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Ish Smith on the verge of breaking unique NBA record

Wednesday’s trade sets up the veteran guard to make history for a very special reason.

New York Knicks v Washington Wizards
Veteran point guard Ish Smith has played for the Washington Wizards over two stints in his career.
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

On Wednesday morning the Washington Wizards traded Ish Smith to the Denver Nuggets, putting the veteran point guard on the verge of etching his name into NBA lore for a very unique reason.

The first time Smith enters a game for the Nuggets, he will break a five-way tie with Chucky Brown, Jim Jackson, Tony Massenburg and Joe Smith to become the sole holder of an NBA record he has spent his entire career chasing.

Smith signed with the Houston Rockets after going undrafted in the 2010 NBA Draft, but he was not long in H-town. After a 28-game stint in Houston that included several assignments in the D-League with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, Smith was shipped to the Memphis Grizzlies at the trade deadline.

Smith would play just 15 games in Memphis before being waived in December of 2011. The Golden State Warriors picked Smith up two days after he was waived, but he lasted only six games in the Bay.

After being waived by the Warriors, Smith signed with the Orlando Magic, where he would find the first semblance of stability in his then-burgeoning career. Smith lasted the rest of the 2011-12 season in Orlando and even re-signed in the summer to stay with the Magic for the 2012-13 season.

Smith’s 56-game tenure with the Magic was his longest up to that point in his career, but he was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks at the 2013 trade deadline. Smith played out the remainder of the 2012-13 season in Milwaukee before the Bucks sent him to the Phoenix Suns in the summer.

In Phoenix, Smith played an entire season with one team for the first time in his career but was waived after the 2013-14 season. After being let go by the Suns, Smith entered the most tumultuous period of his whirlwind of a career.

Over the next two seasons, Smith would play for four teams — 30 games for the Oklahoma City Thunder, 27 games for the New Orleans Pelicans and 75 games for the Philadelphia 76ers over two stints.

Smith’s 50-game second stint in Philadelphia would be the most successful stop of his entire career. He averaged career-highs in points (14.7), rebounds (4.3), assists (7.0) and steals (1.3) while starting all 50 games to finally earn himself a semi-permanent spot on a team, albeit not on the Sixers.

In the summer of 2016 Smith signed with the Detroit Pistons, where he would finally stay with one team for longer than 70 games. In fact, Smith spent three full seasons with the Pistons and played 219 games, more than tripling his longest stay with any team.

After a comfortable stint in Detroit, Smith hit the road once more and signed with the Washington Wizards, with whom he spent a relatively long time — 112 games.

In the summer of 2021, Smith headed 400 miles south to sign with his hometown Charlotte Hornets. Smith had a big first game with the Hornets — he dropped 14 points and dished five assists in the game that would enter him into the five-way tie for the record he had spent his entire career up to that point chasing.

Before he could break the record, however, Smith was sent back to Washington at the 2022 trade deadline, where he would play out the remainder of the season.

Wednesday’s trade to the Nuggets means that Smith needs to play just one game to claim sole ownership of the record his career was built to break.

Have you figured out what the record is yet?

When Ish Smith plays his first game in Denver, he will have played at least one game for 13 different NBA franchises — a total no player in NBA history has reached.

Smith’s second stops in Philadelphia and Washington are excluded from the count, as those were not unique teams for the newly-crowned king of the journeymen.

Ish Smith’s ability to stay in the league despite constantly bouncing around is incredibly unique. The total number of franchises Smith has played for trumps the number of years he has played in the league, a truly remarkable statistic considering players such as Dirk Nowitzki and Kobe Bryant played upwards of 20 seasons for just one single team.

As the 33-year-old’s career begins to wind down, only time will tell how many teams are ultimately graced with Ish Smith’s talents.