Everyone loves a champion. A championship represents the pinnacle of success, the one thing worth all the blood, sweat, and tears an athlete pours into training. Champions inspire us because they so palpably embody the payoff of hard work and perseverance. When I saw LeBron James jumping for joy and the bottles of bubbly popping off in the Cavaliers’ jubilant locker room, I was able to take a break from my mundane life and witness something magical. This is why I love NBA basketball. For these brief moments, we believe that we too can be champions in our own lives, that happiness and fulfillment could be ours as well if we were just willing to do whatever it takes to achieve it.
This is the great myth of the “American Dream,” the belief that anyone can have anything they desire if they just work hard. Unfortunately, there are a lot of other factors that go into winning, and the sad fact is that the vast majority of basketball players (not to mention the rest of us schmucks) will never get to experience the euphoria of winning it all. Bad luck alone has robbed many a deserving athlete of achieving the ultimate prize. For every Michael Jordan, there’s a Karl Malone; for every Bill Russell, a Charles Barkley.
Then of course, there’s the opposite, those players that have such good fortune they must wear horseshoes made of four-leaf clovers for sneakers. With so many great ringless players, it seems like a travesty that they should be deprived of even a single celebration, while players only 10 percent as good have had the privilege on multiple occasions. For NBA fans, championships have always been the central criterion for ranking greatness, but these multi-ring stiffs prove that being great and being a champion can be two very different things.
The following is a list of the top 15 worst NBA players to win multiple championships.
15 Kurt Rambis (4x Champion)
You might be familiar with Rambis from his coaching career, which has included stints with the Lakers, Timberwolves, and Knicks. Having coached two franchises synonymous with losing in Minnesota and New York, you also might not be surprised to know that his record as a head coach stands at an abysmal 65 wins and 164 losses. He has, however, won two titles as an assistant coach with the Lakers, in 2002 and 2009.
Much like his coaching career, Rambis had the most success as a player in a supporting role, serving as a bench presence on the “Showtime” Lakers of the ‘80s. He was a part of one iconic NBA moment, but not exactly the kind he’d probably hoped. It's not for a clutch shot, or momentum-shifting blocked shot – instead, Rambis is most famous for getting clotheslined by Boston Celtics Hall-of-Famer Kevin McHale in Game 4 of the 1984 NBA Finals, which nearly escalated into a full-scale brawl between the archival teams. Luckily for both parties, cooler heads prevailed and the entire fracas resulted in only a personal foul for McHale, an unthinkable outcome under modern rules. Unfortunately for Rambis, insult was added to injury when the Lakers lost the game in overtime, and the series in seven games. However, I’m sure his four rings – two of them from victories over the Celtics – ease the pain a little.
14 Mario Chalmers (2x Champion)
Mario Chalmers is unquestionably one of the greatest players to ever come out of his home state – but that’s not saying much when that state is Alaska, not exactly known as a hotbed for ballers. It started with his college career at Kansas, which was highlighted by a clutch three-pointer to help win the National Championship and Final Four Most Outstanding Player Award over the Memphis Tigers and some freshman named Derrick Rose respectively. That victory would prove to be a microcosm of his NBA career, having found success far in excess of that achieved by his much more heralded – and let’s face it, just straight up better – peers.
Luckily for Chalmers, he wound up in the perfect situation to take advantage of his mediocre talents. As the starting point guard during the “Big 3” era Miami Heat’s back-to-back title runs, he boasts one of the most impressive professional résumés of any point guard playing today, impressive given the depth of talent at that position. He may never be more than the fourth best guy on your team, but if your team has three future Hall-of-Famers who all need the ball, sometimes less is more.
13 Scott Williams (3x Champion)
Though he was never much more than a solid rotation big, Scott Williams has to be commended for his emotional strength and perseverance. When he was just a sophomore at North Carolina, he suffered an unthinkable tragedy, losing both of his parents in a murder-suicide. He then had to battle through a major shoulder injury to prove he had what it takes to be a pro. After going undrafted, Williams nonetheless started his professional career off on a high note to say the least, winning three titles in his first three years as a member of a Bulls squad led by fellow former Tarheel, Michael Jordan. His role with the team increased with each successive title, going from just six minutes per game in his rookie playoff run to a far more substantial 20.8 by his third year.
The rest of Williams’ career was unremarkable and ringless, but his work ethic and love for the game allowed him to keep playing until he was 36 despite his underwhelming talent level, the sign of someone who has experienced both the best and worst of what life has to offer.
12 Will Perdue (4x Champion)
Another guy on this list because of Michael Jordan is Will Perdue, who won three of his four rings in Chicago, with the final cherry on top of his career coming courtesy of Tim Duncan and the Spurs. A highly touted draft prospect, Perdue was drafted by the Bulls 11th overall in 1988 to give their superstar guard a reliable post-up threat and interior muscle. Jordan and the Bulls had just gotten their asses handed to them by the “Jordan Rules” defense of the hard-nosed Pistons, so going for size in the draft made a lot of sense.
On the one hand, Perdue never quite lived up to those lofty projections, averaging less than five points and five rebounds for his career and basically being the definition of mediocrity. On the bright side, it didn’t matter one damn bit that Perdue was a bust. Things seem to have worked out pretty well for all parties involved, and they have the rings to prove it.
11 James Jones (3x Champion)
Jones is like a great character actor: never the leading man, but ubiquitous and instantly familiar, playing essentially the same role in every new situation he’s put in. For Jones, that role has always been that of a shooter off the bench, which in today’s game is enough to carve out a 10+ year career. After bouncing around the league a bit early in his career, Jones seems to have settled on a winning strategy: chasing his buddy LeBron James around, picking up rings in his wake. Thus far, it’s paid off pretty nicely for the Miami native. He was rewarded this season for following LeBron to Cleveland with his third ring, and after inking a new deal to remain a Cavalier, he’s hoping for more of the same. He may not be the greatest player LeBron has ever played with, but he might just be the most loyal, and wisest, based on his career moves.
10 Jud Buechler (3x Champion)
Yet another beneficiary of Michael Jordan’s greatness, Jud Buechler rode His Airness’s coattails to victory not once, not twice, but three times, despite averaging 10 or fewer minutes per game in each of those seasons. Paltry playing time seemed to have been a running theme in Buechler’s career, with an NBA record 10 seasons played in which he averaged less than 13 minutes per game. It’s almost like teams forgot he was on their roster and just kept passing him around as trade-filler. While he can’t in good faith claim much responsibility for his team’s successes, it must have been a cool experience to be a part of those Championship teams particularly the 1995-96 iteration, widely regarded as the greatest team of all time. In fact, Buechler’s true greatest accomplishment might not be his rings, but managing to get paid millions of dollars to sit in a front row seat for the hottest ticket in town.
9 Devean George (3x Champion)
A familiar face to most Lakers fans, George was drafted just in time to enjoy the fruits of Kobe and Shaq’s tumultuous but unstoppable partnership. Despite being just an average shooter at best, George eventually carved out a role as a floor-spacer and hustle guy off the bench. Being a hustle guy, I guess some of his contributions never made it onto the stat sheet, because there’s really no other conceivable way a player with his numbers should be playing 20+ minutes a night on a championship contender. If his outside shooting was just mediocre, his accuracy from the rest of the floor was appallingly bad. In seven of his 11 seasons, he shot less than 40% from the field, a terrible mark even for a perimeter player. He may have been an offensive liability on the floor, but I’m sure Lakers fans and George himself would endure his endless bricks all over again if it meant winning three more championships.
8 John Salley (4x Champion)
He might be best known as a former host of The Best Damn Sports Show Period and for roles in films like Bad Boys and Eddie, but believe it or not, John Salley was once a professional basketball player. His diverse portfolio includes four championships with three different teams, but one thing they all have in common is that he wasn’t much of a factor in winning any of them. His best showing came during his second consecutive title with the “Bad Boy” Pistons in which he played a key role coming off the bench to the tune of 9.5 points and 5.9 rebounds per game during the playoffs.
His last two rings were considerably more dubiously earned, as he was basically an afterthought on both the historic ‘96 Bulls and ‘00 Lakers. He was especially lucky to win his last championship, considering he came out of retirement just in time to land a seat on Kobe and Shaq’s purple and gold bandwagon, and would go on to win two more titles after Salley retired for good.
7 Luc Longley (3x Champion)
Australian basketball seems to be all the rage lately, with recent no.1 overall pick Ben Simmons hailing from “down under” and the Boomers turning heads with their overachieving play in the Rio Olympics. However, Australia has been producing quality hoops talent for quite some time, and they all have Luc Longley to thank in part for their recent success. Longley was the first Australian-born player to ever play in the NBA, and wound up stumbling into the role of a lifetime as the starting center for Jordan’s second run at a three-peat. Yes, that means that a man with a career PER of 11.8 was at center court for the opening tip for the majority of those three historic seasons. It also means that the only two teams in NBA history to win more than 70 games in a season have featured 7-foot Aussies manning the middle: Longley for the 1995-96 Bulls, and Andrew Bogut for the 2015-16 Warriors. Coincidence? Probably, but maybe the Bucks knew something we didn’t when they drafted Sudanese-Australian Thon Maker in this year’s draft.
Then again, Bogut did lose in the finals – to two Australian-born players, Kyrie Irving and Matthew Dellavedova. Sixers fans are probably hoping their long-awaited #1 pick, Simmons, turns into a better player than Longley (not a difficult task), but if not, hopefully he brings the same luck as his compatriot.
6 Stacey King (3x Champion)
Previous entry Luc Longley was actually traded for the next man on this list, Stacey King, after King failed to develop into a starting-quality center. The Bulls had drafted him in 1989 with the 6th overall pick, so hopes were high, but he never quite lived up to those lofty expectations. In fact, only 10 of the 26 other first round picks that year posted fewer career Win Shares than King. King underperformed so badly that the Bulls could have selected Haywoode Workman 43 picks later and gotten almost the same value. I’m sure Chicago fans have no problem with this particular blunder though, because luckily for both King and the Bulls, his underwhelming production had no impact on Chicago’s ability to field a perennial championship contender. Other players in King’s draft class may have had better career numbers, but he has one number to trump them all: three, the number of rings on his hands.
5 Pep Saul (4x Champion)
The oldest member of this illustrious list, Pep Saul won his first Championship with the Rochester Royals before landing with the NBA’s first dynasty, the Minneapolis Lakers. The Lakers were led by basketball’s first superstar, George Mikan. The towering 6’10” center dwarfed most of his competition and was unstoppable, leading the league in scoring three times and rebounding twice. Needless to say, his teammate Saul was decidedly less accomplished, a 6’2” “shooting” guard who made a shockingly low 36% of his shots for his career, cracking the 40% mark only once, in his rookie season.
However, these numbers should be taken with a grain of salt. In 1954-’55, Saul’s final year in the NBA, the league average for shooting was just 38.5%, a number that looks laughable today, but was pretty standard for the NBA’s infancy. The sport was still fairly new and trying to figure itself out; even professionals were pretty much making things up on the fly, trying new techniques and learning completely new skills. Don’t get me wrong, Saul was still pretty bad, but then again, everyone was! Pep Saul might not be a Hall-of-Fame name, but he has to be acknowledged as a true pioneer of the game we know and love today.
4 Randy Brown (3x Champion)
Randy Brown only made the playoffs three times in his 12-year career, but boy did he make them count. Brown went three for three after being traded from Sacramento to Chicago just in time to cash in on Jordan’s second successful run at a three-peat. Though he spent most of his time glued to the bench during those Championship seasons, Brown still managed to distinguish himself as a particularly worthy contender for the title of worst multi-time champion. His true shooting mark of .443 during that stretch was simply atrocious. Compare that number to the past three seasons of notoriously poor shooter Ricky Rubio, who posted a true shooting mark of .501, and you have some idea of of Brown’s incompetence.
But at least he still got his rings, right? Unfortunately, Brown’s luck would run out after he retired after a series of bad investments forced him to file for bankruptcy in 2009. As a result, he was forced to auction off his Championship rings. Thankfully, there’s a happy ending to this story, as Brown managed to land a gig with – who else – the Bulls as Director of Player Development. He’s remained with the organization in a variety of roles ever since, most recently as an assistant coach. Given the luck he’s had in the city of Chicago, it seems safe to say Brown won’t be in any hurry to move any time soon.
3 Didier Ilunga-Mbenga (2x Champion)
A much beloved bench figure for the Lakers’ two most recent championships, Didier “D.J.” Ilunga-Mbenga provided an instant interior presence on defense, and an instant reason for the opposing team to start playing 5-on-4 while the Lakers were on offense. His anemic career 97 offensive rating was a big reason for why he could never stay on the floor for longer than 8 minutes on average, with his rudimentary scoring skills largely negating his energy and imposing physique.
Though he may not have been much of an interest on the court, off the court is a whole other ball game. Mbenga grew up in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but was forced to flee to Belgium with his family due to political unrest. He can also speak seven different languages and has a black belt in judo, skills that don’t necessarily translate to playing basketball, but certainly make him a contender for “most interesting man in the NBA.”
2 Gene Conley (3x Champion)
For a guy who only played six seasons of NBA basketball, Gene Conley sure packed a lot into one of the most fascinating careers in sports history. As a member of Bill Russell’s legendary Celtics dynasty, Conley won three championships despite barely making a positive contribution in his limited playing time. While he was a pretty decent rebounder, averaging over six per game for his career, his player efficiency rating of 10.2 means he was almost five efficiency points worse than an average player.
However, his suspect play can be forgiven in light of the fact that Conley was living a double life. Though he may have moonlighted as an NBA power forward, Conley was actually at his best as a Major League Baseball pitcher, going to three All-Star Games and winning a World Series with the Milwaukee Braves. This makes him the only athlete to be a world champion in both the NBA and MLB, and one of the most successful (though perhaps not the most talented) two-sport athletes of all time.
1 Jim Loscutoff (6x Champion)
There are currently five NBA players who have exactly six NBA Championships to their name. Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, arguably #1 and #2 of all time respectively, are among those five, as are Jordan’s sidekick Scottie Pippen and 13-time All-Star point guard Bob Cousy. The only non-Hall-of-Famer? Jim Loscutoff.
Starting his professional career at the ripe age of 25, Loscutoff was picked 3rd overall by the legendary Boston Celtics in the 1955 NBA Draft. Great things were expected of him, and he had a promising rookie season before peaking as a sophomore, averaging a double-double with 10.6 points and 10.4 rebounds per contest. However, things quickly went downhill from there. His Player Efficiency Rating over the remaining seven years of his career was an astonishingly low 5.9, never once crossing into double digits for an entire season.
Maybe the Celtics were just saving him for the playoffs, when the real season starts? If they were, it backfired in a big way, as Loscutoff’s postseason play was even more catastrophic. In seven years of playoff basketball, he won six rings, but logged a brutal win shares per 48 minutes mark of -0.002. Yes, that’s a minus in front of that number, meaning Loscutoff may have done more to help the opposing team than his own. Six rings is an impressive accomplishment that no one can take away from him, but there might not be an athlete in the history of sport who did less than Jim Loscutoff to deserve such remarkable success.