When the next NFL season opens, Tom Brady will be somewhere other than New England. Brady announced Tuesday his intention for his “football journey” to “take place elsewhere” and before nightfall word had leaked out that he intended to sign with the Buccaneers.
When Brady takes his next snap, fans will be rubbing their eyes when they see him wearing something other than the dark blue of the Patriots. He wouldn’t be the first all-time great athlete to appear in another uniform after becoming synonymous with a franchise, either. (Heck, longtime Charger Philip Rivers reportedly agreed to a deal with the Colts the same day as the Brady move.)
Here are a few players who looked the most “wrong” in new threads.
Michael Jordan — Wizards (2001–03)
MJ is the only player of Brady’s caliber to pull off this kind of switch. Because he had been retired for a few years, the shock of his return was mostly that he was coming back at all and less about him playing for another team.
Joe Montana — Chiefs (1993–94)
If we’re thinking about this in terms of Brady, Montana was the Drew Bledsoe to Steve Young’s Brady. Except in this case the Bledsoe figure had already won multiple Super Bowls as the leader of a dynasty.
Joe Namath — Rams (1977)
“Sunset Boulevard Joe” just doesn’t roll off the tongue like “Broadway Joe.” Namath’s Los Angeles career only lasted four lackluster games before he was benched in favor of Pat Haden.
Gordie Howe — Whalers (1973–80)
After 25 years with the Red Wings, Howe didn’t just come out of retirement with a new team—he joined a new league. He lasted so long with the WHA’s Hartford/New England Whalers that they had joined the NHL by the time he retired at the age of 52.
Patrick Ewing — Sonics (2000–01), Magic (2001–02)
The Knicks traded Ewing to Seattle in a four-team blockbuster and it’s been downhill for them ever since. (Come to think of it things didn’t go great for the Sonics, either.) Pat’s one year coming off the bench for the Magic at age 39 was also uninspiring, and he called it a career after the season.
Jerry Rice — Seahawks (2004)
Rice played well enough in his three-plus years in Oakland (two 1,000-yard seasons and a Pro Bowl selection) that his time there doesn’t seem all that weird, even after spending 16 seasons with the 49ers. Getting traded to Seahawks at the age of 42, though? That was bizarre.
Martin Brodeur — Blues (2014–15)
Brodeur could have retired in 2014 after 21 seasons with the Devils. He had already been a part-time player for the past two seasons and at 41 his play was slipping. When he decided to test free agency after the season, nobody came calling. He had to wait until injuries forced the Blues into a goaltending pinch in November and played seven games before Brian Elliot returned to the ice.
Bobby Orr — Blackhawks (1976–79)
Orr’s career in Boston was the stuff of legends. He won two Stanley Cups and eight Norris Trophies as the league’s top defenseman. But knee injuries forced him into early retirement and his time with the Blackhawks lasted only 26 games.
Mike Modano — Red Wings (2010–11)
After 20 years with the Minnesota North Stars/Dallas Stars franchise, Modano closed out his career with the Red Wings. It was a return to his home state but seeing him in red was still strange.
Ichiro — Yankees (2012–2014)
The Yankees would like to think that pinstripes suit anybody, but Seattle fans certainly shed some tears after Ichiro left the Mariners
Peyton Manning — Broncos (2012–15)
Manning played well enough in his first three seasons in Denver that you could almost forget he wasn’t wearing blue and white. It was the final season, though, where he was clearly diminished, missed time to due injury and usurped Brock Osweiler before riding a dominant defense to a second Super Bowl victory that made you say, “Wait, this isn’t the guy I’m used to watching.”
Hakeem Olajuwon — Raptors (2001–02)
The 2001–02 NBA season was a weird one, huh? Michael Jordan in Washington, Patrick Ewing in Orlando and The Dream in Toronto?
Tracy McGrady — Knicks (2010)
T-Mac didn’t become synonymous with a single team like other guys on this list but that doesn’t make his 24-game stint with the Knicks any less weird. The Knicks even gave up a first-round pick for the privilege of having McGrady average 9.4 points per game for them.
Emmitt Smith — Cardinals (2003–04)
The NFL’s all-time leading rusher and the workhorse of a dynasty going to play in a college stadium for a team that won 10 games over two years just isn’t right.
Brett Favre — Jets (2008), Vikings (2009–10)
It’s difficult to imagine how Favre’s exit from Green Bay (to make way for Aaron Rodgers) could have been messier. It must have made sweeping the season series against the Packers in 2009 that much sweeter.
Ken Griffey Jr. — White Sox (2008)
Ken Griffey Jr. made a name for himself in Seattle, then played nine years in his hometown of Cincinnati, where his father played for 12 seasons, before going back to the Mariners. In between his time on the banks of the Ohio and his return to the Pacific Northwest, though, he had 41 very forgettable games with the White Sox.
The most memorable part of his time in Chicago was the time he reportedly fell asleep in the clubhouse and missed a pinch-hitting opportunity.
Pete Rose — Expos (1984)
Where was Rose playing when he collected his 4,000th career hit? Montreal, of course.
Willie Mays — Mets (1972–73)
While New Yorkers must have been glad to see the Say Hey Kid back in town, the sight of him in a uniform meant as an homage to the Giants and their old rivals the Dodgers surely rubbed some people the wrong way.
Manny Ramirez — Rays (2011)
The final few years of Manny’s career were as bizarre as you’d expect from him. He got suspended for using a female fertility drug, got waived by the Dodgers, spent a brief time with the White Sox and then landed with the Rays, where he lasted five games before another failed drug test.
Comeback attempts with the A’s, Rangers and Cubs didn’t amount to anything and so that one week in Tampa was the last we saw of Manny on an MLB diamond.
Allen Iverson — Nuggets (2006–08), Pistons (2008–09), Grizzlies (2009)
The Answer’s stats in his first full season in Denver: 82 games played, 41.8 minutes per game and 26.4 points per game on .458 shooting percentage. Vintage A.I. numbers, just in baby blue.
Shaquille O’Neal — Celtics (2010–11)
Shaq closed out his NBA career with the Celtics, hoping to win one more ring alongside Boston’s Big Three. Instead, the highlight of his time there was when he played a human statue in Harvard Square.
Karl Malone and Gary Payton — Lakers (2003–04)
That 2003–04 Lakers team was supposed to be the chance to Malone and Payton to get the championship rings their Hall of Fame careers were missing. And then the Pistons got in the way. Payton won a title later with the Heat, but The Mailman never lifted the trophy.
Dwyane Wade — Cavaliers (2017–18)
I guess this made Heat fans feel the way Cavs fans did when LeBron came to Miami.
Tony Parker — Hornets (2018–19)
The 2017–18 season was the end of an era for the Spurs. When the following season opened, Parker, Kawhi Leonard and Manu Ginobili were all gone.