Superstars and legendary talent are more important in the NBA than any other sport. You don’t need a superstar in the NFL or MLB to win if you have the best depth at each position. NBA Championship teams generally need at least one potential Hall of Famer and another one or two All-Star caliber players to win it all. The teams to win rings with the least star power in the modern era still needed all-stars and future Hall of Famers. The 2004 Detroit Pistons are looked at as a team that didn’t need the superstar to win but Chauncey Billups is going to enter the Hall of Fame one day and they had an all-star caliber talent at each position.
It’s become an even bigger point of emphasis if a team even wants to contend in the playoffs these days. The best teams all have multiple stars and they lead the way to the franchise’s success. With elite talent controlling the league, it often leads to lesser talent getting carried to wins. The history of the NBA has seen many marginal talents get to achieve success due to being surrounded by great players around them. Most NBA Championship teams and dynasties have at least one or two stories of a player that benefited from the stars pulling the heavy lifting.
This list will give a deeper insight into some of the situations that would see a player look decent on a team with legends leading the way. The player was not the most talented and was unable to achieve success for most of his NBA career but he was put in a position by the legends and all-stars to contribute to the wins. Most of the examples come from teams to win the NBA Championship as the best legends and teams tend to get the weak players on point in title seasons. Without further ado, these are the fifteen terrible NBA players that legends made look competent.
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15 John Salley
John Salley had a lot of success despite not being very good at basketball. While never averaging double digit points in any season, Salley was a bench player on four NBA Championship teams. The big man won titles with the Detroit Pistons, Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers. The work of Isiah Thomas, Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant allowed Salley to score the open baskets or get easy rebounds. With his roles on championship teams in big markets, Salley parlayed his post-basketball career into acting and hosting. Salley lives a comfortable life and he owes it to the stars he played with.
14 Aaron McKie
After a few years as a journeyman in the NBA, Aaron McKie found a role with the Philadelphia 76ers. Allen Iverson was playing highly entertaining basketball and led a team of moderately talented NBA players to success. McKie was the best example of this. The 76ers reached the 2001 NBA Finals before falling short to the Los Angeles Lakers. It was a dream season for Philadelphia and especially for McKie. He won the Sixth Man of the Year award and was arguably the second most important player on the team. Iverson’s style benefited McKie as he would frequently hit the open mid-range jumper and take over at point guard when Iverson was getting double teamed.
13 Samaki Walker
The Los Angeles Lakers dynasty from 2000-2002 led to many weak NBA players getting their first taste of success in the league. Samaki Walker was a forward that had a low shooting percentage for a big man, a terrible free throw shooting percentage, an inability to score and was a poor rebounder. The Lakers added him to a roster featuring Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal and it led to his best work in the NBA. Walker started for the majority of the 2001-2002 season at power forward and was actually serviceable. After getting traded to Miami with Shaq, Walker was let go by the Heat and went on to play for other teams without legends. He was out of the NBA within two seasons.
12 Daniel Gibson
Daniel Gibson benefited greatly from spending his first four seasons in the NBA with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. This was around the time James was carrying a group of mediocre players to regular season success on a yearly basis and Gibson was one of the names. Mostly with the knack for hitting an open three-pointer in the corner, Gibson played in important games and was able to get in a position to succeed thanks to James. After LeBron left Cleveland to join the Miami Heat in 2010, it was hoped that Gibson would step into a larger role. Obviously he did not and was out of the league after three seasons despite being in his mid 20s.
11 Mario Elie
Despite winning three NBA Championships in his career as a player, Mario Elie is somewhat overrated due to his reputation as a winner. Elie won his rings with the Houston Rockets in 1994 and 1995, as well as the San Antonio Spurs in 1999. Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson and Tim Duncan carried Elie to playoff success. Elie hit the occasional clutch shot but that was a product of the other stars of the team causing the defense to leave him open or in a good spot. With a career average of 8.6 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists, it’s obvious Elie wasn’t an impressive NBA talent.
10 Eddie House
Eddie House did not settle down in one location during his NBA career with stints on nine different teams over eleven seasons. House won a ring with the 2008 Boston Celtics and fell just short of another in 2011 with the Miami Heat. The Celtics made great use of House as a source of offense off the bench. Due to his sporadic game, House could score in bunches or sink your team with poor shooting. Boston and Doc Rivers got him to play a bit more efficiently while utilizing his explosive offense. House became a valued member of the squad but never was able to achieve much success without superstar players making him look good.
9 Rasho Nesterovic
If you’ve ever watched parodies of Stephen A. Smith’s ESPN rants, you know the humor behind the terrible play of Rasho Nesterovic. The San Antonio Spurs consistently started Nesterovic for three seasons and actually won a NBA Championship in 2005 with him at center. Tim Duncan’s greatness would cause double teams in the paint and that led to open Nesterovic baskets. Before signing with the Spurs, Nesterovic achieved moderate success with the Minnesota Timberwolves due to Kevin Garnett playing the same role to help him out. Nesterovic benefited from playing with two Hall of Fame power forwards. After leaving San Antonio, Nesterovic struggled and was out of the NBA in four years.
8 Devean George
Devean George is one of the worst players in NBA history to win three NBA Championships. The Los Angeles Lakers drafted him and found use for his skills due to Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal carrying the workload. George would deliver energy off the bench with the ability to hit the open three and defend well enough to contribute. Once O’Neal was traded out of Los Angeles due to his beef with Bryant, it led to George being exposed for his lack of talent and the things that endeared him to the Lakers were no longer as prevalent.
7 Udonis Haslem
Udnois Haslem is very luck to have fallen into a perfect situation. The Miami Heat drafted him and in his second year with the team, Shaquille O’Neal was brought over in a trade with the Los Angeles Lakers. Haslem was able to start alongside Shaq in the frontcourt with Dwyane Wade leading the way as a dominant shooting guard. The Heat won the 2006 NBA Championship behind the play of Wade and Shaq. Haslem played well but was put in a position to do so with opposing forwards forced to double team O’Neal and Wade setting up the open shots for him. The same thing happened to a lesser extent years later when LeBron James came to Miami.
6 Sasha Pavlovic
The Cleveland Cavaliers were able to get to the 2007 NBA Finals with one of the worst rosters to win their conference because they were led by the stupendous play of LeBron James. Sasha Pavlovic was the starting shooting guard for every game in the postseason that year. When you realize someone like Pavlovic was a top talent on a NBA Finals team, you just can’t ever criticize LeBron due to how much he has done with so little before the Miami days. Pavlovic would basically just shoot the three-pointer and the facilitating of James made him a relevant player. After leaving Cleveland, Pavlovic was unable to keep a role in any team’s rotation.
5 Kendrick Perkins
The story of Kendrick Perkins is one of the sadder ones of current NBA stars. Perkins was the starting center for the Boston Celtics during the years of the “big three” with Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. Due to the veteran leadership and overall great talent around him, Perkins was impressive for Boston. Many viewed him as an elite defender with the potential to become one of the best centers in the NBA. The Celtics ended up trading him to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Jeff Green and pundits expected OKC to win multiple titles due to the move. Instead, he continued to regress and damaged the team’s chances. Perkins declined into one of the worst players in the NBA without the Hall of Famers around him.
4 Bruce Bowen
Many would argue that Bruce Bowen was the most important piece of the San Antonio Spurs championships after Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Bowen is viewed as an elite defender that would ruin the opposing team’s game plan by shutting down their best star. The guy averaged 6.1 points per game in his career with horrible shooting percentages across the board. No one cared about Bowen before he joined the Spurs and received a tremendous role in a great system with elite talent around him. There’s no way Bowen would have succeeded on other teams with how limited he was. The Spurs allowed him to hit the open three-pointer and play in a system that showcased his defense.
3 Mario Chalmers
The player to benefit the most from LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh forming a super team in Miami was Mario Chalmers. The young point guard was a starter for the majority of the Heat’s best years and he didn’t have to do much. Wade would deal with the pesky backcourt defenders and James would handle most of the ball handling and facilitating. Chalmers just had to hit the open shots and play solid defense. No one in the NBA had a better or easier job from 2010 until 2014 than Chalmers. Despite the hopes of him improving with more responsibility after James left, Chalmers was disappointing and Miami just cut bait by trading him to the Memphis Grizzlies.
2 Luc Longley
The Chicago Bulls dynasty in the late 90s was the greatest team basketball has ever seen. Michael Jordan was writing the final notes of his unparalleled legacy, Scottie Pippen was continuing his Hall of Fame career, Dennis Rodman was a rebounding beast and Phil Jackson was an elite coach. The lucky person out of this situation was starting center Luc Longley. All Longley had to do was stand under the basket, make a couple of layups and try to play defense. Longley won three rings and put up his best numbers thanks to the magic of Michael Jordan and company. After Jordan retired, Longley had three terrible seasons before leaving the NBA at just 32 years old.
1 Rick Fox
Many still view Rick Fox as a good player but he took advantage of a great situation to make himself look better than he was. Fox spent the early portion of his career putting up hollow numbers on bad Boston Celtics teams before coming to the Los Angeles Lakers. Fox started at small forward for the Lakers during most of the Shaq and Kobe years and it saved his career. All Fox had to do was hit wide open three-pointers and he was treated like a hero. His defense is credited for being better than it was, especially since the league had very few good offensive small forwards at the time. Fox lived an easy life as a starter on a NBA Championship team and he went home to a supermodel wife. Some people have all the luck.
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