minnesota Timberwolves, Toronto Raptors, Brooklyn Nets, Phoenix Suns, Orlando Magic, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies, Sacramento Kings, and Atlanta Hawks
Notable achievements: 8x NBA All-Star, 2000 Slam Dunk Champion, 1999 NBA Rookie of the Year, 1999 All-NBA First Rookie Team
This was an easy one as well since the only competitors are Nate Robinson, Tyson Chandler, Dj Agustin, and Sam Cassell. Vince was a crowd favorite with his phenomenal dunks which are still inspiring a lot of NBA players up to this day. Vince invented the Honey Dip Dunk in the 2000 NBA Dunk Contest.
9 – Jamal Crawford
Career Averages: 1,327 GP, 29.4 MPG, 14.6 PTS (41.0 FG%, 34.8 3PT%), 2.2 REB, 3.4 AST, 0.9 STL, 0.2 BLK
Team(s) played for: Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, Golden State Warriors, Atlanta Hawks, Portland Trail Blazers, Los Angeles Clippers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Phoenix Suns, Brooklyn Nets
Notable achievement: 3x NBA Sixth Man of the Year
Jamal had tough competition to get on top of this list and they are Trevor Ariza, Andre Miller, Marco Belinelli, and Caron Butler. Jamal’s mastery of his role as a 6th man secured his spot in this list as he won the 6th Man of the Year award thrice. Jamal definitely embraced his role and made a strong case for his spot in this list.
10 – Drew Gooden
Career Averages: 790 GP, 25.5 MPG, 11.0 PTS (46.2 FG%, 25.7 3PT%), 7.1 REB, 1.1 AST, 0.7 STL, 0.6 BLK
Team(s) played for: Memphis Grizzlies, Orlando Magic, Cleveland Cavaliers, San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls, Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Clippers, Dallas Mavericks, Milwaukee Bucks, Washington Wizards
It gets tough from here as all of the players qualified to be on this list are average-above average in skill and no one is really a step above anybody but if we had to choose, it’d have to be Drew. Averaging 10+ points in 12 seasons which makes him deserving to top this portion of the list.
11 – Michael ‘Mike’ James
Career Averages: 595 GP, 24.1 MPG, 9.9 PTS (41.7 FG%, 37.9 3PT%), 2.2 REB, 3.5 AST, 0.8 STL, 0.1 BLK
Team(s) played for: Miami Heat, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons, Milwaukee Bucks, Houston Rockets, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Pelicans, Washington Wizards, Dallas Mavericks, Chicago Bulls
This was a choice among three players namely Mike James, Ish Smith, and Kevin Ollie. And our choice is Mike James since he’s the only player on this list to average over 20 points per game (2006-2007 season).
12 – Jim Jackson
Career Averages: 885 GP, 32.8 MPG, 14.3 PTS (42.8 FG%, 36.5 3PT%), 4.7 REB, 3.2 AST, 0.8 STL, 0.2 BLK
Team(s) played for: Brooklyn Nets, Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers, Portland Trail Blazers, Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, Miami Heat, Sacramento Kings, Houston Rockets, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers
Only four players have played for the most teams in the NBA and they are Jim Jackson, Joe Smith, Chuckie Brown, and Tony Massenburg. It’s a close call between Jim and Joe but Jim has the edge since he averaged 20+ points in several seasons.
In general, NBA players go to an average of 2.5 teams, and it’s not really a gauge for greatness or mediocrity as some NBA stars play for a whole lot of teams while some mediocre players stay in just one team.
This list is just a general overview of the best NBA player at every team total overall; this may vary if other factors are weighed in. We hope that this article helped determine the best NBA player at every team total overall.
We hope to see you in our next posts