Some veteran players get angsty towards the end of their careers for the one thing that’s eluded them since they came into the league: a championship ring. Whether it’s the bad luck of suffering through a string of awful teams, or the ball not bouncing right in the postseason, some players just never get over that final hurdle for a Larry O’Brien trophy. That’s why some will go ring chasing.
With the off-season quickly approaching its final culmination, most of the rosters for the 2013-14 NBA season are starting to look set. Of course we won’t know the official 12-15 players on each team until after the completion of training camp. However, with the reigning back-to-back champion Miami Heat not doing much retooling, other teams have become even more dangerous. Teams like the Indiana Pacers, Brooklyn Nets, Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors and last year’s runner-up the San Antonio Spurs have used free agency, draft and trades to bring in more talent to their respective squads.
Oftentimes we’ll see veteran players towards the end of their career choose to take less money for a shot at an NBA title: this is called ring chasing. It happens more than one would think and especially in today’s NBA with players racing to join forces amongst the player- agent- GM-crafted super teams.
Here is a list of the five players whose ring chasing quest was most obvious at the twilight of their career.
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5. Michael Finley
Michael Finley is a player that you thought would remain on one team his whole career. That team was the Dallas Mavericks. He along with Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki brought some entertaining and good basketball to the state of Texas. It seemed no matter what happened in Dallas, Finley would always remain there. In the end that wasn’t the case. Finley played the final years of his career in Texas but not with the Mavs. He became a member of the San Antonio Spurs in 2006 and helped them win a title in 2007.
4. Rashard Lewis
As I stated in the introduction, there have been a good number of veteran players taking less money to be a part of title contending teams. A few examples include: Ray Allen, Chris Andersen, Derek Fisher, Andrei Kirelinko, Boris Diaw, Marco Belinelli, etc. But one of the most blatant ring chase signings occurred last year when combo-forward Rashard Lewis inked a contract with the Heat. Lewis had been part of successful teams during his time with the Seattle Supersonics and Orlando Magic, however his time with the Washington Wizards showed that Lewis had very little left in the tank. As a free agent he saw his opportunity to latch on with a proven championship caliber team and never looked back. Lewis played a total of 47 minutes during the Heat’s playoff run to the title last season.
3b. Karl Malone
Karl Malone and Gary Payton are listed together because in the summer of 2003 both agreed to join the Los Angeles Lakers and go after a title alongside Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. Malone was no stranger to the NBA Finals having made two trips during his time with the Utah Jazz. However, a player by the name of Michael Jordan would keep him from being able to claim the Larry O’Brien trophy as his own.
3a. Gary Payton
Payton meanwhile, wasn’t as experienced as Malone when it came to Finals appearances. He took his Seattle Supersonics there just once in 1996 and was defeated by the same Jordan character that kept the title away from the Mailman. With the addition of The Glove as well, the Lakers had a team of four future Hall of Famers. Yet that still wasn’t enough to get these two players a championship ring. An upstart Detroit Pistons team led by Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, and Rasheed Wallace surprised the heavily favored Lakers and claimed the 2004 title in five games. While the Mailman would retire ring-less, Payton would latch on to the Miami Heat a couple years later, and ride the coattails of Shaq and Dwyane Wade to the 2006 title.
2. Kevin Willis
There was a time when Kevin Willis was much more than a serviceable back-up center. A time when Willis controlled the paint and was one of the NBA’s best interior defenders. A time when Willis was a marquee name. If it sounds like I’m talking about a dinosaur, it’s because I am. Willis had a long run in the NBA, finishing up after playing 17 years in the league. When Willis was 40 years old, he signed his final contract as an NBA player and suited up for the Spurs who had studs like Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker on the roster. At 40, one of the oldest players to play in the league, Willis couldn’t contribute as much as he had once done as an Atlanta Hawk, but he was useful enough to see 12.5 MPG and help the Spurs claim a victory over the New Jersey Nets in the 2003 Finals.
1. Mitch Richmond
After beginning his career as an intricate part of the beloved Run-TMC Warriors, Richmond’s time on a contender would be short lived as the Warriors dealt him to the Sacramento Kings in 1991. Richmond would have a stellar, but not spectacular, career as a Kingâ€”ultimately ending in 1998. Then, as a 13-year vet in 2001, he decided to join forces with the league’s best and most dominant duo, Shaq and Kobe. Despite only averaging 2.0 MPG in postseason play, Richmond would get the ring he long sought in 2002.
Who are some other ring chasers we forgot?
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