LeBron James first left Cleveland to chase an NBA title with Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and the Miami Heat. Regardless of what you thought of his decision at the time, we can all agree that based on James' skill level and unrivalled commitment to winning, he deserved to win a title at some point in this career.
Today, his resumé includes three NBA titles, nine finals appearances (eight consecutive), and he's made the playoffs every year since missing out on them in his first two seasons. Apart from his 3-6 record in Finals, there is nothing to criticize regarding James' legacy to this point.
As fans, through perpetual wishing for villainous stars to be denied rightful championships, we fail to realize the more appropriate targets for our ire -- the bench warmers who, if you ask their teammates, serve as valuable pieces in the championship puzzle. In reality, they do little besides wear a team-branded jumpsuit and give good high fives. However, it is worth mentioning, most of the time, these are the players most beloved by their teammates.
I understand every player has a role. But I certainly am not blind to the fact that over the years, there have been numerous players who have done very little on the court to help their team in its quest for a title. Even still, they have got themselves some highly coveted jewellery.
20 Andrew Bynum (2009-10 Lakers)
Bynum won two NBA championships and, following two seasons of youth struggles, became a dominant center at the pro level.
Unfortunately, the success would be somewhat short-lived. Bynum decided to retire at the age of 26. Injuries derailed his career following his departure from the Lakers. When he was healthy, as mentioned, he was an impact player.
In both title runs Bynum played a somewhat pivotal role. And yet I still label him undeserving? My reasoning is rooted in my perception that Andrew Bynum was soft...and soft players don't deserve to win NBA titles. I understand this may be a controversial take, but watching Bynum for his entire career, I found him to be sort of a whiner.
If only a young Brook Lopez had been in Los Angeles for those title runs...
19 Matt Barnes (2017 Warriors)
Matt Barnes famously drove 95 miles to fight Derrick Fisher, after finding out Fisher was hanging around with Barnes' estranged wife. From day one of his NBA career, Barnes has been a complete sideshow.
A throwback type of player who thrives on being able to intimidate and get under the skin of his opponents, Barnes often times found himself unable to realize sustained success in today's NBA. And despite all that, his career did net him 929 games of NBA game action.
In 2016-17, Barnes, 36 at the time, became a member of the Golden State Warriors...we all know that came with a complimentary championship ring.
Barnes' role in the Warriors comedic 17-game title run was limited. He played a total of 61 minutes and, apart from three games, never played more than five minutes in a single contest.
18 DJ Mbenga (2009-10 Lakers)
Right out of the gate we have an absolute baller.
D.J. Mbenga -- real name Didier Ilunga-Mbenga -- holds career averages of 1.8 points and 1.5 rebounds per game. When he wasn't winning championships, you could find the Congolese center filling stat sheets.
His other works include a two-second YouTube clip where he says "Taco". Also, there was the time he reamed out teammate Sasha Vujacic in a game versus the Phoenix Suns. Mbenga took very little you know what... he was quite a character.
As mentioned, Mbenga won two* NBA titles, both with the Los Angeles Lakers. Across both title runs, he played a total of 28 minutes, scoring seven points along the way. Now, I don't often sympathize with billionaire owners, but I could understand if one took issue with having to purchase a ring for that level of production.
Perhaps a ribbon would have been more appropriate?
*Mbenga's other title came with the 2008-09 Lakers. Because this list is reserved for championships from 2010 and beyond, it was not included in the entry title.
17 Austin Daye (2014 Spurs)
Austin Daye was the 15th overall pick, back in 2009. Unfortunately, after seeing his NBA career play out it's safe to suggest he may have peaked at Gonzaga.
Daye's NBA career saw him play for five teams across five seasons. Luckily for him, he happened to be on the San Antonio Spurs when they defeated the Miami Heat in 2014. That bit of fortune led to Daye being crowned an NBA champion.
Daye's title contributions totaled six playoff minutes and zero points. In the regular season, he was limited to primarily mop-up duty. Still, despite the limited involvement, nobody can take away his ring.
Following his time in the NBA, Daye would go on to play in several European leagues. Most recently, he was playing in Italy.
16 Adam Morrison (2009-10 Lakers)
Pornstar turned basketball player -- Morrison looks more like an extra from Boogie Nights than he does a capable shooter of a basketball!
At Gonzaga, he was an absolute stud. Especially in his third (and final) season that saw him average 28.1 points-per-game...more than any other collegiate player in the nation. His NBA career would last a mere 161 games but would end conclude with him hoisting the Larry O'Brien trophy.
Morrison, like DJ Mbenga, was a member of the 2009-10 Lakers.
Fun Fact: Adam Morrison's career Win Shares was –1.4. For those unaware, "Win Shares" is an advanced metric that estimates how many wins a player, through their production, contributes to his/her team... if it's a negative number, well, that essentially means you lost games for your team. Now that's a ruthless reality brought to you by advanced statistics.
15 Zaza Pachulia (2016-17 & 17-18 Warriors)
Zaza Pachulia has been fortunate enough to ride the Golden State Warriors' wave to not one, but two NBA title rings. He played a somewhat pivotal role in the first one, serving as a starter in all 15 playoff games.
But the second title, from this past season, saw Pachulia do little besides be basketball's ugliest cheerleader (male or female). After starting every game a season ago, the Georgian-born center featured in only seven games, totaling 26 minutes of action.
Pachulia's controversial close-out on Kawhi Leonard in last year's Western Conference finals led to the league creating what is commonly referred to as the "Zaza Pachulia" rule. It addresses the dos and don'ts of defensive closeouts.
14 Josh Powell (2009-10 Lakers)
Josh Powell won a title in the 2008-09 season but that does not qualify for inclusion on this list. Still worth mentioning... lucky for Powell, the Lakers kept him around the following season and the team would repeat as champions.
In the 2009-10 playoffs, the season that technically qualifies Powell for this list, he scored nine total points...
Powell's career was one had by your typical journeyman. Honestly, he probably just got tired of moving every year. In the middle of his NBA career, Powell interrupted it, electing to instead play over in Europe and China for a period of time. He would return to the NBA, but only briefly.
This basketball career, apart from the NBA, has seen times in Greece, China, the Philippines, Venezuela, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Australia, and even Korea.
13 Brandon Rush (2014-15 Warriors)
In 2014-15, Brandon Rush featured in 33 regular season games for the Golden State Warriors. It was the only season in his career where he failed to average at least 10 minutes-per-game.
Even in the playoffs, he was barely visible, playing only seven minutes. It didn't matter. The Warriors won the championship, and Brandon Rush got fitted for a ring. And now he can lie to his future grandchildren about how their grandfather was a true champion.
I honestly mean no disrespect to the guy. He had some quality seasons as a pro. It just so happened that in his worst season, the team he played with won the title. Not his fault.
12 Timofey Mozgov (2015-16 Cavaliers)
The big center out of Russia played 76 minutes in the 2015-16 postseason. He averaged just over one point-per-game. He had more fouls than total points in the playoffs.
Truth be told, Mozgov did little besides watch, as teammates LeBron James and Kyrie Irving brought the Cavaliers back from a 3-1 series deficit. Both James and Irving were borderline unstoppable in that series. Mozgov was the total opposite.
The craziest thing about the whole thing was, despite Mozgov doing very little in those playoffs, the Los Angeles Lakers gave him a 4-year, $64 million deal once free agency rolled around. A deal they would very quickly regret.
Mozgov would last only one season in LA before being traded to Brooklyn. He was most recently traded to Charlotte. Nobody wants to pay him that much money!
11 Dexter Pittman (2011-12 Heat)
Dexter Pittman's NBA career made it halfway to one hundred: 50 games. His playoff resumé is limited to just eight minutes... and an NBA championship!
Following his NBA career coming to an end, Pittman played in Italy, Puerto Rico, Turkey, and Japan. Many failed attempts in the NBA's Developmental League (now coined the G-League) led Pittman to explore other avenues of professional basketball.
A big problem that plagued Pittman his entire career (and life) was his weight. In his senior season of high school, he weighed nearly 400 lbs. Even as a pro, he had difficulties controlling his weight, spending most of his career weighing over 300 lbs.
At the end of the day... he's still got a ring! Thank you, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
10 James Jones (2011-12 Heat, 12-13 Heat & 15-16 Cavaliers)
James Jones was, among other things, LeBron James' buddy. Make no mistake he's not the only player on this list to wear that label...
The former sharpshooter won three titles in his career -- all while playing alongside the King. One could make the case that he was a relevant piece in the first one with Miami. But even then he only averaged 2.6 points per game in the playoffs. However, he did play 173 minutes in that postseason, more than double the combined total of his two other titles.
The other two championships, if you could imagine, saw Jones cast as "an extra to the extras" so to speak. He played a combined 88 minutes in both and scored only 15 points. If you weren't careful, it was easy to forget he was even there...it's kinda surprising he wasn't left behind during a road contest.
9 JR Smith (2015-16 Cavaliers)
LeBron's BEST FRIEND! I don't actually know that to be a fact, but why else has JR Smith been on LeBron's team, and frankly in the league as long as he has been?
Smith has never met a shot he didn't fancy, routinely electing to take the worst available shot rather than provide a teammate with a very makeable one.
Perhaps the numbers will say he was a meaningful contributor to the Cavaliers title run of a few years ago. I refuse to consider Smith a necessary piece on any championship team -- PLUS, that title was had exclusively thanks to LeBron and Kyrie. Nobody else.
With LeBron now in Los Angeles, expect Smith to quickly fade away from relevancy. He remains under contract for two more seasons.
8 Chris Bosh (2011-12 & 12-13 Heat)
Chris Bosh, while by many accounts a star player, rode in the backseat as LeBron James drove and Dwyane Wade rode shotgun.
A look at his playoff numbers in both title seasons will reveal very pedestrian numbers. Especially when you consider he was playing on the exact same contract as his teammate, LeBron James. The two had signed identical contracts with their old teams before both were traded as part of separate sign-and-trades.
Bosh is in the midst of a comeback from blood clot issues that threatened his career. He has spoken about his desire to play for a contender if and when he returns...basically, he wants to play for Golden State or the 2019-20 Los Angeles Lakers.
COME BACK TO TORONTO, CHRIS!
7 Dahntay Jones (2015-16 Cavaliers)
Dahntay Jones is yet another 'carry-on suitcase' that has had the honour of being ushered around by King James.
Jones wasn't actually apart of the 2015-16 Cavaliers until April; when he signed a 2-year deal with Cleveland, heading into the playoffs. He would play one regular season game prior to the postseason, logging 42 minutes of action in what was a garbage, meaningless game essentially.
Once the playoffs began, Jones rarely needed to take his warmup gear off. He appeared in 15 of the team's 21 games but played only a total of 50 minutes in those contests. In one game versus Toronto, he hit Raptors forward, Bismack Biyombo, with a low-blow, resulting in a one- game suspension being given to Jones. The suspension cost Jones roughly $80, based on his pro-rated salary for the season. No that is not a typo...
6 Damian Jones (2016-17 & 17-18 Warriors)
Jones just completed his sophomore season in the NBA, and already has two championships to his name.
Drafted in 2016, 30th overall, Jones has played very little to this point in his career. He's appeared in only 25 regular season games, and eight more playoff contests. Despite that, he's got a pair of heavy rings that nobody can ever take away from him.
With Golden State bringing in DeMarcus 'Boogie' Cousins, opportunities for Jones to play next season likely will be few and far between...but who cares? If one can spend their entire season sitting on a folding chair and walk away with a championship when all is said and done, who's going to say no to that?
5 Juwan Howard (2011-12 Heat)
When the Heat won that year, Howard was basically a coach dressed like a player. He played in only 28 games of the regular season and averaged 6.8 minutes per night.
The playoffs saw his minutes restricted even more aggressively -- playing a total of 24 minutes in the team's 23 games. Do the math. He was not a required asset, plain and simple.
Without a meaningful role, Howard did not back down from opposing players -- often hitting them with smug looks, strong stares, and would even include a few words of 'encouragement' from time to time...
Look, Howard was, at one time, a solid player. But if you were, in any way, afraid or intimidated by him in the year 2012, there was something wrong with you.
4 Justin Holiday (2014-15 Warriors)
Justin Holiday spent the better part of 2014-15 with the Golden State Warriors. As a result, he, like many others on this list, gets to call himself an 'NBA champion'...
...he played 11 minutes in those playoffs.
Since winning that title, Holiday has played with three separate teams -- the Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks, and twice with the Chicago Bulls. This past season was Holiday's best as a pro, albeit on an awful Bulls squad.
With Chicago rebuilding, Holiday will likely see major minutes for them next season. That will undoubtedly allow him to develop and improve. At 29 years old, if he produces he could land himself a big contract at the conclusion of next season -- at which point he will be a UFA.
3 James Michael McAdoo (2014-15 & 16-17 Warriors)
The former Tar Heel has two titles he most certainly does not deserve.
McAdoo holds career averages of 3.0 points and 1.7 rebounds, and yet he has two championships, despite averaging less than five minutes per game in the playoffs.
Last season was his first in Philadelphia, where he spent the majority of his time with the Sixers' G-League affiliate, Delaware 87ers. Following an array of odd transactions, McAdoo was traded to the Clippers organization.
Quite honestly, JMM could retire and be entirely at peace with his NBA career. He has TWO championships. You know how many deserving players retired having never touched the trophy once?
2 Jordan McRae (2015-16 Cavaliers)
Four minutes of playoff action = NBA champion.
Jordan McRae signed a 10-day contract with Cavaliers halfway through the 2015-16 season. He played mostly in the G-League but did manage to sneak into two playoff games. Currently holds a perfect 1.000 FG% in the playoffs, having gone 3-3 from inside the arc and 1-1 from outside.
After being waived by Cleveland, McRae signed with Saski Baskonia in Spain. He would suffer a shoulder injury that would prematurely end his season.
Despite his NBA career being all but over, McRae will forever be considered an NBA champion. Does he deserve to be? Probably not. But I bet he doesn't care even a little bit.
1 Patrick McCaw (2016-17 & 17-18 Warriors)
McCaw has been a meaningful contributor in regular seasons over his first two seasons in the Bay Area... but the playoffs have seen the bench shortened and as a result, McCaw has seen limited actions in games 83 and beyond.
In 2016-17, McCaw saw more playoff action because of injuries. But this past season saw him limited to just 16 minutes of action. Still gets a ring.
Despite the limited playing time, McCaw should consider himself fortunate that he's getting the opportunity to grow and develop alongside superstars Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Good mentors, indeed.
Fun Fact: McCaw was traded to Golden State, from Milwaukee, for $2,400,000. There was no other player involved. Traded for a briefcase of cash, essentially.