The Chicago Bulls dynasty of the '90s had what every great sports franchise has had -- great players and players who didn't make much of an impact. It's well known that if you want it, you have to earn it. But for the Chicago Bulls six championship teams in the '90s, a number of players were basically given rings at the hands of Michael Jordan.
Everyone knows that Jordan was the centrepiece of Chicago's two three-peats in the '90s. But Jordan wouldn't have won championships without two other stars (you know who we're talking about), plus other standout role players. Every Batman needs his Robin.
But the Bulls had to have room for bench players too, so that meant that guys who weren't that productive in their NBA careers got to win championships with the Bulls. While some NBA legends never won a ring, Jordan helped some players (you probably never heard of), become champions.
Here's a look at eight Bulls who earned their championship rings in the dynasty years and seven who won them because they leaned on Jordan.
*Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference*
15 Earned It: John Paxson
John Paxson (Pictured Left), now high up in the Chicago Bulls front office as the Vice President of Basketball Operations, played a key role in the team's original three-peat. In 1991, Paxson averaged 8.7 points and 3.6 assists per game. He also shot .530 from the field in the postseason, as Chicago won its first NBA Championship.
In 1992, Paxson averaged seven points per game in the regular season but averaged 7.9 in the postseason while shooting an insane .444 percent from downtown. Paxson wasn't quite as productive in 1993, averaging just 4.2 points per game. However, Paxson was saving his best for last in the NBA Finals.
Chicago faced the Phoenix Suns in the championship series, and led three games to two. Down 98-96 in the final seconds, Paxson hit a three-pointer with 3.9 seconds left, helping Chicago pull off a three-peat.
With the shot of his life, Paxson undoubtedly earned those three rings.
14 Relied on Jordan: Corey Williams
Corey Williams, now head coach of Stetson University, was drafted 33rd-overall by the Bulls in 1992, but spent just two seasons in the NBA. Nonetheless, he had the luxury of playing for Jordan and Pippen in the 1992-93 season -- the year where the Bulls successfully capped off their first three-peat.
Corey Williams was barely part of the roster, averaging just 6.9 minutes per game. He averaged just 2.3 points, 0.9 rebounds and 0.7 assists per game during his only season with the Bulls. Williams had a porous .365 field goal shooting percentage and wasn't much more than a benchwarmer.
Good for Williams to find an impressive career in coaching university basketball, but he should be the first person to tell you that Jordan is most responsible for winning him that championship ring.
13 Earned It: Ron Harper
Anywhere Ron Harper went, he seemed to win. He averaged a respectable 13.8 points and 3.9 assists per game in his NBA career, and won a total of five NBA championships. The last two came with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2000 and 2001. But Harper's first three rings came with the Bulls' championship victories from 1996 to 1998.
Harper provided solid depth on the Bulls' bench. He averaged 7.4, 6.3 and 9.3 points per game in 1996, 1997 and 1998, respectively. Harper wasn't that great on defence, but he was a decent field goal shooter (.467 in 1996).
When Jordan and Pippen needed rests, Harper was reliable enough to come out and do his job. As such, he deserves credit for earning his three championships with Chicago.
12 Relied on Jordan: Darrell Walker
Darrell Walker spent 11 seasons in the NBA, playing for five different teams. In his swan song season, he joined the Chicago Bulls in 1993 and wouldn't live to regret it. Walker was a decent guard who averaged 8.9 points and 4.6 assists per game. He was named to the 1984 NBA All-Rookie First Team, too.
But once Walker joined the Bulls, it was evident that he wasn't much of an impact player anymore. Walker played a career-low 13.1 minutes per game, averaging totals of 2.6 points, 1.6 assists and 1.4 rebounds. Walker was just your average Joe of a bench player for the Bulls in 1993.
He only averaged 0.4 points during the 1993 playoffs, but Jordan's talents helped Walker win the NBA championship and retire as a champion. What a guy.
11 Earned It: Luc Longley
Luc Longley, the Melbourne Australia native, didn't quite live up to the hype of being a seventh-overall selection by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1991. But hey, the man won NBA Championships -- the ultimate goal of every basketball player on the planet. Mission accomplished.
Longley joined the Chicago Bulls in 1994 and became an underrated piece of their second-three peat. In 1995-96, Longley averaged 9.1 points and 5.1 assists per game -- solid numbers for a bench player. He followed it up with 9.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per game in 1996-97, but had a career year in 1997-98. That season, Longley averaged 11.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, and averaged 7.9 points during the 1998 playoffs.
He simply did his job as a solid and reliable bench player. Longley earned his three championship rings in Chicago, mate.
10 Relied on Jordan: Ed Nealy
Ed Nealy's NBA career started in 1982 and went until 1993. He averaged just 2.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 0.7 assists per game in his career. Nealy never averaged more than 4.4 points or 1.4 assists in a season. Nonetheless, the Bulls bench had a spot for him in the 1992-93 season, and Nealy wisely took it upon himself to warm it up nicely.
Nealy, who had spent the 1988-89 season with the Bulls before moving around to new teams oh-so frequently, rejoined them in 1992-93. It would be Nealy's final NBA season.
That year, he averaged 2.1 points, 1.5 rebounds and 0.2 assists per game. He shot a mere .435 percent from the field. But hey, Michael Jordan helped an old friend out by letting him retire a champion in 1993.
9 Earned It: Toni Kukoc
Toni Kukoc was one of the more underrated players of the '90s, winning the 1996 NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award and being named to the 1994 All-Rookie Team. Kukoc was as good of a role player as the Bulls could have asked for, playing a major part of their championship teams from 1996 to 1998.
Coming off of a 1994-95 season that saw him average 15.7 points per game, Kukoc averaged 13.1 points and 3.5 assists the following season. Kukoc also averaged 10.8 points during the 1996 playoffs, becoming a nice complement to Jordan, Rodman and Pippen.
In 1996-97, Kukoc averaged 13.2 points and 4.6 rebounds, once again helping Chicago win the championship. For an encore, he averaged 13.3 and 4.4 rebounds per game. Kukoc was a nice piece to Chicago's already stacked lineup, and was a big reason they three-peated a second time in the '90s.
8 Relied on Jordan: Randy Brown
Randy Brown played in 655 games during his career, averaging 4.8 points and, 1.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game in his career. Brown spent five seasons with the Bulls and was part of their second three-peat. Though his physical style made Brown a decent defender, the stats suggest he really wasn't a big impact player.
Brown, fittingly a Chicago native, averaged just 2.7 points per game in the 1995-96 regular season and 2.8 per game during the postseason. The following year, Brown only averaged 4.7 points and 1.5 rebounds per game, and wasn't much of a factor in the playoffs. He had 4.1 points per game in 1998, as Chicago three-peated.
He had a career year in 1998-99, averaging 8.8 points per game when the big three was broken up. But his legacy will always be the three-time NBA champion benchwarmer of the Bulls second three-peat.
7 Earned It: Steve Kerr
You kids know Steve Kerr as head coach of the Golden State Warriors, who led them to an NBA Championship in 2015 and helped the Dubs set a record of 73 wins in 2015-16. But some of you forget that he was the secret weapon of the Bulls in the '90s, being part of their second three-peat.
Kerr wasn't necessarily a superstar, but he was to Chicago what Ray Allen was to the Miami Heat in 2013. Kerr was a clutch and reliable three-point shooter -- meaning his six points and 1.2 rebounds per game during his career don't tell the whole story. During the Bulls second three-peat, Kerr never averaged more than 8.4 points per game, but...
His three-point shooting percentage was nothing short of magnificent. From 1996 to 1998, it was .515, .464 and .438, respectively. Kerr scored the game-winning basket in Game 6 of the 1997 NBA Finals against Utah, too.
Overall, Kerr's stats weren't great. But at the end of the day, he came through when it mattered most.
6 Relied on Jordan: Jud Buechler
Jud Buechler is a classic case of finding himself in the right place at the right time. He averaged just 3.3 points, 0.8 assists and 1.8 rebounds per game in his NBA career that lasted from 1990 to 2002. Buechler played for seven NBA teams, but was smart and fortunate to join the Bulls in 1994.
That's because Michael Jordan, obviouslym, would help Buechler win three NBA championship rings. Through the Bulls championship seasons in 1996, 1997 and 1998, Buechler's points per game averages were 3.8, 1.8 and 2.7. In those championship years, Buechler never averaged more than 10 minutes per game in a season, either.
Buechler didn't make much of an impact at the small forward position, but Jordan made him a three-time champion. Amazingly, that's more than Karl Malone, John Stockton, Patrick Ewing, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry combined!
5 Earned It: Horace Grant
The Bulls drafted Horace Grant 10th-overall in the 1997 NBA Draft, and boy did he end up playing a crucial part of their success. The 1994 All-Star was named to the All-NBA Defensive Second Team from 1993 to 1996, and was a nice role player for the Bulls during their first three-peat.
In 1990-91, the Bulls first championship season, Grant averaged 12.8 points and 8.4 rebounds per game, becoming one of the league's most dominant power forwards and centres. Grant followed up that season with 14.2 points and 10 rebounds per game, easing plenty of the pressure off of Jordan and Pippen's shoulders.
Grant scored 13.2 points and 9.5 rebounds per game in 1992-93, helping the Bulls win their third-straight championship.
4 Relied on Jordan: Jason Caffey
The Bulls drafted Caffey 20th-overall in 1995, passing on future star Michael Finley, but Chicago doesn't have to have any regrets. They won twoNBA championships with Caffey on the team for four years. Caffey was a decent bench player, but he's higher on this list because of the fact he has two rings, meaning Jordan got to help him out much more than the others who've made the list so far.
In 1995-96, Caffey averaged just 3.2 points and 1.9 rebounds per game, but progressed more in 1996-97. That year, Caffey averaged 7.3 points and 4.3 assists per game; he also shot .659 from the field.
But at the end of the day, Caffey's two championships were won by the help of Chicago's big three, especially the GOAT in Michael Jordan.
3 Earned It: Dennis Rodman
Arguably the greatest defensive player in NBA history, Dennis Rodman was a key part of the Detroit Pistons championship teams in 1989 and 1990, as the team used its physicality and toughness to get through teams like Magic Johnson's Los Angeles Lakers and Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls.
When Rodman joined the Bulls in 1995, the NBA landscape changed forever. Rodman, who had a pair of Defensive Player of the Year awards to his name, led the league in rebounds three times as a member of the Bulls. From 1996 to 1998, his rebound average per game was 14.9, 16.1 and 15.0.
He averaged just 7.3 points per game, but Rodman's outstanding defence was crucial for the Bulls in shutting down Karl Malone and John Stockton of the Utah Jazz in the 1997 and 1998 NBA Finals. Without Rodman, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen likely wouldn't have six titles to their names.
2 Relied on Jordan: Bill Wennington
The main reason we're putting Bill Wennington at number one is because the Montreal, Quebec native was fortunate to be part of three Bulls' championship teams. Wennington joined the Bulls for the 1993-94 season to provide depth on the bench. Wennington did just that, and he can thank Jordan a billion times for helping him win an NBA Championship ring in 1996, 1997 and 1998.
Throughout his career, Wennington only averaged 4.6 points, three rebounds and 0.6 assists per game. During the 1995-96 Bulls dream team season, Wennington averaged 5.3 points and 2.5 assists per game. Typical numbers for an average bench player.
Over the next two championship seasons, the Canadian champion averaged 4.6 points and 3.5 rebounds per game in 1996-97 and 1997-98, respectively. Good for Wennington to bring three championships back to his home country, though.
1 Earned It: Scottie Pippen
Some like to argue that Scottie Pippen meant more to the Chicago Bulls dynasty than Michael Jordan, but there's no denying that M.J. wouldn't be a six-time champion without the help of the greatest NBA sidekick of the '90s. Pippen was part of both Bulls' three-peats and even led Chicago to supremacy in 1994 and 1995, when M.J. was trying out for a career in the majors.
Pippen was a seven-time All-Star, named to the All-NBA First Team three times and to the All-NBA Defensive First Team eight times. Pippen averaged 16.1 points, 5.2 assists and 6.4 rebounds per game in an illustrious career. His best season was 1993-94 (when Jordan was retired), scoring 22 points per game.
If Jordan had a bad day, Pippen was there to bail him out. When Jordan was briefly in retirement, Pippen carried the Bulls on his back. Pippen undoubtedly earned those six titles as much as Jordan did.
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