What happens to former stars once they pass their prime? Unfortunately in professional sports, most become ring-chasers.
Let me define a ring-chaser: An older player, usually a former superstar or at least an All-Star, who is past his prime and decides to join a championship contender knowing he won’t be a major factor in his new team winning a title.
I mean, look at what’s going on right now in Miami. Ever since the “Super Friends” joined forces, now you got ex-superstars like Penny Hardaway, Stephon Marbury and most recently Steve Francis are all trying to hop on the bandwagon and become official ring-chasers. With that being said, here are the five worst ring-chasers of all-time:
5. Stephon Marbury (Celtics, 2009) — Marbury’s late-season signing was widely considered a failure because the Celtics were his chance to redeem himself and make up for his tarnished image. Not only did the Celtics not win the NBA championship that year, they didn’t even make it back to the finals (as they lost to Orlando in the second round). Also, one can see this as a failure because Marbury hasn’t seen an NBA roster since.
4. Shaquille O’Neal (2010) — Shaq was traded to the Suns (’08) and Cavs (’09), so it wasn’t really ring-chasing then, but now this summer the Big Fella is doing what vets used to do to his powerful Lakers teams. Still available on the free-agent market, Shaq apparently only wants to sign with a contender, and recently said he was most interested in the Celtics in an effort to get his fifth championship.
3. Kevin Willis (Spurs, 2003) — At 40 years old, the former All-NBA performer signed on with San Antonio in an effort to get the ring that eluded him as Dominique Wilkins’ sidekick in Atlanta and several other stops. Willis was once among the NBA’s leading rebounders, but with the Spurs grabbed just 3.2 boards in 11 minutes a night. He got his ring when the Spurs beat the Nets in the Finals, but Willis only played 25 minutes total in the playoffs.
2. Mitch Richmond (Lakers, 2001) — He once graced the cover of NBA Live 97, but as Richmond’s career began to dwindle down, and with the Wizards being nowhere near a championship contender, Richmond took his talents to L.A. Going from making $10 million to just $1 million, Richmond did at least win an NBA championship, but I’m not sure L.A. even needed him. He only played four minutes total during the playoffs.
1. Karl Malone & Gary Payton (Lakers, 2004) — In the same summer that D-Wade, LeBron and Chris Bosh joined the NBA, “The Mailmain” and “The Glove” pulled an original Super-Friends move, joining up with Kobe and Shaq in L.A. to form a super-team on paper. GP and Malone both started for the Lakers, but considering they each used to be The Man in Seattle and Utah, respectively, it was a tough adjustment going to being the 3rd or 4th option. The Lakers lost in the ’04 Finals to Detroit, leaving Malone to finish his career without a championship. Payton later won a ring with Miami in ’06.