NBA championship teams are built around franchise players, Hall Of Fame coaches and close-knit team chemistry. While superstars are necessary for getting buckets and making plays, a championship team would not be complete without the guys who ride the pine all year long.
Many of us (especially those in China) had hoped that Tracy McGrady would be the one to receive a ring this year after never making it out of the first round on his own. However, it was well-traveled veteran Juwan Howard who was gifted his second ring, courtesy of Miami’s Big Three.
While T-Mac at least saw the floor during some garbage time in these playoffs, Howard didn’t play at all, assuming his role of vocal bench captain, and leading us into our topic for discussion. Here are the 12 most unlikely NBA champions…
*** *** ***
12. WILL PERDUE (1991, 1992, 1993 Chicago Bulls, 1999 San Antonio Spurs)
Perdue was fortunate enough to three-peat as part of Mike and Phil‘s first trio of titles together. As if his first three rings weren’t surprising enough, Perdue took his championship pedigree to San Antonio, where he helped the Spurs win their first title in 1999. Over his four championship seasons, Perdue averaged 4.1, 2.5, 1.9 and 1.1 points per game in the playoffs, respectively.
11. DICKEY SIMPKINS (1996, 1997, 1998 Chicago Bulls)
Simpkins was one of the lucky role players that had the opportunity to three-peat with MJ and co. Though Simpkins was only active during the 1998 Bulls playoff run, his role was still miniscule as he averaged 5.7 minutes per game. After MJ parted ways from the Bulls, Simpkins had his best statistical year ever during the ’98-99 season, however, the Bulls went an abysmal 13-37 during the lockout season.
10. D.J. MBENGA (2009, 2010 Los Angeles Lakers)
Mbenga was basically an insurance policy for the Lake Show just in case all of their big men got injured. In two championship seasons, Mbenga scored a total of seven points in the playoffs, as one of our three unexpected champions from the 2009 and 2010 Laker rosters.
9. LUKE WALTON (2009, 2010 Los Angeles Lakers)
While Walton played a larger role in the 2009 Playoffs for the Lakers, playing about 15 minutes a game, he would fall out of the rotation during their 2010 Postseason run, averaging 1.1 points per game. Luke may not be the most famous basketball player in his family but he has had the luxury of taking four trips to the NBA Finals.
8. ADAM MORRISON (2009, 2010 Los Angeles Lakers)
Before you can finish typing in “Adam Morrison” on YouTube, the search engine automatically thinks you’re looking for “Adam Morrison Bench Highlights.” That result alone is legitimate enough to land Morrison on our list. Morrison was a member of a Kobe Bryant/Phil Jackson back-to-back championship roster after being one of MJ’s many draft bust selections.
7. EDDY CURRY (2012 Miami Heat)
Eddy Curry was signed by the Heat last season as they attempted to bolster their already thin frontline. Curry did not contribute to their championship run as he was inactive during the playoffs, but averaged 2.1 points in 14 games for Miami during the regular season.
(check out the 1:00 mark to hear this guy make fun of Howard’s age)
6. JUWAN HOWARD (2012, 2013 Miami Heat)
You may have thought the former Fab 5 member was an assistant coach for the Miami Heat this past season as he sported a suit and tie during almost every contest. You were mistaken. Howard has ridden the coattails of LeBron, Bosh and Wade for the past three seasons and as a result he’s added two rings to his jewelry collection. While last year he played sparingly in the playoffs (24 minutes total), this year, he didn’t dress for one game.
5. MICHAEL DOLEAC (2006 Miami Heat)
We searched for Michael Doleac Miami Heat highlights but alas, there aren’t any. As a matter of fact, there isn’t exactly a plethora of Michael Doleac highlight tapes at all. While he did have some solid years in Orlando after being selected 12th overall in 1998, he averaged two points a game during the ’06 Playoffs before fading into oblivion.
4. BRIAN CARDINAL (2011 Dallas Mavericks)
Cardinal is another fan favorite, who was the Mavericks version of Brian Scalabrine. “The Custodian” originally got his nickname because he did all of the dirty work necessary for his team. He fouled hard, took charges and could knock down the open three. Cardinal averaged 1.1 points per game during the 2011 NBA Playoffs.
3. DARKO MILICIC (2004 Detroit Pistons)
While he wasn’t expected to contribute immediately to a team that was on the cusp of winning a NBA championship, it was hoped he would help maintain Detroit’s success as their stars aged. Instead, Darko was viewed as the player selected before future franchise players Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Not only did Darko ride the pine during Detroit’s 2004 championship run, he would later be named our biggest NBA Lottery draft bust since 2000 in a close call over Kwame Brown.
2. SCOT POLLARD (2008 Boston Celtics)
Pollard had been a journeyman throughout his career, making stops in Detroit, Sacramento, Indiana and Cleveland before finishing up with a ring in Boston. We don’t blame you if you didn’t realize Pollard was a member of the ’08 Celtics team as he was not active during their playoff run. While not as popular, Pollard is certainly a character, much like Scal.
1. BRIAN SCALABRINE (2008 Boston Celtics)
While Scal isn’t the only fan favorite to grace the parquet at the TD Bank Garden (See Michael Sweetney), he may be the most popular benchwarmer ever to win a ring. Before the White Mamba’s face graced the coolest t-shirt of all time, the USC product was a three-time All-Pac 10 performer. Every time Scal touched the rock, fans treated it as if it was a Game 7. His popularity extends throughout NBA arenas, exhibited by a regular season road game in Washington in which fans chanted “M-V-P” after he nailed a trademark three off the glass.
Who are the most unlikely NBA champs of all time?
Follow Matt on Twitter at @DimeMatt.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.