On June 19th, the Cleveland Cavaliers, led by LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, did the unthinkable and came back from a 3-1 series deficit against the defending champion Golden State Warriors to win their first NBA championship in franchise history and the first for the city of Cleveland in fifty-two years. Of course, LeBron and Kyrie are the best players on that team, but has a fan ever thought about who could possibly be the worst player on the championship winning team? My guess is probably no they have not. To be honest, I don’t think about it much, if at all because I am too busy pulling for the team I’m rooting for (sadly it was the Warriors this year).
Some of the teams that have basked in the glory of winning the NBA title are the real definition of a team and it is really hard to pick out the worst player on that team. Others are easy to pick out because they are the ones wearing warmups like they are going to get playing time, but instead never see any minutes during what could be the biggest series of their lives. So, I’ve gone back and researched the last fifteen NBA championship winning teams and have picked out the worst player on each team. Like stated above, some of these choices were really hard and some were no brainers. Even though they are on this list, just remember they are considered NBA champions.
15 Mark Madsen (2002 Los Angeles Lakers)
If you don’t know this name, type it in the search on YouTube. If you haven’t seen the clip, he is more known for his “dance” moves than for his basketball career. At the parade to celebrate the Lakers championship victory over the (then) New Jersey Nets in a four game sweep, Madsen busted a move (if you would call it that). That was more than he did for his team in their sweep of the Nets. He only appeared in one game and played for two minutes, scoring no points. His NBA career lasted nine seasons where he played for the Lakers from 2000-2003 and the Timberwolves from 2003-2009. During his career, he was known as one of those fan favorites that would ride the bench all season and when he did get playing time, the fans would roar for him. Currently, he is an assistant coach for the Lakers, trying to help get them back to the promise land.
14 Danny Ferry (2003 San Antonio Spurs)
If you are a four-year letterman at Duke University and the #2 pick in the draft, you should not be anywhere on this list, but Danny Ferry is. Something I found interesting about him was he was drafted #2 by the Clippers, but didn’t want to play for them. so he signed a contract with a professional team in Italy instead. The Clippers traded him the following offseason to the Cleveland Cavaliers where he spent ten seasons, before spending his last three seasons with the Spurs. For the Spurs, he was one of those players who could come off the bench and knock down the occasional three if they needed him to. 2003 was Ferry’s final season and what a way to go out than as a champion. He saw action in three games of the Spurs’ six game finals victory over the (then) New Jersey Nets, averaging a minute of playing time per game and no points. As long as you get the ring, it shouldn’t matter if you’re the star player or the waterboy.
13 Darko Milicic (2004 Detroit Pistons)
Talk about a bust! You had to have known that this guy would be on the list. In the 2003 NBA Draft, you had the likes of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, and then you had this guy. With the #2 pick, the Detroit Pistons selected Darko Milicic from Serbia. Going into the draft, everyone raved about how great this international unknown would be playing at the NBA level. He was a seven footer who seemed like a young Dirk Nowitzki. He even graced the cover of ESPN magazine and Sports Illustrated and was getting loved by the media before even playing a minute in the NBA. I bet they regret that decision now, because 12 years later, that pick was easily the dumbest decision the Pistons could’ve made, considering James, Anthony, Wade, and Bosh are all still playing and Darko is still trying to find his way into a career. Last thing I heard about him was that he was trying to get into some professional wrestling circuit. I hope he has a better career there than he did in the NBA.
12 Tony Massenburg (2005 San Antonio Spurs)
For many of you, this name will probably be the first “HUH?” on this list. I didn’t recognize the name until I did some research and saw that he played for the New Jersey Nets in the mid-1990s. Then I remembered back to my childhood when we first got the original Playstation and I would watch my father play as the Nets on the basketball game we had and hear the name “Tony Massenburg” being in the starting lineup. He was never a real star in the league, but was more of a career bench rider. That is what he did for the Spurs during the 2004-05 season, in which he got his championship ring. During the Spurs seven game series win over the defending champion Detroit Pistons, Massenburg appeared in three games, averaging three minutes per game and no points. It goes to show that you don’t need to be a star player to get a ring.
11 Michael Doleac (2006 Miami Heat)
There are several guys on this list that teams drafted high in the first round and, with them being on this list, you can’t help but say “what was that team thinking?” Doleac was drafted 12th overall by the Magic in 1998 after a great career at the University of Utah under the legendary coach Rick Majerus. He never had eye popping stats during his career in the NBA, only averaging as high as 7 points per game in one season out of his eleven in the league. At 6’11”, you would think he would be a monster on the boards, but his career high average in rebounds was 4.1 per game. During the 2006 season, he came off the bench to give Shaquille O’Neal rest, but he eventually fell behind Heat legend Alonzo Mourning on the depth chart. During the 2006 Finals, Doleac only saw one game appearance for a little over a minute, while Shaq and Zo got most of the minutes at the big man position. He played eleven seasons in the NBA with six different teams including the Magic and Heat.
10 Beno Udrih (2007 San Antonio Spurs)
Talk about a name I haven’t heard in a really long time! Last time I heard Beno Udrih’s name had to have been two or three Christmases ago, when he was seeing playing time with the Knicks and I was making fun of him every time he took a shot. The 2007 Spurs team was one of the deepest in recent history and Udrih only played an average of 0.6 minutes per game and only appeared in two games during the Finals, which was a four game sweep of the Cleveland Cavaliers in LeBron James’s first Finals appearance. Udrih has played for several NBA teams, but never really found a permanent landing spot. He has played with seven teams over his NBA career and played with the Miami Heat after being traded in November from the Memphis Grizzlies along with Jarnell Stokes for Mario Chalmers and James Ennis. He was released by the Heat in February after he was ruled out for the rest of the season due to injury. At least, he has an NBA championship ring.
9 Tony Allen (2008 Boston Celtics)
This is the shocker of the list. When I think of Tony Allen, I think of a top notch defender, who is in charge of locking down the opposing team’s best player. The last thing I would think about Tony Allen is that he was the worst player on the 2008 Celtics, but when you have guys like Leon Powe, PJ Brown, and an old Sam Cassell averaging more points than you, that’s what has me considering you are the worst player on your team. You can make excuse after excuse to back up why Allen could not be the worst player on the team, but the stats show otherwise. He appeared in three games and averaged 2.7 points, 0.3 rebounds, and 0.8 assists in 6.3 minutes of playing time. When your stats are the worst out of everyone on the team, you are the worst player on the team. Allen is a good player and defender now as a member of the Grizzlies, but back in 2008, he was the worst player on the championship winning Celtics.
8 Adam Morrison (2009 Los Angeles Lakers)
Like Darko, when I started making this list, I knew this guy would be on the list somewhere. Coming out of Gonzaga, he was projected to be the next great NBA shooter and many said he could be the next Larry Bird. During his junior year, he and Duke’s standout JJ Redick (current LA Clipper) were all college basketball fans talked about. They were one and two all season long in players projected to be named the national player of the year, which the two ended up sharing. He was drafted #3 overall by the then Charlotte Bobcats in the 2006 NBA Draft, behind Andrea Bargnani, who went #1 to the Raptors, and LaMarcus Aldridge, who went #2 to the Bulls but was then traded to the Blazers. His career started out looking promising and during his rookie season, he scored a career high thirty points against the Indiana Pacers. He suffered a knee injury that forced him to miss the 2007-08 season. In February of 2009, he was traded to the Lakers along with Shannon Brown for Vladimir Radmanovic, who won the title that year. Morrison ended up being one of those players I mentioned before that wore warmups but never saw the floor.
7 Adam Morrison (2010 Los Angeles Lakers)
He's back! Look, he was so bad for the Lakers that we couldn't resist using Morrison for the Lakers back-to-back winning teams. For this year, he actually saw the floor in two games during the playoffs, where he scored a grand total of 8 points. Yup, that's it. We're certain Kobe shouted at him a few times along the way.
Morrison ended up winning two NBA titles with the Lakers, all while never seeing playing time, and was released after the 2010 season. He has tried to make several NBA teams since then, but to no avail. Keep trying Adam. One day, you’ll get there…. or not. At least you have two NBA championship rings.
6 Peja Stojakovic (2011 Dallas Mavericks)
It is sad for me to include Peja on this list. And yes, it is the same guy who lit it up for the Kings from the three-point line early in his career. He was constantly showing off his talent to hit from long range during the three-point shootout at All Star Weekend year after year and won the competition in 2002 & 2003 before losing to Voshon Lenard in 2004. Peja Stojakovic played with the Kings from 1998-2006 and teamed with Mike Bibby, Doug Christie, Chris Webber, and Vlade Divac on one of the best teams in NBA history to not win an NBA title. The reason he is on this list is because he played in four games during the Finals and averaged 0.5 points per game on the Mavs winning team. When I was looking at the 2011 Mavericks championship roster, I was not expecting at all to see his name on it. I came across his name and a smile came upon my face because having followed him during his days with the Kings, it is good to see that he got an NBA championship ring after all.
5 Dexter Pittman (2012 Miami Heat)
He went from being one of the most dominant big men in the history of the Big 12 conference to the worst player on the 2012 Heat championship team. During his career at the University of Texas, he became the go to guy in the paint for the Longhorns against the likes of Kansas, Kansas State, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State. Let’s just say that his game did not translate to the NBA. He was drafted 32nd in the 2010 NBA Draft by the Heat and really never became the factor they had hoped. During the 2012 NBA Finals, he didn’t appear in a game and sat on or behind the bench in street clothes. He last played in the NBA in 2014 for the Atlanta Hawks, where he did as much as he did for the Heat during his time there. But hey, at least he got his NBA championship ring.
4 Joel Anthony (2013 Miami Heat)
I thought I could pick on Dexter Pittman some more here, but he wasn’t on the 2013 Heat team. That leaves Joel Anthony as the worst player on the team. When the big three in LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh decided to get together and go for not three, not four, not five rings in Miami, Anthony was expected to be the starting big man alongside them. Most of the games he started, he was more of a defensive asset than an offensive one. When the 2013 Finals came around, he was barely getting minutes at all. He only appeared in four games for about 3.7 minutes per game and averaged a half a point per game. His run with the Heat ended when he was traded to the Celtics in a three team deal that also involved the Warriors. He is currently playing for the Detroit Pistons, who tried to trade him to the Sixers this past trade deadline, but the trade didn't go through due to Anthony failing his physical. The Sixers, thinking they were getting Anthony, waived JaKarr Sampson, one of coach Brett Brown’s favorite players and lost him to the Nuggets, so I don’t think Anthony will be getting any nice gifts from Coach Brown any time soon.
3 Cory Joseph (2014 San Antonio Spurs)
Cory Joseph was the last player I expected to come across when I was putting this list together. That shows how stacked the 2014 Spurs were. Being a few seconds away from beating the Heat in 2013 in Game 6 of the Finals and having it slip through their fingers only to lose in Game 7 was fresh on the Spurs’ minds all offseason, all regular season, and all postseason. They salivated when they found out that in the NBA Finals in 2014, they would be facing the Heat once again. Joseph was a reliable option at the point for the Spurs, but only played in three games for an average of 2.5 minutes per game and averaged 0.7 points. Nowadays, he is a member of the Toronto Raptors and you will be sure to see him out on the floor for more than two and a half minutes and averaging more than 0.7 points.
2 James Michael McAdoo (2015 Golden State Warriors)
How do you go from being a contributor at North Carolina to the worst player on a NBA championship team? James Michael McAdoo did it. After scoring 11.4 points during his career as a Tar Heel, McAdoo was a non-factor in the 2015 Finals only playing a little over a minute in one game. He only played in one game. The weird thing is in this past finals, he played quite a lot, which you can put on Andrew Bogut’s injury and Draymond Green missing Game 5 due to suspension. The difference between last year and this year is the Warriors didn’t need McAdoo to step up and play in place of somebody because they avoided the injury bug in the Finals last season, but it caught up to them this year, so they needed McAdoo to play. Maybe him not playing much in the 2015 Finals was because he was a rookie, but no matter what the excuse may be, he rode the bench and got a ring.
1 Jordan McRae (2016 Cleveland Cavaliers)
I remember I was devastated when the Sixers cut McRae after the preseason last year. The Sixers had their first week of training camp at Stockton University, where I went to school at the time. Catching some of what they were doing, McRae caught my eye and I thought he’d make the team for sure. Guess I was wrong. Now I know, you’re probably reading this thinking “I thought this was the worst player on the last 15 NBA champions.” It is and looking at the roster, McRae is the who I would consider the worst player on the Cavaliers. He has skill, which he showed by scoring 61 points in a D-League game this past January. But when you have the likes of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, JR Smith, Iman Shumpert just to name a few, if you don’t get minutes and do nothing but ride the pine, you are the worst player on the team. McRae has the skill to prove me wrong, but he didn’t play at all in the Finals and only played in two playoff games out of the twenty Cleveland played. I actually feel bad putting him on this list, but when you have a deep roster like the Cavs had this season, someone has to be on the list.