Who is the best professional player to play on the most professional teams?

I know great players who begin to age out and falter in ability tend to be thrown to various differentteams until retirement, so I’m curious what is someone who’s considered Top 50 of all time who also was on the most sports teams?

Great players who also we’re on a bunch of different teams early on can also count. Which MVP player has literally worn the most hats?

The Baseball Hall of Fame has a list of Hall of Famers who played for seven or more teams; Dan Brouthers played for the most teams (11), but Rickey Henderson (in a three-way tie for second, having played for 9 teams) is the best player on the list if you go by career Wins Above Replacement, where he’s 19th all-time and the only one in the top 50.

For the most part these aren’t as extreme as the above players, but without doing any research the names that jump out at me are:

-Wayne Gretzky, pretty much undisputed as the greatest hockey player of all time, played on four teams. That might not seem like that many, but the fact that the undisputed greatest player of all time even played for more than one team is a bit unusual.
-Jaromir Jagr, a very very good hockey player, played on nine teams, about a third of the league. This is mostly due to his extreme longevity - he’s still playing hockey in the Czech league at 48.
-Shaq played on six teams, again mostly due to hanging on well past his prime.
-Vince Carter played on eight teams, mostly because he was willing to settle into an elder statesman role once his prime was over.

Rickey Henderson was the first player I thought of.

I’d forgotten Gaylord Perry played on so many teams. Perry is remembered for being an alleged spitball pitcher and having a funny name but he was REALLY great. Perry in 1972 had about a great a season as you could ask, and won 24 games for a team that didn’t even score three runs a game, which is amazing. By my count he took TEN tough losses but did not get a single cheap win all year.

Feels like we should mention Deion Sanders.

Jaromir Jagr actually played on 9 teams in the NHL; if you count his time in other professional leagues like the KHL and Czech league, he has played on 11 different teams.

My first thought was Rickey as well.

Let’s go a step further, and mention that he played for 5 NFL teams and 4 MLB teams.

Morton Andersen, a Hall of Fame placekicker, played for five different teams (Saints, Falcons, Giants, Chiefs, Vikings).

After Rickey, borderline Hall of Famer (68.4 bWAR) Kenny Lofton is the first who comes to mind. He played for 11 teams, including 10 seasons in Cleveland. Lofton was an elite centerfielder who slashed .299/.372/.423 and finished with 622 steals (15th all-time.) He fell off the HoF ballot in 2013 garnering less than 5% of the vote, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him make it in via committee.

Not exactly the same thing but, in cricket, international players will play at club, state and national level. With the advent of 20 over cricket elite players can play in competitions all over the world, following the seasons. Kevin Pietersen has listed on his Cricinfo profile 16 major teams that he played for.

Pakistani allrounder Mohammad Hafeez has 42 listed on his and is still playing. In fact he played for Pakistan yesterday.

In the pro Football (American) it’s definitely Doug Flutie with 9 teams

I don’t know how “best” Flutie was. He did once drop-kick a PAT, which was pretty cool.

[quote=“BlankSlate, post:9, topic:924960, full:true”]
After Rickey, borderline Hall of Famer (68.4 bWAR) Kenny Lofton is the first who comes to mind. He played for 11 teams, including 10 seasons in Cleveland. Lofton was an elite centerfielder who slashed .299/.372/.423 and finished with 622 steals (15th all-time.) He fell off the HoF ballot in 2013 garnering less than 5% of the vote, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him make it in via committee.[/QUOTE}
Kenny has to hold some sort of record for playing for the most teams but also playing for one team for ten years.

Lofton didn’t get to be a regular major leaguer until he was 25; that probably cost him the Hall of Fame.

Valentino Rossi has raced for about 10 different teams, depending on how nit-picky you are about counting them.

I thought soccer was going to provide some winning candidates here, but having done a bit of research, I’m not so sure. Christian Vieri and Andy Cole are both fondly remembered by fans of the major clubs they played for, 20 years after their prime, but I wouldn’t say either makes the top 50 all-time list. They both racked up 13 clubs in their careers. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is also probably not quite top 50 material and has (currently) played for only 8 clubs. Fat Ronaldo is probably top 50 but only 7 clubs.

Brazilian Rivaldo is probably the best shout with 15 clubs, is he top 50 all-time? I’m not sure, it’s not out of the question but in soccer these things get pretty subjective, especially when you are talking about the difference between 50th and 51st. We don’t have a convenient if flawed stat like WAR to work with :slight_smile:.

Jim Thorpe played for 6 NFL teams back in its infancy.

Among players that played after the 1930s who could be argued to be top 50, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens* and the aforementioned Deion Sanders all played for 5 teams.

*USA Today had an all-time list I can’t find right this moment with Owens at 52 and everyone else I named in the top 50.

Zlatan’s the one I thought of when I clicked this thread. Wikipedia has him at 9 clubs, that’s pretty high. Romario played for 11.

Of players that are probably in the top 10 all time, Cruijff played for 7 teams.

Tulio played for 35 teams. I’d never heard of him, but he’s apparently the #9 goal scorer of all time, albeit mostly for shit teams in Brazil.

My sport is baseball but I believe what I’m about to say is true of all sports.

Keeganst94 said Gretzky having played for four teams, being one of the greatest ever, was unusual. I don’t think so, not these days.

You have free agency which makes it easier to switch teams plus the fact that half the teams cannot afford to keep a player once they hit free agency. If it had existed earlier, many great players would not have played for one team their whole career. It seems only the rich teams like Red Sox, Dodgers and Yankees can and have had many players play their whole careers with them.

I think too that teams are more willing to trade even good players these days. Josh Donaldson is already on his fifth team, having been traded twice. Even Yadier Molina may not play for the Cardinals anymore. It’s just the new nature of sports, trade a guy for getting something better or even short term to insure a playoff spot this year (Henderson is a good example) or get some value in return because they are close to free agency.

The unusual thing to me is a guy playing his career with one team. I’m thinking Cal Ripken. He was really good the first half of his career. But seems to me after 1993-94 the Orioles would have been better off trading him. I think the main reason they didn’t is because he was so beloved in Baltimore not to mention breaking the streak in an O’s uniform.

I got curious and googled “top 50 footballers” - here are 3 differing lists. Romario appears on all of them - Rivaldo scrapes in at #50 on the last one and doesn’t make the other 2. I’m not going to go through and check how many clubs all of them have played for.

As I alluded to earlier, it’s interesting to see the differences between the lists, though they tend to converge more and more the closer you get to the top 10.

Agree completely. The business of top level sport is so different now that comparisons to even 1980s players’ careers are fatally flawed.

I too am more familiar with MLB than other sports, but in many ways, the business of the teams is not playing games; it’s player development. The profit comes not from the gate nor the TV revenue. The profit comes from getting a promising player for cheap, growing them to be valuable, then selling them on to another team.

Back in the day, a World Series winning team would be reliably formidable the next year. Now, many of them sell off a big chunk of the winning squad at temporarily inflated prices and field a bunch of comparative noobs next year. Why? Money.

Another thought unrelated to the above:
As to the whole thread … When comparing players across sports or across time, we should bear in mind the number of teams in the relevant league. Playing on 6 of 12 teams in a league is a very different accomplishment versus playing on 6 of 36 teams in a different league.

In one sense they’re similar, because each represents 5 trades and given the relatively short careers of most athletes, there’s only so many trading opportunities. At the same time, covering half the teams of a small league will be an example of a bigger fish in a smaller pond vs 15% of the teams in a much larger league.