These Five NBA Players Hold The Record For Playing For The Most Teams

Considering there have literally been thousands of individuals who have suited up for the NBA since its genesis in the late 1940s, it's very rare for players to play for the same team for at least one decade. Still, there are many players whose names immediately come to mind when it comes to such a milestone. The late Kobe Bryant spent his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, and Dirk Nowitzki outdid him by playing 21 seasons for the Dallas Mavericks. Tim Duncan (San Antonio Spurs) and John Stockton (Utah Jazz) played 19 seasons for their respective teams and nowhere else, and moving on from those current or future Hall of Famers, Udonis Haslem – originally an undrafted power forward — has been grinding away for 19 seasons with the Miami Heat.

On the other side of things, there have been players who seemed (or seem) to change zip codes at least once per season, emphasis on the words "at least." These are the quintessential journeymen of the NBA, bouncing around from team to team for as long as they can make somebody's roster. But is there anyone in NBA history who has played for more teams than anybody else in the league? There are actually five of these quintessential journeymen who played for a total of 12 teams each, with Ish Smith of the Washington Wizards (pictured above) being the latest to join the club (via The Washington Post). But we'll get to him later, as we'll be looking at each of these five players below in alphabetical order.

Chucky Brown (1989-2002)

A 6-foot-7-inch combo forward out of North Carolina State, Chucky Brown was the 43rd overall pick in the 1989 NBA Draft. While his numbers weren't much to write home about, Brown did start most of the games he played in during his first two NBA seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but after they cut him early on in the 1991-92 season, he began a U.S. tour of sorts that saw him play for another 11 teams between then and 2002. That included stops with the Los Angeles Lakers, New Jersey Nets, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Phoenix Suns, Milwaukee Bucks, Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets, San Antonio Spurs, Golden State Warriors, and Sacramento Kings. (He did have a second tour of duty with the Cavs in the 2000-01 season, but wasn't anywhere near as productive.)

What kept Brown around for so long despite his comparatively pedestrian stats? Well, his hard-working, blue-collar style of play endeared him to fans, and they even went as far as to establish a fan club for him after he joined the Rockets midway through the 1994-95 season — a move that would lead him to his first and only NBA championship. "They used to show up at games,” Brown told Star News Online. "They were really crazy. It was cool, though, for me being a role player to have fans show up and give me brownies. They would be outside of our bus and yell my name."

Jim Jackson (1992-2006)

Unlike the aforementioned Chucky Brown, Jim Jackson entered the NBA in 1992 with much loftier expectations. The 6-foot-6-inch guard/forward was the fourth overall pick in that year's draft out of Ohio State, but signed late in the season due to a contract dispute (via The Dallas Morning News) and joined a Dallas Mavericks team that won only 11 games in the 1992-93 campaign. That aside, he had a fantastic start to his career, averaging over 25 points per game in the 1994-95 season and teaming with fellow young stars Jason Kidd and Jamal Mashburn to form the "Three Js" nucleus that was supposed to fast-track the Mavs' rebuilding process. However, injuries and a lack of chemistry among the trio led to the Three Js breaking up ... and Jackson having a journeyman career while Mashburn and (especially) Kidd kept shining brightly even after leaving Dallas.

After getting traded from the Mavericks to the New Jersey Nets midway through the 1996-97 season, Jackson made 10 more stopovers, often with progressively diminishing returns — he also played for the Philadelphia 76ers, Golden State Warriors, Portland Trail Blazers, Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, Sacramento Kings, Houston Rockets, Phoenix Suns, and Los Angeles Lakers before retiring in 2006. Fun fact — Jackson was also the last Laker to wear No. 24 before Kobe Bryant switched to that jersey number ahead of the 2006-07 season (via the Los Angeles Times).

Tony Massenburg (1990-92, 1994-2005)

Picked 43rd overall the year after Chucky Brown (yes, him again) was chosen at that same spot, former Maryland Terrapins big man Tony Massenburg played just 53 games in his first two NBA seasons. Nothing unusual for a second-rounder till you realize that those 53 games were spread across four teams — the San Antonio Spurs, Charlotte Hornets, Boston Celtics, and Golden State Warriors. The 6-foot-9-inch forward/center then spent the next two years playing in Spain before he resurfaced in the 1994-95 season as the starting center on a particularly bad Los Angeles Clippers team that finished with a 17-65 record. He remained surprisingly productive in stints with the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Nets, as well as with the NBA's two Canadian expansion teams — the Toronto Raptors and Vancouver Grizzlies.

Before wrapping up his career in 2005, Massenburg reached the 12-team mark with one-season stints with the Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz, and Sacramento Kings; he also had second stops with the Grizzlies (including one season after they moved to Memphis) and, coming full circle in his final season, the Spurs. That is a lot of stopovers if second stints are included, and in an even more interesting twist, he's taken his travels to yet another NBA team. As of this writing, he works for the Washington Wizards ... as an analyst.

Ish Smith (2010-)

At the time of writing, Ish Smith is still active, and is the only active player on this list, which means only one thing — there is a very real chance that one day, he may stand by himself as the most traveled NBA player of all time. A 6-foot-tall point guard who played college ball at Wake Forest, Smith entered the NBA in 2010 as an undrafted free agent, splitting the 2010-11 season with the Houston Rockets and Memphis Grizzlies. A year later, he spent time with both the Golden State Warriors and Orlando Magic. In 2012-13, he suited up for the Magic and the Milwaukee Bucks. It was only in 2013-14 when he played a full season for one team (the Phoenix Suns), but it was more of the same in 2014-15 (Oklahoma City Thunder and Philadelphia 76ers). And 2015-16 (New Orleans Pelicans, then back to Philly). We kid you not — we'd be here for practically forever if we broke down each time he's been signed, traded, released, and signed again in 12 NBA seasons and counting.

To be fair, Smith has settled down a bit in more recent years, spending three seasons with the Detroit Pistons from 2016 to 2019 and two with the Washington Wizards from 2019 to 2021 before starting the 2021-22 season with the Charlotte Hornets and returning to Washington via a midseason trade. And if he does play for a 13th team, it should come as no surprise, as he has earned respect for more than just his blistering speed; coaches have praised him for his resilience and locker room leadership. "He's kind of like the pied piper," Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. told The Washington Post. "He gets guys to move in one direction."

Joe Smith (1995-2011)

Last but not least, Joe Smith (no relation to Ish) was the highest-drafted player in this group of ultimate NBA journeymen. Much like Tony Massenburg before him, Smith was a Maryland big man who played power forward and center in the NBA, but he entered the league with much more fanfare as the top pick in the 1995 draft.  Initially, he seemed to justify the Golden State Warriors' decision to pick him over guys like Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace, and high school sensation Kevin Garnett (yes, that's got to hurt), but as his career progressed, he proved to be almost as average as his name suggested. After his Warriors stint ended with a midseason trade to the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1997-98 campaign, Smith played for the Minnesota Timberwolves, Detroit Pistons, Milwaukee Bucks, Denver Nuggets, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Atlanta Hawks, New Jersey Nets, and Los Angeles Lakers between February 1999 and 2011.

The 6-foot-10-inch Smith, unfortunately, is mostly known these days for the shenanigans the Timberwolves pulled when they signed him after the 1998-99 NBA lockout for what seemed like pennies on the dollar. Per USA Today's For the Win, the plan was for Minnesota to acquire his Bird rights by signing him to three consecutive one-year contracts for little money, then using those Bird rights to exceed the salary cap by inking him to a much more lucrative (allegedly $86 million) multi-year deal. The NBA saw this as illegal and punished the Timberwolves by voiding Smith's contracts, forfeiting the team's first-round picks for the next five years, and fining them $3.5 million.