Top 10 NBA Franchise Players Who Played for a Single Team

Tags: #MagicJohnson ,   #NBA ,   #KobeBryant ,   #NBABasketball ,   #Basketball

Michael Wendom

Michael Wendom

Last updated:  2023-08-25 19:00:08

Loyalty is a rare quality in professional sports, including the NBA. Some of the most iconic stars like Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Karl Malone spent their final seasons in different uniforms than those that made them famous. However, we still have more than enough legends from all NBA eras that stuck to their teams! So, let's see who are the best among them.

10. Reggie Miller

Look at the best moments from Reggie Miller's career
NBA seasons: 18
NBA titles won: None
Top individual achievements: 5x NBA All-Star, NBA 75th Anniversary Team
Best qualities: Three-point shooting, scoring, clutch performance, free throws
Player info

Reggie Miller was picked by the Indiana Pacers in 1987 and spent 18 years playing for the team. Still, he had a rough start, as fans were upset that he was chosen instead of local hero Steve Alford. It took Reggie five years to become the franchise player and turn Indiana into one of the league's best teams during the nineties. 

In 2000, Miller played his only NBA Finals, as the Pacers lost to the Lakers 4-2. However, many will better remember the seven-game epic with Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference finals in 1998. No other team took the Bulls to a decider during their dynasty run! Miller was a colossal scorer, one of the best three-point shooters in the history of the NBA, and a terrific clutch performer.

9. John Stockton

John Stockton was the king of assists
NBA seasons: 19
NBA titles won: None
Top individual achievements: 10x NBA All-Star, 2x All-NBA First Team, 9x NBA assists leader, 2x NBA steals leader, NBA Anniversary teams, 2x Olympic gold medals
Best qualities: Overall shooting, the best passer in NBA history, steals, endurance
Player info

If you didn't know anything about him, could you ever guess that John Stockton was a basketball player? Stockton played in the league for 19 years (1984-2003), and his Utah Jazz made the playoffs every time! Best known as a fantastic passer, Stockton was also a tremendous defender. Together with Karl Malone, he created one of the best tandems in NBA history, with their pick-and-roll play proved unstoppable.

Even at his career's twilight, Stockton stayed critical to his team's success and was a starter at 41. Unfortunately, like many other legends who were victims of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, he never won an NBA ring. Still, they were the only team to challenge them twice for the title. 

8. David Robinson

Prime David Robinson was a dominant force
NBA seasons: 14
NBA titles won: 2 (1999, 2003)
Top individual achievements: MVP, 10x NBA All-Star, 4x All-NBA First Team, Defensive Player of the Year, NBA scoring champion, NBA Anniversary Teams, 2x Olympic Gold Medals, FIBA World Championship
Best qualities: Terrific defending, shot-blocking, rebounding, scoring
Player info

David Robinson was the first pick in the draft in 1987, so he looked like an obvious choice for the San Antonio Spurs. However, they had to be patient, as The Admiral joined them only two years after completing his military service. This meant he entered the league at 24, coming to the team with the worst record in history.

However, in his rookie season, Spurs won 35 games more and were close to advancing to the Western Conference finals! Still, Robinson made his first NBA Playoffs final only in 1999, where coupled with young Tim Duncan, he finally won the title. Aged 37, he finished his last NBA season with another triumph in 2003. Robinson was a terrific scorer, rebounder, and blocker, making him a constant threat.

7. John Havlicek

John Havlicek accepted any role in the Boston Celtics
NBA seasons: 16
NBA titles won: 8 (1963-1966, 1968-69, 1974, 1976)
Top individual achievements: NBA Finals MVP, 13x NBA All-Star, 4x All-NBA First Team, 5x All-Defensive NBA First Team, NBA anniversary teams
Best qualities: Endurance, scoring, rebounding, passing
Player info

It's really to argue against the man who played eight NBA finals and won them all! While Havlicek was lucky to spend his career in the mighty Boston Celtics, he was also an important puzzle piece. Many don't know that Havlicek was a multi-sport athlete. He was an excellent wide receiver and was even drafted by the Cleveland Browns. However, he made the right choice.

Nicknamed Hondo, he was every coach's dream and was often the best sixth man in the league. He was also one of the best all-arounders, with excellent shooting, assisting, stealing, and rebounding abilities. Moreover, he had incredible stamina, so even in his final years, he spent more than 35 minutes on the court on average! In the 1970s, that was a miracle!

6. Julius Erving

Julius Erving revolutionized dunking
NBA seasons: 11
NBA titles won: 1 (1983)
Top individual achievements: NBA MVP, 11x NBA All-Star, 5x All-NBA First Team, NBA anniversary teams
Best qualities: Scoring, athleticism, ball stealing, endurance
Player info

Unlike other players on the list, Dr. J did play for other teams, including the New York Nets (now Brooklyn Nets). However, the Philadelphia 76ers is his only NBA team. Even though he came to the league at 26, Erving played eleven seasons and won the NBA championship in 1983. Plus, he was an NBA All-Star each year!

While many remember him for his spectacular dunks that no one could match at the time, Erving was also a prolific scorer and often underrated defender. The best proof of his athletic abilities is that he averaged 32 minutes per game in his last season! 

5. Tim Duncan

Tim Duncan is the best player The Spurs ever had
NBA seasons: 19
NBA titles won: 5 (1999, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2014)
Top individual achievements: 3xNBA Finals MVP 2xNBA MVP, 15x NBA All-Star, 10x All-NBA First Team, 8x NBA All-Defensive First Team, NBA 75th Anniversary Team
Best qualities: Consistency, rebounding, scoring, shot-blocking
Player info

Tim Duncan was such a quiet man, with a facial expression indicating he was either confused or scared. However, on the court, he was unstoppable from day one. The San Antonio Spurs were lucky to win the lottery and choose Duncan as the number one pick, as they did with David Robinson a decade prior.

Even though a lot of pressure was on his shoulders, Duncan quickly established himself as one of the best power forwards and centers. His performances led the Spurs to five titles in his almost two-decade-long career! Unlike many other NBA stars, Duncan was a team player who never chased numbers. His most important quality was consistency, which made him average a career double-double in points and rebounds. Tim Duncan might be the best power forward in history and is by far the most modest.

4. Bill Russell

Bill Russell was a fantastic athlete
NBA seasons: 13
NBA titles won: 11 (1957, 1959-66, 1968-1969)
Top individual achievements: 5x NBA MVP, 12xNBA All-Star, 3x All-NBA First Team, 4x NBA rebounding champion, NBA anniversary teams, Olympic gold
Best qualities: Defending, rebounding, shot-blocking, leadership
Player info

Bill Russell won an incredible 11 NBA championships even though he played only 13 seasons! Therefore, it's no wonder he's been the subject of NBA myths. Despite being MVP five times and having 12 NBA All-Star appearances, he is still underrated. While it's true that the league wasn't at the highest level in the fifties, Russell raised the bar with his out-of-this-world performances.

Rebounding was his specialty, as his career average is above 20! Still, he was never a guy to put himself in front of the team and would often let someone else shoot. Russell was a defensive force and the only man to stand toe-to-toe against Wilt Chamberlain, allowing him a single title.

3. Larry Bird

How can anyone this slow be so good?
NBA seasons: 13
NBA titles won: 3 (1981, 1984, 1986)
Top individual achievements: 2x NBA Finals MVP, 3x NBA MVP, 12x NBA All-Star, 9x All-NBA First Team, NBA anniversary teams, Olympic gold
Best qualities: 3-pointing shooting, scoring, ball-stealing, rebounding, free-throw percentage, clutch shooting
Player info

When Bill Russel retired, many assumed that the Celtics wouldn't ever have a better player. Still, less than a decade later, he appeared!! Bird was a fantastic shooter from all positions, and even his free throw percentage is among the best in history. Simultaneously, he was a great rebounder, securing a double-double career average. 

Bird was by far the slowest of all the players on our list, but that didn't stop him from being a terrific defender who averaged close to two steals per game. Like every great player, he sustained a high level of play even in his last season when he was a force with an almost double-double average. Oh, did we forget to mention three NBA titles and as many MVP awards?

2. Kobe Bryant

Kobe carried Lakers on his shoulders for most of his career
NBA seasons: 20
NBA titles won: 5 (2000-2002, 2009-2010)
Top individual achievements: 2x NBA Finals MVP, NBA MVP, 18x NBA All-Star, 11x All-NBA First Team, 9x NBA All-Defensive First Team, 2x NBA scoring champion, NBA 75th Anniversary Team, 2x Olympic gold
Best qualities: Scoring, athleticism, consistency, endurance
Player info

Unlike all other guys on the list, Kobe Bryant wasn't selected by the team where he would stay for his whole career. Still, the Charlotte Hornets never wanted him anyway, so even before the 1996 draft, they traded him to the Lakers. As a teenager, Bryant wasn't a starter in his first two seasons but was patient while frequently showing his potential. In tandem with rule-changer Shaquille O'Neal, he made the Lakers one of the most dominant teams in history, winning three championships in a row.

But even without Shaq, Kobe stayed. Even when they hit rock bottom, he never asked to be traded. He didn't even reach the playoffs in his last four seasons but was still there, scoring at will, including 60 points in his final NBA game. Like his idol, the dominant Michael Jordan, Kobe was a great leader and a terrific clutch shooter, never afraid to take responsibility. Nonetheless, he could turn around games with his defense and was selected nine times in the NBA All-Defensive first team. It's so unfortunate he left us so young.

1. Magic Johnson

Magic was the universal player that could fit in any team!
NBA seasons: 13 
NBA titles won: 5 (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988)
Top individual achievements: 3x NBA Finals MVP, 3x NBA MVP, 12x NBA All-Star, 9x All-NBA First Team, 4x NBA assist leader, 2x NBA steal leader, NBA anniversary teams, Olympic gold
Best qualities: Versatile, team leader, passing, ball stealing, scoring
Player info

Many people don't know that Magic Johnson earned his nickname when he was only a 15-year-old. That would be massive pressure for someone so young, but Magic was different. Never was a man before that could successfully play at any position and adjust his play style to what was needed. While he's the best passer in league history, Magic was also excellent at scoring and making steals while being a decent rebounder.

With his incredible vision and basketball IQ, Johnson often confused his opponents with no-look passes. Additionally, he was a clear winner in his rivalry with Larry Bird. His loyalty was unquestioned, as the only team he ever coached was Los Angeles Lakers!

Every player on our top ten list deserves respect, as they've shown loyalty even if that cost them money and the opportunity to win more titles. Still, this is what made them even more respectable. As loyalty disappeared from today's NBA, this list won't change much.

Is Magic also your number one? What are some of your favorite single-franchise players? 

Cover photo: TJ Dragotta/Unsplash



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SlowMo Says:

It seems like players today have no loyalty at all. Look at LeBron. Curry is the anomaly of today's basket.

September 05 at 01:11:05 PM

SlowMoJack Says:

Robinson, Stockton and Reggie - I'm all about the 90s NBA.

July 07 at 09:53:28 AM

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