Ten Chicago Athletes that Returned Late in their Careers

Lebron James is not the first athlete to return to a franchise later in his career. Many Chicago athletes that left Chicago returned to the Windy City later in their careers. Most of these players returned on the downside of their careers.

The return of a once successful and popular athlete to where they once thrived can be praised in sports. Living up to the expectations of their previous success can be tough. Usually in the twilight of their careers, these players are frequently not what they used to be. Some return and contribute, while it can be argued that others return for merely publicity or as others have suggested "as a mascot".

Scottie Pippen

Pippen exit was controversial as Jerry Kraus and the Bulls front office were keen on rebuilding the Bulls from the bottom up.

Kraus shipped him to Houston for Roy Rodgers and a 2000 second round draft pick. Pippen was brought to Chicago in one of the greatest trades in NBA history. The Bulls selected Olden Polynice in the 1987 NBA draft then shipped him to Seattle with a second round draft pick with the rights to Pippen for two 1989 first round picks (B.J. Armstong and Jeff Sanders).

Pippen finished his Bulls career second in 15 categories, 14 of those to Michael Jordan.

Pippen second stint with the Bulls was a disappointment. He averaged 5.9 PPG in 23 games, six starts before the Bulls released him in November 2004.

Nikolai Khabibulin's return to the Blackhawks was short lived after suffering a season ending shoulder injury. Kirk Hinrich, Harold Baines and Scottie Pippen are some examples of players that have left Chicago to return later in their careers.  Here is a look at ten prominent Chicago athletes that once played in Chicago only to leave and then return at the end of their careers.

Nikolai Khabibulin

The Hawks' Marian Hossa slides the puck past Oilers goalie Nikolai Khabibulin to score the 3-2 goal during overtime. (Nuccio DiNuzzo / Chicago Tribune / February 25, 2013)

The Hawks' Marian Hossa slides the puck past Oilers goalie Nikolai Khabibulin to score the 3-2 goal during overtime. (Nuccio DiNuzzo / Chicago Tribune / February 25, 2013)

The Bulin Wall returned to Chicago after a four year exile in Edmonton. Khabibulin played four seasons for the Blackhawks between 2005-09. He came to Chicago after winning a Stanley Cup in Tampa in 2004. He then left for Edmonton following the 2009 season, He missed winning another Stanley Cup by one season.

The Blackhawks only playoff appearance came in Khabibulin's final season, 2009. He went 8-6 with a 2.93 Goals Against Average and .898 save percentage in 15 playoff games that season. The Blachhawks advanced to the Western Conference Finals where they were eliminated in five games. It was their first playoff appearance in seven years and just their second in 12 seasons.

Khabibulin split time in the regular season with Christobal Huet, but was the main goaltender in the playoffs. In five seasons with the Blackhawks, Khabibulin is 91-80-25 with a .902 save percentage and a 2.84 goals against average.

His return was short lived when he suffered a torn rotator cuff that ended his season. Khabulin's return season ended in a dissapointing 1-0-1 record with a .811 save percentage with a 5.00 GAA.

Kirk Hinrich

Hinrich spent his first five seasons in Chicago before the Bulls traded him during the 2010 NBA Draft. He is the franchise's all time leader in three point field goals made and attempted and third in steals behind Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.

In the two seasons he's been back in Chicago his averages are down significantly from his first stint. With Derrick Rose out for the majority of the games in the last two seasons, Hinrich has been an extremely important part of Tom Thibodeau's rotation.

Ferguson Jenkins

Jenkins had six straight 20 win seasons between 1967-72. He returned to Chicago for the 1981 season after two stints with Texas and a pair of seasons with the Red Sox.

In his final two seasons in Chicago Jenkins finished 20-24 with a 3.42 ERA and five complete games. In ten seasons overall with the Cubs, Jenkins won 167 games, had a 3.20 ERA with 29 shutouts and 154 complete games.

Greg Maddux

Maddux was brought up by the Cubs just six years after Jenkins returned. His first two seasons with uneventful with an 8-18 record and a  5.68 ERA.

He broke out in his third season in 1988. Maddux finished 18-8 with a 3,18 era and nine complete games. This began a remarkable streak of 19 consecutive seasons of at least 13 victories. He led the Cubs to the playoffs in 1989 and won his first Cy Young in 1992.

Maddux returned to the Cubs for the 2004 season. He finished 16-11 with a 4.02 ERA in his first season back at the friendly confines. He won 38 games in three seasons in his return. The Cubs traded Maddux to the Dodgers at the 2006 trade deadline to Los Angeles for Cesar Izturis.

Artis Gilmore

Gilmore came to the Bulls from the dispersal draft of the Kentucky Colonels of the ABA. He had a great first run with the Bulls. As a Bull, the A-Train averaged 19.3 PPG, 11.1 RPG and shot 58.7 percent from the floor. His return season in 1987-88 lasted only 24 games. Gilmore averaged just 4.2 PPG and 2.0 RPG.

After the Bulls cut him, Gilmore signed with the Celtics and he finished his career with them that season,

Brad Miller

Miller's first stint with the Bulls lasted a year and a half after he signed as a free agent in 2000. He was a key performer for the Bulls starting 92 of 107 games. He was part of the Ron Artest trade at the 2002 trade deadline to Indiana.

He returned six years later at the 2009 trade deadline. He did not start the rest of that season. He played in all 82 games in the 2009-10 season, starting 37 of them. In four total seasons with the Bulls, Miller averaged 10.0 PPG, 6.6 RPG, and shot 78.4 percent from the line. He played in the 2009 and 2010 playoffs with the Bulls, averaging 8.3 PPG, 6.1 RPG and shot 45.5 percent on his threes.

Scott Podsednik

Scotty Pods was acquired by the White Sox in a December 2004 trade that moved slugger Carlos Lee to Milwaukee. Podsednik came to the White Sox a season after leading the National League with 70 stolen bases.

He helped the White Sox get off to a fast start with 44 stolen bases and a .294 batting average in the first half of the season. He would finish hitting the season hitting .290 with 59 stolen bases.

In the post season, Pods hit .286 with two homeruns, six rbis and six stolen bases. The two homeruns were amazing, considering he did not hit one during the season. The most memorable came in game two of the World Series when Podsednik hit one out in the bottom of thto put the White Sox up two game to none.

Podsednik stayed through the 2007 season. He mostly struggled, hitting just .261 and .243 the next two years. After stealing 40 bases in 2006 and 12 in 2007. The 12 sbs were the lowest of his career when he played a full season.

He returned to Chicago for the 2009 season. He had arguably his best season on the southside that year. Pods hit .304 with seven homeruns and 48 rbis with 30 stolen bases. He signed with Kansas City that offseason.

Minnie Minoso

Minoso had five stints with the White Sox between 1951 and 1980. The last two were Bill Veeck gimmicks. He was a five time all-star and led the league numerous times in multiple categories. After leaving for Cleveland for the 1958 and '59 ( missing the American League Championship season) he returned in 1960.

He stayed through the 1961 season and then returned again in 1964 before retiring. He had two more stints with the White Sox in 1976 and 1980. Former White Sox owner Bill Veeck had Minoso return for the final time in 1980 to become to the first player to appear in five different decades.

In 12 seasons with the White Sox, Minoso hit .304 with 135 homeruns, 808 rbi's and 171 stolen bases.

Harold Baines

Like Minoso, the White Sox couldn't keep Baines away. He had three stints with the White Sox. He was their best player in the 1980s. Baines was traded away at the 1989 trade deadline for Sammy Sosa among others.

He returned for the 1996 season and hit .311 with 22 home runs and 95 rbis. He was hitting .305 with 12 homeruns and 52 rbis at the 1997 trade deadline when the White Sox moved him again.

Baines returned for his third and final time for parts of the 2000 and 2001 seasons with limited success. He is currently in his 11th season as a White Sox coach. He was the bench coach for the 2005 World Championship.

Baines hit .288 with 221 homeruns and 981 rbis in 14 seasons with the White Sox.
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