Play on a team long enough and you form bonds for life. It’s almost impossible not to, since you spend so much time with your teammates in close quarters, from buses to cramped airplanes to low-budget hotels. These bonds can be beneficial. Your relationship off the field can translate to fruitful collaboration on it. Or, they can be detrimental, when the team’s success slips through the cracks. Eventually, all dynamic duos in sports come to an end, and how the split is handled depends largely on the strength of those bonds. Here are seven superb teammate combos that broke up and the impact each left behind on the players, teams and fans.
Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera
All photos: AP Images
Miggy and Prince spent just two short seasons together, but they became total BFFs. With Fielder batting in front of him, Cabrera posted some of the best numbers of his career, winning both the batting Triple Crown and the American League MVP in 2012. Fielder’s numbers weren’t too shabby either, as he racked up 100-plus RBIs in each season he wore a Tigers jersey. The two propelled Detroit to a World Series appearance in 2012 and appeared in the ALCS the following season
But as someone famous once said, all good things must come to an end. Fielder was shipped off in a trade to Texas following the 2013 season. Cabrera was quick to express his condolences on Twitter, posting and retweeting photos of himself and his partner in crime before writing (translated from Spanish): “Remembering a good friend, wish you all the success in the world with your new team. To remember is to live . . . What unforgettable moments, my brother.” Here’s hoping the two boppers have remained pen pals.
Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley
Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley were closer than most biological brothers. After forcing a trade out of Vancouver when he was drafted in 1999, Francis wound up in Houston where he gravitated to Mobley, who was in his second year. The two teammates soon wound up doing everything together, whether on the court playing basketball and off the court playing putt-putt golf. In 2004, they were traded to Orlando as a package.
Unfortunately, in the middle of the following season, Mobley was shipped to Sacramento, which left both men with tears in their eyes and both furious. Francis announced he would start wearing a suit to games, because “this is obviously just a business.” In Sac Town, Mobley began wearing No. 3, the number Francis had worn his whole career. Bros before basketball, apparently.
Chris Bosh and LeBron James
Chris Bosh and LeBron James enjoyed four productive years together. After jettisoning their respective teams in 2010 to join Dwyane Wade in Miami, they appeared in four-straight NBA Finals together, nabbing two championship rings. Then, in 2014, James left to go back to Cleveland and play for the team that drafted him. Bosh has apparently taken his departure pretty hard. He told ESPN that he hadn’t spoken with James since James left Miami, and when asked if he was excited to see his former teammate during their pre-season game in Brazil he responded by saying, “I don’t know.” He also seemed a bit cranky about sacrificing shots and points to, ya know, win multiple rings. It sort of sounds like a scorned lover situation. Like if Bosh saw James at a restaurant, he’d ignore him but then text him later, like “Hey, you looked like you’re doing well.”
Watch LeBron lead his new teammates through a workout on the beach.
Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio
Not only were Bagwell and Biggio saddled with last names beginning with the same letter, prompting fun nicknames like the “Killer Bs,” but they also anchored the Houston Astros lineup for almost two decades. Biggio—who played catcher, second base and centerfield—and Bagwell—who played first base—became close during their extended careers in Houston. Though Bagwell retired at the end of the 2006 season, he remained with the team as an assistant to the general manager, presumably because he would have missed Biggio too much to leave. On June 27, 2007, Biggio notched his 3,000th hit, and during the ensuing celebration, he strolled into the dugout and pulled Bagwell out onto the field to join him. The Killer Bs will be best buds for life.
Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal
You would think winning three-straight NBA championships with someone would be the ultimate remedy to a relationship problem. But with former Los Angeles Lakers teammates Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, it seems that even reaching the pinnacle of basketball championship glory could not make the two stars like each other. The two joined forces in 1996 and led the Lakers to a threepeat, dominating the NBA from 2000-2002. But following the 2004 season, in which the Lakers lost in the NBA Finals to the Detroit Pistons, Shaq was shipped off to Miami, and it became clear how deep their animosity was.
“A lot of people think you have to have a relationship to play together and win championships,” Shaq told USA Today in 2004. “That’s not true at all and it was evident.”
Their frosty attitude extended to the court, where, in what may be the defining play of their time together in L.A. , Shaq completely ignored Bryant’s attempt for a high five. Not cool Shaq!
As Kobe’s role in the Lakers’ offense grew, Shaq grew increasingly frustrated with his perceived lack of touches, ultimately leading to his trade to Miami. The war of words between the two never stopped, with O’Neal maintaining that Bryant was selfish on the court and Bryant questioning O’Neal’s leadership skills and commitment to the team. A sad ending to a great run of basketball.
Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash
When they joined forces in Dallas in 1998, Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki, the catalysts for what would become a prolific offense, also became extremely close off the court. The Mavericks won 60 games during the 2002-2003 NBA season, the peak of Nash and Nowitzki’s time together, though Dallas lost to the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals that season. At the end of the following season, Nash was a free agent, and Mavs owner Mark Cuban decided not to re-sign Nash to an extended contract. Nash bolted for Phoenix.
The two men have remained close friends since Nash’s departure, though it’s clear they wish they could have played their entire careers together and taken a few more shots at a championship. In a recent video for Grantland, Nash and Nowitzki sat down for dinner and reminisced about their careers. It’s obvious how much staying together with the Mavericks and grabbing a ring would have meant to them. Nowitzki finally got one of his own in 2011, but Nash, now 40 years old, remains ringless.
RELATED: The Steve Nash Dribbling Drill
Tom Brady and Wes Welker
“Tom Brady to Wes Welker” was one of the most common phrases in football from 2007 to 2012, when the two New England Patriots hooked up for 672 receptions, 7,459 yards and 37 touchdowns. But when Welker hit free agency at the end of the 2012 season, the Pats seemed reluctant to re-sign him, and Brady’s favorite target joined Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. Neither appeared happy about the move.
“Its a tough, competitive business,” Brady told WEEI sports radio in Boston. “We always kind of kept in touch, we always will. He’s one of my best friends.”
Welker shared in his former quarterback’s frustration. “[Brady] was upset about it, and part of me was a little upset about it too,” Welker told Yahoo! Sports. “It’s a bummer, but I think he understands it and I understand it.”
Welker has been successful in Denver, but tearing apart one of the best quarterback-receiver duos of all time, guys who also happen to be good friends, was a tragedy in itself. What were the Patriots managers thinking?