Many of the greatest players in NBA history make their mark for one specific NBA franchise. Some have done quality work for two. Players such as Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Larry Bird fit in the first category.
Players such as Shaquille O’Neal and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the second. Very few players have standout, meaningful impacts on three different franchises. LeBron James may end up in that category, where he will join Jason Kidd.
Kidd, a Bay Area native, attended the University of California before being drafted by the Dallas Mavericks in the 1994 NBA Draft. He played just over two seasons with the Mavericks, part a promising young core that never developed. He was traded as part of a blockbuster package to the Suns in December of 1996.
Kidd played just under five seasons in Phoenix, establishing himself as one of the best point guards in the entire league. The flashy passer never averaged fewer than nine assists per game with the Suns. Three times he led the league in that category. The Suns were a better team when he was on the court, giving him standout numbers in most on/off metrics during his tenure.
Kidd made the NBA All-Star team three times while with the Suns, the exception being the lockout-shortened 1998-99 year. He was also an All-NBA First Team player three times as well. This acknowledged his standing at the point guard position league-wide.
The problem with Kidd’s tenure in Phoenix was that he could never get the Suns to become a true contender. While he was there, they made it out of the first round only once, and never made it to the Western Conference Finals.
The Suns tried a variety of backcourt combinations with Kidd, including a young Steve Nash and a veteran Penny Hardaway, but eventually decided to try a fresh look. In June 2001, the team traded Kidd to the then-New Jersey Nets as part of a package that saw Stephon Marbury join the Suns.
In 309 games with the Suns, Kidd averaged 14.4 points and 9.7 assists per game, totaling 37.5 win shares for the franchise. He went on to lead the Nets to the NBA Finals twice, later returning to the Mavericks to help them win a title. Phoenix would eventually move on from Marbury as well, ultimately to find the point guard they were looking for was one they had already had years before.