The NBA is on an indefinite hiatus due to the COVID-19 outbreak. While the Cleveland Cavaliers season is on pause, now is as good a time as ever to look back on the history of the Cavs. Here are 10 players you may not have known spent some time in wine and gold uniform.
10. Kevin Ollie, 2003-2004
Before he was a successful college head coach at UConn (and subsequently involved in multiple NCAA violations, leading to his firing), Ollie was a 13-year NBA vet who played for 12 different teams. He spent one season in Cleveland, starting seven games at point guard during LeBron James’ rookie year.
Ollie’s 4.2 points and 2.9 assists in 17.1 minutes were only slightly higher than his career averages. He certainly found much more success as a coach than he did as a player with the Cavs.
9. Sebastian Telfair, 2009-2010
Telfair made the jump to the pros straight out of high school after an illustrious career. He was selected 14th overall by the Portland Trail Blazers, but never came anywhere close to living up to his massive hype. He didn’t average 10 points per game once; the closest he came was 9.8 in 2008-2009 with the Minnesota Timberwolves, and he averaged the same number in his four games with the Cavs the next season, as he was involved in the massive Antawn Jamison trade. Telfair retired in 2015, having played for eight different organizations.
8. Bill Laimbeer, 1980-2982
Laimbeer was selected by the Cavs in the third round of the 1979 Draft, but played a year of professional ball in Italy before moving to Cleveland. He had a solid rookie season, averaging 9.8 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 2.7 assists, but his playing time was cut nearly in half the following year. He was traded to the Detroit Pistons at the deadline, for whom he became a four-time All-Star, two-time NBA champion, and earning a reputation for physical, and sometimes dirty, play. He retired in 1994 and is currently the head coach for the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces.
7. Nate Thurmond, 1976-1977
Thurmond is a legendary San Francisco/Golden State Warrior, but he played his final season with the Cavs. He made seven All-Star and five All-Defensive teams in his career, but his last three campaigns were rather forgetful. He averaged 5.5 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks with Cleveland. The original Akron kid and Northeast Ohio basketball legend passed away in July of 2016 after battling Leukemia.
6. Larry Sanders, 2016-2017
One season after winning the NBA championship, the Cavs needed serious help on the defensive side to make it back to the Finals, let alone compete with a Golden State team that had just added Kevin Durant. Cleveland signed Sanders in March, as the former NBA block leader had returned to the game after a one-year hiatus. Sanders was the 15th overall pick in 2010, and proved to be a very good rim protector.
After multiple suspensions for marijuana use, Sanders stepped away from the NBA for mental health reasons. The Cavaliers experiment with him lasted only a month, in which he appeared in five games, making very little impact. His issues reportedly still plagued him, and the team moved on. Sanders, now 31, has not played a game since.
5. Smush Parker, 2002-2003
Parker is best known for being one of Kobe Bryant’s teammates in the early post-Shaq years for the Los Angeles Lakers, but he started out with the Cavs. Parker went undrafted in 2002 but started 18 games for Cleveland, averaging 6.2 points in 16.7 minutes per night. Parker would go on to clash often with Bryant, but he’ll always have started out as one of the players who made the Cavaliers bad enough to land the first overall pick in 2003, and thus, LeBron James.
4. Earl Boykins, 1998-1999
One of the shortest players in NBA history at 5’8″, Boykins managed to carve out a very solid career for himself. He played 13 seasons in the league, in addition to one year in Italy. Born in Cleveland, Boykins spent 17 games of his rookie season with the Cavs, averaging 2.6 points and 1.6 assists in 10.0 minutes.
He played three-and-a-half seasons with the Denver Nuggets, where he became the shortest player to score 30 points in a game. Boykins scored 10 or more points in four consecutive seasons, and eventually retired in 2012.
3. Kevin Johnson, 1987-1988
The Cavs made Johnson the seventh overall pick in 1987, which ended up being an excellent choice. However, Johnson didn’t play much in his 52 games with the team. averaging 7.3 points and 3.7 assists in 20.1 minutes while backing up Mark Price.
At the trade deadline, Cleveland decided to move on from Johnson, sending him to the Phoenix Suns for a package which included Larry Nance; a move that worked out for both sides. Johnson would go on to make three All-Star teams with the Suns and scored 15 or more points per game for nine consecutive seasons. He retired in 2000 and served as the mayor of Sacramento, California from 2008-2016.
2. Seth Curry, 2013-2014
If you watched any coverage of the NBA Finals from 2015-2018, you probably know that Steph Curry’s father, Dell, played for the Cavs in 1987-1988 and that Steph was born in Akron. But before the Cavs-Warriors rivalry began, the younger Curry played for Cleveland.
He was signed to a 10-day contract in 2013-2014, appearing in one game, playing nine minutes and nailing his only three-point attempt. Curry would go on to play for the Suns, Kings, and Trail Blazers, but seems to have found a home with the Dallas Mavericks, and has become an excellent three-point shooter, although not as good as his older brother.
1. Walt “Clyde” Frazier, 1977-1980
A New York legend, Frazier spent 10 seasons with the Knicks, winning two NBA titles and making seven All-Star teams, seven All-Defensive teams, and six All-NBA teams. The Knicks traded him to the Cavs prior to the 1977-1978 season, a move that sparked plenty of outrage.
Frazier’s time in Cleveland didn’t go so well, as he played in a total of 66 games, and retired after the team waived him halfway through the 1979-1980 campaign. He did average a decent 16.2 points per game in his first year with the Cavs, as the squad made the playoffs for just the third time in their history, and their last appearance for seven years.