Some players stay, some don’t. It’s just the nature of the beast. Often times, it’s hard to say goodbye to players who have been playing for your favorite team when it comes time to do so. Some players who have left Detroit really burrowed themselves into the hearts of fans before leaving, whether they left via trade, free agency, or retirement. Here are the top ten most heartbreaking departures that Detroit has seen in the 2000’s.
Tigers right fielder Magglio Ordonez
Career stats in Detroit (2005-2011): 847 games, .312 average, 107 home runs, 533 RBIs
After years of terrorizing the Tigers in a Chicago White Sox jersey, Ordonez signed a five-year $75 million contract with Detroit in February of 2005. Magglio won a batting title with the Tigers in 2007, when he hit a career high .363 with 28 homers and 139 RBIs. After fracturing his ankle in April of 2010, Ordonez was never able to regain his touch. He fractured the ankle again during the 2011 ALCS, which led then-general manager Dave Dombrowski to let him hit the open market. He never signed with another team, and Ordonez officially retired on June 3, 2012.
Lions defensive end Robert Porcher
Career stats in Detroit (1992-2003): 187 games, 429 tackles, 95.5 sacks, 18 forced fumbles
Selected by the Lions in the first round of the 1992 draft out of South Carolina State University, Porcher went on to play in 187 games, third most in team history. He led the Lions in sacks in eight different seasons, and became the first player in Lions history to record double-digit sacks in four consecutive seasons, from 1996-1999. He played in the Pro Bowl in 1998, 2000, and 2002. The Lions yearly “Man of the Year” award is named in Porcher’s honor, known as the “Robert Porcher Man of the Year” award, as a tribute to his outstanding contributions to the community. Porcher retired on November 1, 2004.
Red Wings forward Darren McCarty
Career stats in Detroit (1994-2004, 2007-2009): 659 games, 120 goals, 155 assists, 275 points, 1,302 penalty minutes
A consummate fan favorite during his time with the Red Wings, McCarty will forever have a place in Detroit sports history for his role in the infamous “Brawl in Hockeytown”. His beat down of Claude Lemieux is still something that is referenced today. A physical player by nature, McCarty topped 100 penalty minutes in a season seven times while playing for the Red Wings. After 11 seasons in Detroit, the Red Wings bought out the remainder of McCarty’s contract in July of 2005, leading him to sign with the Calgary Flames. After two years in Calgary, McCarty attempted to come back in the Red Wings organization. He started with the Flint Generals of the now defunct IHL, worked his way up to the Grand Rapids Griffins, and eventually found himself in Detroit again. He played 33 games (17 playoff games in 2007-08) with the Red Wings in his second stint with the team before ultimately retiring on December 7, 2009. He won two Stanley Cups with Detroit, scoring the game winning goal in Game 4 of their 1997 sweep of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Pistons center Ben Wallace
Career stats in Detroit (2000-2006, 2009-2011): 655 games, 47.7% field goal percentage, 7,264 rebounds, 1,486 blocks
Originally an undrafted free agent, Wallace began his NBA career with the Washington Bullets. After four years in the NBA, “Big Ben” found his way to Detroit via trade with the Orlando Magic. Wallace went on to win two Defensive Player of the Year awards (2001-02, 2002-03), an NBA Championship (2004), and another trip to the finals in 2005. Upon the conclusion of the 2005-06 season, Wallace tested free agency and ultimately signed with the Chicago Bulls. Prior to the 2009 season, he found his way back to Detroit, where he spent the final three years of his playing career. During the 2010 season, Wallace became just the 34th player in league history to secure 10,000 career rebounds, as well as the 95th player to play in 1,000 career games. In February of 2012, he played in his 1,055th game, passing the record held by Avery Johnson for most games played by an undrafted player. He retired after the 2011-12 season, and his number three jersey was retired by the Pistons on January 16, 2016.
Tigers center fielder Curtis Granderson
Career stats in Detroit (2004-2009): 674 games, .272 average, 102 home runs, 299 RBIs, 67 stolen bases
Fans generally develop a rather large fondness of their team’s center fielder. Curtis Granderson definitely fit that bill. A 2002 third round draft pick of the Tigers, Granderson made his MLB debut with the Tigers in 2004, and became a full-time fixture in the lineup in 2006. Though he struck out more than you’d like to see out of a lead-off hitter, his speed made him a nightmare for opposing pitchers. He led the American League with 23 triples in 2007, and again with 13 triples in 2008. His highlight reel defensive plays were also a staple in his game. Granderson’s best season with the Tigers was in 2007, when he batted .302 with 23 home runs and 74 RBIs, as well as 26 steals while only being thrown out once. He was the center piece of the trade that brought Max Scherzer and Austin Jackson to Detroit, while Granderson landed with the New York Yankees. Granderson is currently patrolling center field for the New York Mets.
Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh
Career stats in Detroit (2010-2014): 78 games, 181 tackles, 42 sacks, 20 pass deflections
The Lions first round pick in 2010 (second overall), Suh was a big time play maker during his five years in Detroit. In his rookie season, he led all NFL rookies with 10 sacks, when he was also named as the Rookie of the Year by the Sporting News and the Pro Football Writers of America. No stranger to controversy, Suh found himself in the headlines for the wrong reason on a few occasions. He was fined a total of $27,500 during his rookie season, and has since been suspended a total of three games and lost more than $165,000 in-game wages and fines. Outside of the lapses in judgement, Suh’s presence on the defensive line was intimidating. He anchored a defense in 2014 that only allowed 18 points per game, the third best mark in the league. After the 2014 season, Suh opted to take a massive pay-day with the Miami Dolphins, when he signed a six-year $114 million contract. He is still playing with the Dolphins.
Pistons point guard Chauncey Billups
Career stats in Detroit (2002-2008, 2013): 482 games, 42.2% field goal percentage, 39.7% three point percentage, 89.2% free throw percentage, 2,984 assists, 495 steals.
Originally drafted by the Boston Celtics in the first round (third overall) of the 1997 NBA draft, Billups found his way to Detroit via free agency on July 17, 2002, on a six-year $35 million contract. During his first season in Detroit, he earned the nickname “Mr. Big Shot” as a result of his clutch shooting ability. In 2004, when the Pistons defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 4-1 in the NBA Finals, Billups was named as the Finals MVP, as he averaged 21 points and five assists while shooting 50.1% from the floor in the five games. After signing a four-year $46 million extension with Detroit in 2007, Billups was traded with Antonio McDyess to the Denver Nuggets two games into the 2008 season for Allen Iverson, in a move that signified the beginning of a rebuild for the Pistons. Billups would return to Detroit for the 2013 season, but was not the same player. Chronic knee problems forced him to miss the majority of the season, and set career low averages in many statistical categories. He officially retired from the NBA on September 9, 2014, and had his number retired by the Pistons on February 10, 2016.
Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom
Career stats in Detroit (1991-2012): 1,564 games, 264 goals, 878 assists, 1,142 points, 514 penalty minutes
One of the best defenseman in the history of the NHL, Lidstrom played all 20 seasons of his career with the Red Wings. Originally a third round pick of the Red Wings in the 1989 NHL draft, Lidstrom quickly made his presence felt. He scored 11 goals and 60 points in his rookie season of 1991-92. Over the course of his 20 year career, Lidstrom won four Stanley Cups, seven Norris Trophies (top defenseman in the NHL), one Conn Smythe Trophy (playoff MVP), and was voted into 12 All-Star Games. He never missed the playoffs during his career. On December 15, 2010, Lidstrom became the older player in NHL history to score a hat trick in a game, at age 40. On October 22, 2011, Lidstrom became the 14th player in NHL history to play in 1,500 career games. Upon Steve Yzerman‘s retirement following the 2005-06 season, Lidstrom was named as the team’s captain, the 38th captain in team history. He served as captain from 2006-2012. Lidstrom announced his retirement from the NHL on May 31st, 2012. His number was retired by the Red Wings on March 6, 2014.
Red Wings center Steve Yzerman
Career stats in Detroit (1983-2006): 1,514 games, 692 goals, 1,063 assists, 1,755 points
Known as “The Captain” by Red Wings fans, Yzerman was a truly unique talent. Selected by the Red Wings with their first pick (fourth overall) of the 1983 NHL draft, Yzerman wasted no time making a name for himself. After scoring 39 goals and 87 points in his rookie season, he quickly put the league on notice. He played his entire NHL career with the Red Wings, winning the Lester B. Pearson Award (most outstanding player) in the 1988-89 season, the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1998, the Selke Trophy (best defensive forward) in 2000, and the Bill Masterson Trophy (perseverance) in 2003. He was named to 10 All-Star teams. When Yzerman retired on July 3, 2006, he finished his career ranked as the sixth highest scoring player in the history of the NHL. His number was retired by the Red Wings on January 2, 2007. Yzerman was inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame in 2008, and was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009. Yzerman is currently the general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson
Career stats in Detroit (2007-2015): 135 games, 731 catches, 11,619 yards, 83 touchdowns.
Say it ain’t so, Calvin! Johnson’s shocking retirement on March 8, 2016 left fans in shock. The Lions first round pick (second overall) of the 2007 NFL draft called it quits after nine seasons. Although many fans were frustrated with the decision, most (but not all) have recovered enough to bask on the glory of an amazing NFL career. His 731 catches and 11,619 receiving yards are the most in team history, while his 1,964 receiving yards during the 2011-12 season are the most in a single season in the history of the NFL. He has a laundry list of accomplishments throughout his nine-year career:
- Most receiving yards in a season (1,964)
- First player to score two touchdowns in each of the first four games to start a season (2011)
- Seasons with 1,600 receiving yards (2)
- Most consecutive games with at least 100 receiving yards (8)
- Most consecutive games with at least 10 receptions (4)
- Most 100 receiving yard games in a single season (11)
- Fastest to 10,000 receiving yards (115 games)
- Fastest to 11,000 receiving yards (127 games)