A few days ago, LeBron James opened up about the double standard that they experience when changing teams via ESPN: "When a player gets traded, [the front office] was doing what was best for the franchise. But when a player decides to leave, he's not loyal, he's a snake, he's not committed."
The likes of Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers), Tim Duncan (San Antonio Spurs), John Stockton (Utah Jazz), and Reggie Miller (Indiana Pacers) were fortunate enough to stay with their maiden teams, which utilized them effectively even at a ripe old age. The following players, as great as they were and despite the close ties, weren't able to retire with their original franchises under various circumstances.
Dominique Wilkins (Atlanta Hawks)
He actually played for: Los Angeles Clippers, Boston Celtics, San Antonio Spurs, Orlando Magic
The Human Highlight Film spent majority of his career (12 seasons) rocking rims in Atlanta, on his way to a couple of dunk crowns. So imagine the irony of 'Nique rocking a Celtics jersey, especially with the history between him and Boston legend Larry Bird. For good measure, Wilkins also suited up in Europe for Panathinaikos and Fortitudo Bologna.
George Gervin (San Antonio Spurs)
He actually played for: Chicago Bulls
Tim Duncan wasn't even born when Gervin began his 11-year stint with the Spurs. His time in San Antonio translated to nine All-Star appearances and four scoring titles. In a move that made a sophomore Michael Jordan "unhappy," the Bulls acquired a 33-year-old Iceman via trade. The latter would go on to retire after one season.
Karl Malone (Utah Jazz)
He actually played for: Los Angeles Lakers
Many thought that the second all-time scoring leader would have his last playing days in Utah (18 seasons), just like long-time teammate Stockton...until The Mailman decided to ring-chase with the Kobe-Shaq Lakers in their last season (we all know how that turned out). Even without a championship, Malone clearly had a Hall of Fame career.
Patrick Ewing (New York Knicks)
He actually played for: Seattle Supersonics, Orlando Magic
Ewing's name was almost synonymous with the Knickerbockers, being their centerpiece for a good 15 years. The 11-time All-Star and current Georgetown Hoyas coach led New York to prominence during the '90s, including multiple deep playoff runs. He was eventually shipped to Seattle and joined the Magic in his twilight years.
Hakeem Olajuwon (Houston Rockets)
He actually played for: Toronto Raptors
It was unfortunate that The Dream didn't retire with the franchise that he steered to back-to-back titles (17 years). The man who was ahead of his time in terms of skill made fools out of opposing big men, en route to becoming a 12-time All-Star. Olajuwon donned a Rockets uniform in all but his last season, teaming up with Vince Carter.
Michael Jordan (Chicago Bulls)
He actually played for: Washington Wizards
Jordan (13 years with Chicago) coming back after hanging it up for the second time—to donate his salary to 9/11 victims—is probably the most popular "last hurrah" on this list. His Airness, at 40, was still schooling defenders as the best player on the Wizards team (20 ppg 6.1 rpg 3.8 apg). Truly the GOAT.