Since its founding in June 1946, 19 franchises have captured NBA championships. The Boston Celtics have clinched the association's most titles with 19. Unsurprisingly, legendary Celtics center Bill Russell earned more crowns than any other individual in NBA history with 11. The 6-foot-10, 220-pound Russell amassed so many rings that he was unaware that he led the Celtics to eight consecutive titles from 1959 to 1966.
“It might seem strange but I did not know our Celtic teams won eight championships in a row until about 20 years ago when I read about it in a game program,” Russell said. “Our focus was always on that particular season, always one year at a time. The year we played had nothing to do with the previous year or the next year. That’s just the way it was.”
In contrast to Russell, Hall of Famers Karl Malone, John Stockton, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Elgin Baylor and many other stars failed to collect a single ring.
"I'm disappointed I never won a championship in the pros," said Ewing, 55.
"We did the best we could to help the franchise win one. It didn't happen. That's life. You have to move on. It was a great ride. I gave it 110 percent. I thought I had a great career. I have no regrets. I wouldn't trade it for anything. I enjoyed every minute. I'm at peace."
While an array of legends couldn’t will their teams to greatness, many bench warmers were employed by organizations that became champions. Accordingly, let’s recall 15 players who undeservedly own a championship ring.
15 Dickey Simpkins
The Chicago Bulls drafted power forward Dickey Simpkins out of Providence College with the 21st pick in 1994. The 6-foot-9, 250-pound Simpkins averaged 3.6 points, 2.6 rebounds and 0.6 assists for the iconic Bulls team that went 72-10. However, Phil Jackson and Jerry Krause deactivated Simpkins prior to the postseason. Despite being shelved, the former Friar was gifted rings for Chicago’s consecutive title runs in the 1995-1996 and 1996-1997 seasons. Krause re-signed Simpkins shortly after he was cut by the Golden State Warriors in February 1998. Approximately four months later, Simpkins was handed a third ring when the Bulls trumped the Utah Jazz in six games to secure their second three-peat of the 1990s. The 45-year-old Simpkins became the epitome of a journeyman and he finally retired in 2006 following a stint with Brose Bamberg of Germany.
14 Scott Hastings
The New York Knicks selected power forward Scott Hastings out of the University of Arkansas 29th overall in 1982. The 6-foot-10, 235-pound Hastings flopped in Gotham and subsequently found employment with the Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat. Hastings and the Detroit Pistons eventually agreed to a two-year contract prior to the start of the 1989-1990 campaign.
"I've gotten into my fair share of scraps," Hastings said after becoming a Bad Boy.
In 40 games with the Pistons, Hastings averaged 1.1 points, 0.8 rebounds and 0.2 assists. In spite of such feeble statistics, Hastings was given a ring after the Pistons conquered the Portland Trail Blazers in five games to win back-to-back championships in June 1990.
13 Adam Morrison
The Charlotte Bobcats chose Gonzaga University small forward Adam Morrison third overall in 2006. The 6-foot-8, 205-pound Morrison was a 2006 consensus first-team All-American who won that year’s Oscar Robertson Trophy as a junior Bulldog in Spokane. Morrison excited onlookers in his inaugural season as a pro and earned a spot on the 2007 NBA All-Rookie Second Team. Disappointingly, a severe knee injury and pathetic defense ruined Morrison’s stay with the Bobcats. Michael Jordan sent Morrison and Shannon Brown to the Los Angeles Lakers for Vladimir Radmanović in February 2009. A dim presence in Tinseltown, Morrison played sparingly as a Laker. Still, the collegiate great with the spectacular porn moustache collected two rings in Los Angeles.
The 33-year-old Morrison was waived by the Lakers following the 2009–10 campaign and he was out of the sport altogether by April 2012.
12 Darko Milicic
Rather than Carmelo Anthony or Dwyane Wade, the Detroit Pistons selected Serbian center Darko Miličić second overall in 2003. The 7-foot, 275-pound Miličić was in a glorified federal witness protection program as a Piston in Motown. Hence, Miličić blamed his unproductiveness on a lack of playing time.
“I’ve said it 10,000 times, the best way for me to improve is to play,” said Miličić.
Although shelved for the bulk of the playoffs, Miličić was given a ring after the Pistons won the NBA title in 2004. Two years later, in February 2006, Detroit’s hierarchy sent Miličić to the Orlando Magic. The towering European became a journeyman and averaged 6.0 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 468 games as a member of the Pistons, Magic, Grizzlies, Knicks, Timberwolves and Celtics. The 32-year-old Miličić quit basketball in 2012 at the age of 26.
11 Luke Walton
Forward Luke Walton was a minimally talented ballplayer. However, Walton’s high basketball IQ, tremendous diligence and selfless approach to the game helped him become serviceable on the hardwood. The Lakers took the 6-foot-8, 235-pound Walton out of the University of Arizona with the 32nd pick in 2003. When healthy, Walton flourished throughout the 2006-07 campaign and averaged 11.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists in 60 games. Walton was rewarded for his performance and he secured a six-year contract worth $30 million. During the 2009-10 campaign, Walton was beset by a pinched nerve in his lower back. Consequently, Walton averaged 2.4 points, 1.4 assists and 1.3 rebounds over 29 games. Walton was even less productive during the playoffs when he averaged 1.1 points, 0.9 dishes and 0.5 boards over 16 contests.
Still, the Lakers’ brass handed Walton a ring after the team won that year’s championship.
"There were a lot of times this year where I was really down and out," Walton said. "I was struggling. I wasn't a happy man."
10 Mengke Bateer
Who in the world is Mengke Bateer?! The 6-foot-11, 290-pound Bateer is a Chinese center who signed to compete for the Denver Nuggets in October 2001. In July 2002, the San Antonio Spurs acquired Bateer in exchange for a second-round pick. The first Chinese player to start in an NBA game averaged 0.8 points and 0.8 rebounds in 12 games as a Spur. Nonetheless, Bateer was presented with a championship ring after the Spurs outclassed the New Jersey Nets in six games to win the 2003 NBA title.
The 42-year-old Bateer, who also played in the association for the Toronto Raptors, retired in August 2015 due to a prolonged battle with diabetes. Despite his underwhelming NBA career, Bateer is still revered in China, as he enjoyed successful years in the Chinese Basketball Association.
9 Jack Haley
Jerry Krause had an incredible knack for surrounding Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen with productive and cost-effective talent. Power forward Jack Haley is not one of those talents. The Bulls drafted the 6-foot-10, 240-pound Haley out of UCLA with the 79th pick in 1987. Chicago’s executives cut Haley following one unimpressive season and he became a career journeyman. However, approximately six years after getting waived, the Bulls re-signed Haley prior to the 1995-96 season. Many critics believe that Haley returned to the Windy City to serve as glorified babysitter for Dennis Rodman.
“I've felt it's important to be a part of the greatest team in history and to get out and show people I'm not Dennis' (Rodman) baby-sitter," Haley told the Chicago Tribune. "I never have been. I've been a basketball player from Day One.”
Despite being an invisible Bull, Haley collected a championship ring in June 1996. Tragically, Haley succumbed to heart disease at the age of 51 in March 2015.
8 Brian Scalabrine
Brian Scalabrine didn’t contribute anything to gain a NBA championship ring with the Boston Celtics in June 2008. The New Jersey Nets drafted the 6-foot-9, 235-pound Scalabrine out of USC with the 34th pick in 2001. Scalabrine failed to impress the Nets’ decision makers and they refused to offer him an extension. The redheaded Trojan proceeded to sign a five-year contract worth $15 million to play for the Celtics. During the 2007-2008 campaign, Scalabrine averaged 1.8 points, 1.6 rebounds and 0.8 assists over 48 games.
Unsurprisingly, former Celtics coach Doc Rivers sat Scalabrine for the playoffs and he was a complete non-factor. The 39-year-old Scalabrine, who retired as a member of the Chicago Bulls in September 2012, now works as a broadcaster for the Celtics on Comcast SportsNet.
7 Jacque Vaughn
The Utah Jazz took point guard Jacque Vaughn out of Kansas with the 27th pick in 1997. Following four seasons in Salt Lake City, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Vaughn became a journeyman who had stopovers with the Atlanta Hawks, Orlando Magic and New Jersey Nets. Vaughn signed a deal with the San Antonio Spurs before the 2006-2007 season. During that spring’s playoffs, Vaughn averaged 2.2 points, 1.4 assists and 0.5 rebounds over 20 contests.
In spite of his feeble statistics, the Spurs’ hierarchy handed Vaughn a ring after the Spurs outclassed the Cleveland Cavaliers by sweeping the upstart Cavs in June 2007. The 42-year-old Vaughn, who retired in July 2009, works as an assistant coach for the Nets. You know what they say, right place, right time.
6 Scot Pollard
The 1996-97 Kansas Jayhawks men's basketball team was brimming with talent. The Detroit Pistons drafted power forward Scot Pollard out of Kansas with the 18th overall pick in 1997. The 6-foot-11, 280-pound Pollard flopped in Motown and was eventually traded to the Sacramento Kings. Pollard was a decent King who helped the organization become perennial contenders in the early 2000s. Following stints with the Indiana Pacers and Cleveland Cavaliers, the eccentric Jayhawk signed a one-year contract with the Boston Celtics in August 2007.
Pollard was completely ineffective as a Celtic and he averaged a meager 1.8 points, 1.7 rebounds and 0.1 assists over 22 games. Understandably, the Celtics’ executives decided against adding Pollard to their playoff roster. In spite of collecting dust on the sidelines, Boston presented Pollard with a 2008 championship ring.
5 Mark Madsen
Mark Madsen is actually more inept at dancing than playing basketball. The Los Angeles Lakers took the 6-foot-9, 245-pound Madsen out of Stanford University with the 29th pick in 2000. Madsen was essentially invisible in Tinseltown and he barely averaged 2.0 points over his first 129 games as a Laker. Somewhat astoundingly, the former Cardinal was even less productive in 20 playoff games with the Lakers. Nonetheless, Madsen was given two championship rings for being a Laker in the 2001 and 2002 seasons.
“I was at the two parades and some of my memories almost run together,” Madsen told the Los Angeles Times.
“My dance happened after the speeches were over. I went to dances at Stanford and back in high school. I was flexible and could do the splits. But I wasn't going to do that as a pro basketball player.”
The 42-year-old Madsen is presently an assistant coach with the Lakers.
4 Sun Yue
Sun who?!? The Los Angeles Lakers have handed championship rings to plenty of undeserving players and Sun Yue is one of them. The 6-foot-9, 215-pound Yue, who was born and raised in Hebei, China, was selected by the Lakers with the 40th pick in 2007. Rather than immediately relocating overseas, Yue continued playing for the Beijing Olympians. However, Yue signed with the Lakers the following season in August 2008. Yue rarely saw action and he averaged 0.6 points, and 0.2 assists over 10 games.
Phil Jackson essentially deemed Yue to be worthless and he was omitted from the team’s playoff roster. Nonetheless, Yue was sent a ring after the Lakers battered the Orlando Magic in five games to win the 2009 title. The 32-year-old Yue has competed for the Beijing Ducks since 2013.
3 Chris Jent
Shooting guard Chris Jent is the personification of a journeyman. The 6-foot-7, 220-pound Jent went undrafted in 1992 after graduating from Ohio State University. Over the next three years, Jent landed employment with the Rapid City Thrillers, Joventut Badalona and Columbus Horizon. Jent abandoned the Horizon in 1994 to play three games for the Houston Rockets. Jent somehow managed to make the Rockets’ playoff roster and he averaged 1.2 points and 0.8 rebounds in 11 postseason contests that spring. In a remarkable display of generosity, Houston’s C-level executives presented Jent with a ring after their squad defeated the New York Knicks in seven games to win the 1994 championship.
Excluding three contests as a member of the Knicks during the 1996-97 campaign, Jent never played in the association again. Regardless, unlike other 1990s icons like Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing, Jent has championship jewelry. The 48-year-old Jent is currently an assistant coach with the Atlanta Hawks.
2 Gabe Pruitt
Like two other individuals on this list, substandard shooting guard Gabe Pruitt was handed gold as a Celtic in Beantown. The Celtics chose the 6-foot-4, 185-pound Pruitt out of the University of Southern California with the 32nd pick in 2007. Over two years as a Celtic, Pruitt averaged a forgettable 2.0 points, 0.8 rebounds and 0.8 assists in 62 games. Luckily for the decorated Trojan, Pruitt happened to be on the bench when the Celtics overcame the Lakers to clinch the 2007-08 crown.
Boston cut Pruitt in July 2009 and he ultimately played for nine second-tier organizations across the globe. Pruitt most recently collected a paycheck as a member of Mexico’s Santos Reales de San Luis basketball team. Regrettably, the franchise folded last year and the 31-year-old Pruitt is now actively seeking a new employer.
1 D.J. Mbenga
In addition to the Celtics, the Los Angeles Lakers have presented an array of undeserving players with rings. Center D. J. Mbenga, who was born and raised in Kinshasa, Zaire, went undrafted in 2002. However, the 7-foot, 255-pound Mbenga managed to secure work with the fabled Spirou Gilly, Leuven Bears and Spirou Charleroi. Mbenga apparently impressed Mavericks scouts and he played in Dallas for three listless seasons.
Following a brief stay with the Golden State Warriors, the Lakers and Mbenga agreed to a contract in January 2008. Roughly 18 months later, Mbenga was given a championship ring. Frustratingly, although virtually nonexistent on the hardwood, Mbenga was given another championship ring in June 2010 when the Lakers won back-to-back Larry O'Brien NBA Championship Trophies.
The 37-year-old Mbenga shelved his high-top sneakers in 2014, after a season with the Barako Bull Energy of the Philippine Basketball Association and an unsuccessful attempt to crack the New York Knicks' roster.