20 Legendary Athletes Who Finished Up With Another Team

Here are 20 all-time greats who spent almost their entire career with one franchise before retiring with another.

1. Johnny Unitas – San Diego Chargers

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The Baltimore Colts began a youth movement in 1972 by benching Unitas, their quarterback of 17 years, early in the season. In 1973, Baltimore traded the 39-year-old to the San Diego Chargers. The split wasn’t amicable.

“You can fry an egg too long,” Colts general manager Joe Thomas said. “The deal is done, and that’s it. He’s their property, period. From here on in, I will have nothing to say about Johnny Unitas.” Unitas, who sued the Colts for $725,000 on charges of a malicious breach of contract, was benched at halftime in his fourth game with the Chargers in favor of rookie Dan Fouts. He retired during training camp the following year.

2. Joe Namath – Los Angeles Rams

The New York Jets elected not to renew Broadway Joe’s $450,000 contract after the 1976 season, and who could blame them? The gimpy-kneed Namath, who earned legend status in New York after guaranteeing victory over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III and backing it up, was 4-17 as the Jets’ starter over the previous two seasons.

“It’s a strange feeling; it hasn’t really hit home yet,” Al Ward, the Jets’ general manager said after releasing Namath. “I don’t think it’ll really sink in until I see him in a different uniform for the first time.” Namath signed with the Rams for an estimated $150,000 and started four games in his only season in Los Angeles before retiring.

3. Hakeem Olajuwon – Toronto Raptors

JOE SKIPPER/Reuters/Landov

“I feel like a rookie again,” Hakeem Olajuwon said after a sign-and-trade agreement sent the 12-time NBA All-Star from the Houston Rockets to the Toronto Raptors in 2001. “I’m excited. It’s a new opportunity to establish myself.” The Dream’s one year in Toronto wasn’t a total nightmare, as the Raptors finished 42-40 and made the playoffs, but Olajuwon averaged only 7.1 points and 6 rebounds per game. A serious back injury led Olajuwon to retire after the season. He's pictured here with Patrick Ewing, who played for the Seattle Supersonics and Orlando Magic after his storied career with the New York Knicks.

4. O.J. Simpson - San Francisco 49ers

After his legendary career with the Buffalo Bills and years before his famous trial, O.J. Simpson quietly ended his football career on two terrible San Francisco 49ers teams in 1978-79. Here he is walking off the field after his last game.

5. Willie Mays – New York Mets

Willie Mays spent the first 21 seasons of his remarkable career with the New York and San Francisco Giants. With Mays batting only .184 in 19 games, the Giants traded him to the New York Mets for minor league pitcher Charlie Williams and cash in May 1972. Mays had been benched in San Francisco and Giants owner Horace Stoneham couldn’t afford to pay his former star after his playing days were over. “I’m not going to be something on display,” Mays said of the move. “I have to play ball. If used in the right way, I think I can do a good job for the Mets.” In his Mets debut, Mays hit a go-ahead home run in a 5-4 win over his former team. Mays finished with 8 home runs in 1972 and retired after hitting six more in 1973, bringing his career total to 660.

6. Yogi Berra – New York Mets

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After 17 seasons as a catcher with the New York Yankees, Yogi Berra (pictured with Roger Maris) took over as manager in 1964. He was fired after one season and joined the New York Mets in 1965 as a player and assistant to manager Casey Stengel, who managed Berra for 11 of his 17 seasons with the Yankees. Berra went 2-for-9 in four games with the Mets before retiring as an active player one day before his 40th birthday. “This is it,” Berra told reporters on May 11. “I’m through as a player forever. I can’t do it no more. It’s tough to play even once a week. That year’s layoff did it.” Berra served as a coach for the Mets for the next 8 years before becoming manager in 1972.

7. Joe Montana – Kansas City Chiefs

With Montana recovering from an elbow injury, Steve Young took the reins of the San Francisco 49ers’ offense in 1991 and 1992. He never let go. In 1993, San Francisco traded Montana, safety David Whitmore, and a third-round pick to Kansas City for the Chiefs’ first-round pick. The move worked out well for both teams. Young continued to thrive in San Francisco, while Montana, who won four Super Bowls in 13 seasons with the 49ers, guided the Chiefs to the AFC Championship Game. He missed most of the second half of Kansas City’s loss to the Bills with a mild concussion and retired after the Chiefs lost in the first round of the playoffs the following year.

8. Franco Harris – Seattle Seahawks

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Franco Harris won four Super Bowls during his 12 seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who drafted the running back out of Penn State in 1972. Coming off a 1,000-yard rushing season and only 363 yards shy of passing Jim Brown as the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, the 34-year-old Harris held out for more money during training camp in 1984. The Steelers responded by releasing him, but Harris wasn’t out of the league for long.

The Seattle Seahawks signed him for an estimated $500,000 after losing leading rusher Curt Warner to an injury in the season-opener. Harris quickly took a liking to the Emerald City. “Everything here has been totally impressive,” he said. “The people, the scenery – I guess the only thing is, I’m not a big salmon eater. Everywhere we go, people want to feed me salmon.” Harris rushed for 170 yards in eight games with the Seahawks before being released.

9. Michael Jordan – Washington Wizards

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Three years after his second retirement from basketball, Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan returned to the court in 2001 with the Washington Wizards. Jordan had served as part owner and the president of basketball operations for the beleaguered franchise since January 2000, and was responsible for drafting high school standout Kwame Brown with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 NBA Draft. Jordan averaged more than 20 points per game in each of his two seasons with the Wizards, but Washington failed to make the playoffs both years. In November 2002, Jordan announced that he would retire at the end of the season.

10. Ray Bourque – Colorado Avalanche

At the 2000 NHL trade deadline, the Boston Bruins dealt their legendary 39-year-old defenseman Ray Bourque to the Colorado Avalanche. “We limited ourselves to teams where Raymond Bourque would have a chance to win the Stanley Cup,” Bruins general manager Harry Sinden said. The Avs lost in the Western Conference finals, but Bourque returned to Colorado for the 2000-01 season. He tallied 59 points during the regular season and 10 more in the playoffs, which culminated in him hoisting the Stanley Cup for the first time. Bourque retired after the season.

11. Karl Malone – Los Angeles Lakers

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After 18 seasons in Utah, Karl Malone took less money in 2003 to join what some pundits dubbed the Dream Team. Malone and fellow free agent Gary Payton signed with the Los Angeles Lakers, who, with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal leading the way, were one season removed from winning their third straight NBA title. At 40 years old, the Mailman was hungry for his first championship. He averaged 13.2 points and 8.7 rebounds per game and helped the Lakers advance to the NBA Finals, where they lost to Detroit in five games. Malone missed the final three games of that series and underwent knee surgery after the season. He didn’t play another game.

12. Tony Dorsett – Denver Broncos

Tony Dorsett spent the first 11 years of his career with the Dallas Cowboys. When the former Pitt star was relegated to a backup role behind Herschel Walker, Dorsett requested a trade. The Cowboys granted him his wish, dealing him to the Denver Broncos in 1988 for a conditional fifth-round draft pick. Dorsett started 13 games with the Broncos, rushing for 703 yards and five touchdowns. After announcing that the 1989 season would be his last, Dorsett suffered two ligament tears in training camp. He sat out the season and retired after the Broncos lost to the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XXIV. Dorsett came out of retirement 8 months later to work out at Cowboys training camp, but he failed to make the team.

13. Emmitt Smith – Arizona Cardinals

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Emmitt Smith won three Super Bowls and set the NFL’s all-time rushing record in his 13 seasons with the Cowboys. Shortly after Dallas released the 33-year-old Smith in 2003, he inked a two-year contract with the Arizona Cardinals. “I’ve always been very confident in my abilities,” Smith said. “I think I’m a 1,300-yard back, and I will be out to prove that.” Smith fell short of that goal. A shoulder injury limited him to 90 carries over 10 games in his first season in the desert. Smith rebounded to rush for a respectable 937 yards and nine touchdowns in 2004 before retiring.

14. Raúl – Schalke

After 16 years with Real Madrid, where he helped win three Champions League titles and became the club’s all-time leading scorer, Raúl signed a two-year contract with Schalke of the Bundesliga in 2010. “I have come to Schalke because I really wanted to get experience of playing abroad,” he said. While he previously talked of retiring after the 2011 season, Raúl has reportedly been offered a contract extension.

15. Merlene Ottey – Slovenia

From 1980 to 2000, Merlene Ottey won nine Olympic medals in track and field while competing for her native Jamaica. In 1998, Ottey moved to Slovenia. According to the Los Angeles Times, she told the international track federation that she preferred the country’s calm lifestyle. In 2002, Ottey became a Slovenian citizen and started representing her new home country in international events. She reached the semifinals in the 100 meters at the 2004 Summer Olympics.

16. Gordie Howe – Hartford Whalers

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Gordie Howe won four Stanley Cups and was named the NHL’s most valuable player six times in his 25 seasons with the Detroit Red Wings. Howe retired in 1971 but returned to the ice with the WHA’s Houston Aeros in 1973. In addition to a fat contract, the Aeros offered Howe a chance to play on the same line as his sons, Marty and Mark. Howe returned to the NHL for the 1979-80 season, scoring 15 goals for the Hartford Whalers. Not bad for a 51-year-old grandfather. Howe retired after the season.

17. Harmon Killebrew – Kansas City Royals

Harmon Killebrew spent the first 21 seasons of his career with the same franchise. Killer hit 559 home runs with the Washington Senators and Minnesota Twins (the franchise relocated following the 1960 season) and signed with the Kansas City Royals in 1975. Killebrew hit 14 home runs in his only season with the Royals, including one against the Twins in his final trip to Minnesota. Kansas City announced that it would release him in September and Killebrew, who ranked fifth on the career home run list, retired after the season.

18. Bobby Orr – Chicago Blackhawks

Bobby Orr played the first 10 seasons of his NHL career with the Boston Bruins and the final two with the Chicago Blackhawks after leaving via free agency in 1976. Years later, Orr blamed his departure on his agent, Alan Eagleson. Orr said that Eagleson, who was later convicted of fraud and embezzlement, misrepresented the Bruins’ offer to him when his contract expired. Specifically, Eagleson failed to mention that the Bruins offered him 18.5 percent ownership in the team in addition to his salary.

19. Pele – New York Cosmos

Pelé played 17 seasons with Santos in his native Brazil and retired from the team in 1972 as its all-time leading scorer. Pelé signed a contract with the North American Soccer League’s New York Cosmos for a reported $4.5 million in 1975 and led the team to the NASL championship before retiring for good.

20. Hank Aaron – Milwaukee Brewers

Hammerin’ Hank started and ended his career in Milwaukee, but for different franchises. Aaron played 21 seasons for the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves, setting the all-time home run record, which has since been surpassed by Barry Bonds, in April 1974. The Braves traded Aaron to the Milwaukee Brewers after the season. “I will do whatever I can to help the ball club,” the 41-year-old Aaron said. “I wouldn’t want to be purely a designated hitter.” Aaron appeared in 137 games for the Brewers in 1975 and hit 12 home runs in 465 at-bats. He retired after hitting 10 more homers in 1976.

“What about Jerry Rice?!”

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We tried to limit this list to all-time greats who played the majority of their careers with one team and then played for only one other team before retiring. That’s why guys like Rice, Reggie White, Brett Favre, Babe Ruth, Dennis Rodman, Deion Sanders, Tom Seaver and the aforementioned Patrick Ewing – all of whom played for at least three teams – don’t appear. But that doesn't mean we didn't forget someone – or multiple people, like Mays, Aaron, Pele and Orr (we've since tacked them on). Share your own favorites in the comments.

This post originally appeared in 2012 after Peyton Manning signed with the Broncos.

The 10 Best Memorial Day 2020 Sales

iRobot,GoWise,Funko via Wayfair, Entertainment Earth
iRobot,GoWise,Funko via Wayfair, Entertainment Earth

The Memorial Day sales have started early this year, and it's easy to find yourself drowning in offers for cheap mattresses, appliances, shoes, and grills. To help you cut through the noise and focus on the best deals around, we threw together some of our favorite Memorial Day sales going on right now. Take a look below.

1. Leesa

A Leesa Hybrid mattress.
A Leesa Hybrid mattress.
Leesa

Through May 31, you can save up to $400 on every mattress model Leesa has to offer, from the value-minded Studio by Leesa design to the premium Leesa Legend, which touts a combination of memory foam and micro-coil springs to keep you comfortable in any position you sleep in.

Find it: Leesa

2. Sur La Table

This one is labeled as simply a “summer sale,” but the deals are good only through Memorial Day, so you should get to it quickly. This sale takes up to 20 percent off outdoor grilling and dining essentials, like cast-iron shrimp pans ($32), a stainless steel burger-grilling basket ($16), and, of course, your choice of barbeque sauce to go along with it.

Find it: Sur la Table

3. Wayfair

KitchenAid Stand Mixer on Sale on Wayfair.
Wayfair/KitchenAid

Wayfair is cutting prices on all manner of appliances until May 28. Though you can pretty much find any home appliance imaginable at a low price, the sale is highlighted by $130 off a KitchenAid stand mixer and 62 percent off this eight-in-one GoWise air fryer.

And that’s only part of the brand’s multiple Memorial Day sales, which you can browse here. They’re also taking up to 40 percent off Samsung refrigerators and washing machines, up to 65 percent off living room furniture, and up to 60 percent off mattresses.

Find it: Wayfair

4. Blue Apron

If you sign up for a Blue Apron subscription before May 26, you’ll save $20 on each of your first three box deliveries, totaling $60 in savings. 

Find it: Blue Apron

5. The PBS Store

Score 20 percent off sitewide at Shop.PBS.org when you use the promo code TAKE20. This slashes prices on everything from documentaries like Ken Burns’s The Roosevelt: An Intimate History ($48) and The Civil War ($64) to a Pride & Prejudice tote bag ($27) and this precious heat-changing King Henry VIII mug ($11) that reveals the fates of his many wives when you pour your morning coffee.

Find it: The PBS Store

6. Amazon

eufy robot vacuum.
Amazon/eufy

While Amazon doesn’t have an official Memorial Day sale, the ecommerce giant still has plenty of ever-changing deals to pick from. Right now, you can take $100 off this outdoor grill from Weber, $70 off a eufy robot vacuum, and 22 percent off the ASUS gaming laptop. For more deals, just go to Amazon and have a look around.

7. Backcountry

You can save up to 50 percent on tents, hiking packs, outdoor wear, and more from brands like Patagonia, Marmot, and others during Backcountry's Memorial Day sale.

Find it: Backcountry

8. Entertainment Earth

Funko Pops on Sale on Entertainment Earth.
Entertainment Earth/Funko

From now until June 2, Entertainment Earth is having a buy one, get one half off sale on select Funko Pops. This includes stalwarts like the Star Wars and Batman lines, and more recent additions like the Schitt's Creek Funkos and the pre-orders for the upcoming X-Men movie line.

Find it: Entertainment Earth

9. Moosejaw

With the promo code SUNSCREEN, you can take 20 percent off one full-price item at Moosejaw, along with finding up to 30 percent off select items during the outdoor brand's summer sale. These deals include casual clothing, outdoor wear, trail sneakers, and more. 

Find it: Moosejaw

10. Osprey

Through May 25, you can save 25 percent on select summer items, and 40 percent off products from last season. This can include anything from hiking packs and luggage to outdoorsy socks and hats. So if you're planning on getting acquainted with the great outdoors this summer, now you can do it on the cheap.

Find it: Osprey

At Mental Floss, we only write about the products we love and want to share with our readers, so all products are chosen independently by our editors. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability are accurate as of the time of publication.

Bo Knows Everything: Remembering Nike's Legendary Bo Jackson Ad Campaign

Bo Jackson and the "Bo Knows" campaign helped Nike finally overtake Reebook in the early 1990s.
Bo Jackson and the "Bo Knows" campaign helped Nike finally overtake Reebook in the early 1990s.
Mike Powell, Allsport/Getty Images

It may have been difficult for Nike to conceive of any athlete being able to do more for its company than Michael Jordan. In the late 1980s and 1990s, the Chicago Bulls star was omnipresent, helping turn their Air Jordan line of sneakers into a squeaky chorus in school hallways and gyms around the country. Even better, the company had scored big with “Just Do It,” an advertising slogan introduced in 1988 that became part of the public lexicon.

There was just one issue. In spite of Jordan’s growing popularity and their innovative advertising, Nike was still in second place behind Reebok. No other athlete on their roster could seemingly bridge the gap. Not even their new cross-training shoe endorsed by tennis pro John McEnroe was igniting excitement in the way the company had hoped.

In 1989, two major events changed all of that: An advertising copywriter was struck with inspiration, and two-sport athlete Bo Jackson slammed a first-inning home run during the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. The ad man’s idea was to portray Jackson as being able to do just about anything. Jackson went ahead and proved him right.

 

Bo Jackson was an ideal spokesperson for Nike's new line of cross-training sneakers. The Auburn University graduate was making waves as a rare two-sport pro athlete; he was playing baseball for the Kansas City Royals and football for the Los Angeles Raiders. Early commercials featured Jackson sampling other sporting activities like riding a bike. “Now, when’s that Tour de France?” he asked. In another, he dunked a basketball and pondered the potential of “Air Bo.”

At a Portland bar near Nike’s headquarters one evening, Nike vice president of marketing Tom Clarke and Jim Riswold of ad agency Wieden + Kennedy were pondering how best to use Jackson going forward. Clarke wanted to devote the majority of their budget for the cross-trainers to an ad campaign featuring the athlete. The two started lobbing ideas about other people named Bo—Bo Derek, Beau Brummell, Little Bo Peep, and Bo Diddley, among others.

The last one stuck with Riswold. He thought of a phrase—“Bo, you don’t know Diddley”—and went home to sleep on it. When he woke up the next morning, he was able to sketch out an entire commercial premise in minutes. Riswold envisioned a spot in which Jackson would try his hand at other sports, punctuating each with a “Bo Knows” proclamation. Jackson soon realizes the one thing he can’t do is play guitar with Bo Diddley, the legendary musician.

It took longer to shoot the commercial than to conceive of it. The spot was shot over the course of a month, with the crew going to California, Florida, and Kansas to film cameos with other athletes including Jordan, McEnroe, and Wayne Gretzky—all of whom Nike had under personal appearance contracts.

Fearing Jackson might hurt himself trying to skate, the production filmed him from the knees up sliding around in socks at a University of Kansas gymnasium rather than on ice. But not all attempts at caution were successful. When director Joe Pytka grew frustrated that Jackson kept running off-camera and implored him to move in a straight line, Jackson steamrolled both the equipment and Pytka, who had to tend to a bloody nose before continuing.

In portraying any other athlete this way, the campaign may have come off as stretching credulity. But Jackson had already been improving his game in all areas, hitting a 515-foot home run during a spring training win over the Boston Red Sox. In April, he hit .282 and tallied eight home runs. Even when he struck out, he still stood out: Jackson was prone to breaking his bat over his knee in frustration.

 

After Jackson was voted into the 1989 MLB All-Star Game in July, Nike decided the telecast would be the ideal place to debut their Bo Knows campaign. They handed out Bo Knows pennants for fans and even flew Bo Knows signs overhead. Bo Knows appeared in a full-page spot for USA Today. Even by Nike standards, this was big.

There was, of course, a chance Jackson would be in a bat-breaking mood, which might diminish the commercial’s impact. But in the very first inning, Jackson sent one into the stands off pitcher Rick Reuschel. With a little scrambling, Nike was able to get their ad moved up from the fourth inning, where it was originally scheduled to run. In the broadcast booth, announcer Vin Scully and special guest, former president Ronald Reagan, marveled at Jackson’s prowess. Scully reminded viewers that his pro football career was something Jackson once described as a “hobby.”

A Bo Jackson fan is pictured holding up a 'Bo Knows Baseball!' sign at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game at Anaheim Stadium in Anaheim, California on July 11, 1989
A Bo Jackson fan shows his support at the MLB All-Star Game in Anaheim, California on July 11, 1989.
Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Jackson was named the Most Valuable Player of the game. That summer and into the fall, Bo Knows was quickly moving up the ranks of the most pervasive commercial spots in memory, second only to Jordan’s memorable ads for Nike and McDonald’s. Jackson turned up in sequels, trying his hand at everything from surfing to soccer to cricket. Special effects artists created multiple Bo Jacksons, a seemingly supernatural explanation for why he excelled at everything.

It was a myth, but one rooted in reality. After 92 wins with the Royals as a left-fielder in 1989, Jackson reported for the NFL season that fall as a running back for the Raiders. In one three-game stretch, he ran for over 100 yards each. Against the Cincinnati Bengals in November, Jackson ran 92 yards for a touchdown. He finished the season with 950 rushing yards. That winter, he was named to the Pro Bowl, making him the only athlete to appear in two all-star games for two major North American sports in consecutive seasons.

Nike was staggered by the results of Bo Knows, which helped them leap over Reebok to become the top athletic shoe company. They eventually secured 80 percent of the cross-training shoe market, going from $40 million in sales to $400 million, a feat that executives attributed in large part to Jackson. Bo Knows, bolstered by Jackson’s demonstrated versatility, was the perfect marriage of concept and talent. His stature as a spokesperson rose, and he appeared in spots for AT&T and Mountain Dew Sport, earning a reported $2 million a year for endorsements. A viewer survey named him the most persuasive athlete in advertising. If that weren’t enough, Jackson also appeared in the popular Nintendo Entertainment System game Tecmo Bowl and on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1989.

 

In 1991, Jackson suffered a serious hip injury during a Raiders game, one that permanently derailed his football career. He played three more seasons of baseball with the Chicago White Sox and California Angels before retiring from sports in 1994.

Jackson's relationship with Nike was dissolved soon after, though the company never totally abandoned the concept of athletes wading into new territory. In 2004, a campaign depicted big names sampling other activities. Tennis great Andre Agassi suited up for the Boston Red Sox; cyclist Lance Armstrong was seen boxing; Serena Williams played beach volleyball. The Bo Knows DNA ran throughout.

Jackson still makes periodic references to the campaign, including in advertisements for his Bo Jackson Signature Foods. (“Bo Knows Meat,” the website proclaims.) In 2019, Jackson also appeared in a Sprint commercial that aimed for surrealism, with Jackson holding a mermaid playing a keytar and having a robot intone that “Bo does know” something about cell phone carriers.

The other key Bo—Diddley—never quite understood why the campaign worked. After seeing the commercial, he reportedly said that he was confused because it had nothing to do with shoes.