LeBron James may have headed back to his hometown (and first team) in a more conspicuous fashion than any other athlete, but King James was hardly the first to head back home. The best? Maybe. Probably. But not the first.
There have been several instances of players returning from whence they came, sometimes for glory, sometimes for show, and sometimes because that’s just where they belonged. While the results from heading home are often mixed, it’s a pretty symbolic gesture, intentional or otherwise.
Here are nine such instances.
Jason Taylor never really seemed to be able to leave the Miami Dolphins, but lord knows he tried. The photogenic Pro Bowl defensive end actually found his way back to the Dolphins twice: After playing for the Fish from 1997-2007, he took of for Washington for a year, then found his way back home. Then he played for the Jets in 2010, and found his way home yet again. Taylor’s best year’s were behind him, like so many other players who bounce around late in their career, but it was still nice to see him in a Dolphins jersey when he came back.
9. Jason Taylor
While Scottie Pippen was never the top dog for the Bulls (that honorific went to another player, who shall remain nameless), he was such a staple of perhaps the most high-profile basketball team ever (the 1990’s bulls) that seeing him in Portland and Houston jerseys following MJ’s departure was a bit confusing. Pippen seemed to fade away, rather than burn out, but ended as a bull, which is gets him on this list. Pippen’s swan song in Chicago was only a little more than 20 games and 120 points, so it wasn’t like he was returning with his talents, but he did return.
8. Scottie Pippen
Ace starting pitcher Tom Glavine’s return to Atlanta, like Pippen’s return to Chicago, was largely ceremonial. He had pitched an entire career’s worth of games by that point anyway, so while he was technically back on the Braves for over three seasons, it was effectively just four months with a stint on the DL (Glavine’s first in his entire career). His return was marred by injury, but he spent the duration of his time in rehab, fighting to get back. It never happened, but it makes for an endearing story about his dedication and loyalty to the Braves.
7. Tom Glavine
There’s a saying about people going broke that they do it, “slowly, then all at once.” That seems to also be how Allen Iverson ended his career. He was a 76er, then a Nugget, then a Piston, then he was a whole bunch of things quickly, then he was gone. Before he was completely gone, though, he returned to Philly the city where he shined. He made a stopover in Memphis that was mired in controversy, then came home for a stint before leaving the NBA in 2009. From there, he played in a Turkish league, but the less said about that, the better.
6. Allen Iverson
Ricky Henderson played for a whopping NINE teams during his baseball career. If that isn’t crazy enough, you should know that he played for one of those teams, the Oakland A’s, four separate times, starting with the club from 79-84, then returning back in 89, 94, and 98. Ricky Henderson was a lead-off hitting, base-stealing machine, and as such, speed was his weapon. Speed doesn’t age all that well, so as he got up there in years, he became something of a journeyman, and that journey never seemed to take him too far from Oakland.
5. Ricky Henderson
Perhaps the most successful, but not the most notable return to an athlete’s first team was Steve Nash’s trip back to Phoenix. It came after leaving Arizona to run point for the Dallas Mavericks following Jason Kidd’s departure (and before Kidd’s subsequent return to Dallas). Nash had two strong seasons with the Suns, but really began to excel with the Mavs. When the Mavs wouldn’t give the slightly aging star an extra year in their contract offer, he returned back to Phoenix, where he scored two MVPs, and a whole lot of postseason success, but no championship.
4. Steve Nash
Greg Maddux was such an ace in his career with both the Cubs and the Braves that he had his number, 31, retired by both teams. Predictably, his return to the Cubbies wasn’t to much acclaim, but the ace did put in a strong duty for about 2.5 seasons. It won’t go down as his prime, but taking his talents back to Chicago after much of his success with the Braves did a lot to make him a lifelong Cub.
3. Greg Maddux
There are ceremonial returns to original teams, then there is what quarterback Doug Flutie did. Not only did he get back to the Patriots at the age of 42, but he went into that last game of the 2005-2006 season to drop kick an extra point for the team, something that hadn’t been done since 1941. Coach Bill Belichick, not known for being a particularly magnanimous guy, said that it was a retirement present for Flutie. At the very least, it makes for a fun retirement story.
2. Doug Flutie
Pete Rose’s comeback as a Red is perhaps the high-water mark for a return to an original team. Rose started as a Cincinnati Red in 63-78, then again from 84-86. And in between, he spent some time in both Philly and Montreal. And if you thought that Scottie Pippen looked weird in a Trailblazers jersey, take a look at Rose in a Montreal Expos jersey. When Rose returned to Cincinnati, he didn’t have much gas left in the tank, but he was able to smash Ty Cobb’s record for most career hits while he was there, making him the face of not only the franchise, but perhaps the whole league upon his return home.