Winning championships is arguably the ultimate goal for any NBA player. It cements a player’s legacy and greatness in basketball. However, it is worth noting how unfortunate it is that a lot of great players never win a single ring throughout their careers. This includes Hall of Famers such as Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, and Steve Nash.
Although basketball greatness doesn’t always equate to winning a championship, there’s no doubt that it is always great to see basketball stars get rewarded with such for their hard work and contributions to NBA basketball. Unfortunately, not all stars get to win one during their peak years. Once their best years are over, their championship window starts to reduce until their retirement.
But despite a decreased chance of winning a championship, we’ve seen that it is still possible for All-Star veterans to win their first championship despite being past their prime. In the past, we’ve seen former Seattle Supersonics star Gary Payton win his first and only NBA ring with the Miami Heat in the latter stage of his career. Furthermore, just recently, we also saw eight time All-Star and three time Defensive Player of the Year winner Dwight Howard win a ring with the Los Angeles Lakers.
For this piece, let’s take a look at five veterans past their prime that we want to see win at least a NBA championship in their careers.
1. LaMarcus Aldridge
Career stats: 19.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.1 blocks, 0.7 steals
Awards: 7x NBA All-Star, 2x All-NBA Second Team, 3x All-NBA Third Team, 1x NBA All-Rookie First Team
LaMarcus Aldridge has been a star power forward ever since his days with the Portland Trailblazers. He’s definitely a double-double threat when he sets foot on the court. Furthermore, his ability to score outside of the paint makes him even more formidable.
Unfortunately, Aldridge hasn’t had any luck when it comes to winning NBA championships. In his time with the Blazers, he made the playoffs on five occasions. However, injuries to top players in Brandon Roy and Greg Oden certainly prevented the Blazers from going deep into the postseason. In the latter parts of his Blazers stint, the seven time All-Star actually teamed-up with current star Damien Lillard and CJ McCollum. However, the talented forward left the team for the San Antonio Spurs before McCollum could blossom into a formidable scorer.
Signing with the Spurs was supposed to improve his chances of winning a championship, given the Spurs’ decorated franchise which saw them last win it all in 2014. However when Aldridge signed with the team in 2016, its championship core wasn’t the same anymore. Tim Duncan eventually announced his retirement, while Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili were on the declining stages of their careers.
Aldridge was primed to help the Spurs in the post-Duncan era and he didn’t really disappoint given that he often produced 20-10 games and earned three All-Star selections. Unfortunately, Aldridge and the Spurs has had trouble getting past their Western Conference Rivals in the Oklahoma City Thunder, Denver Nuggets, and Golden State Warriors. Furthermore, the eventual departure of their Finals MVP in Kawhi Leonard left a big hole in their rotation which led the franchise to a rebuilding mode today.
The Spurs are a young and upcoming team. There is no question that they have the tools to make a playoff push, especially with Keldon Johnson and Dejounte Murray. Furthermore, Aldridge also has some fellow vets to rely on with Patty Mills and Rudy Gay on board. Lastly, the championship experience of Gregg Popovich will certainly help his cause.
Aldridge has had a great NBA career and it would be nice to see him win at least a ring in the league. However, at age 35 with a rebuilding team, his chances are quite slim. But given the Spurs’ winning culture and if Aldridge fits well with this young team, then it might be possible for Aldridge and the Spurs to pull off some surprises.
2. Russell Westbrook
Career stats: 23.2 points, 8.3 assists, 7.1 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.3 blocks
Awards: 1x MVP, 9x NBA All-Star, 2x All-Star MVP, 2x All-NBA First Team, 5x All-NBA Second Team, 2x All-NBA Third Team, 2x League Leader in Points, 2x League Leader in Assists, 1x All-Rookie First Team
There is no question that one of the players we want to see win a title is Russell Westbrook. Westbrook has established himself in the league as a triple double machine, as he accumulated at least a 20-10-10 stat line for three straight seasons which broke some NBA records and also earned him a string of accolades. Unfortunately, those accolades didn’t include a championship ring.
Although Westbrook hasn’t reached the pinnacle of the NBA, he did come close in 2012. Among the players in this list, the 6’3 guard is the only player in this list to ever appear in the NBA Finals. While suiting up for the Oklahoma City Thunder alongside Kevin Durant and James Harden, Westbrook and his fellow eventual MVP teammates conquered the Western Conference. However, they fell short against the Miami Heat’s Big Three led by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, as the Thunder succumbed in five games.
Unfortunately, Westbrook hasn’t had the chance to appear in the NBA Finals again. In fact, his lone stint with the Houston Rockets, that saw him reunite with James Harden, was short lived when they suffered a second round exit in five games against the Los Angeles Lakers led by LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Furthermore, a fallout between Westbrook and Harden led to the nine time All-Star’s departure.
However, a positive sign for Westbrook is reuniting with Scott Brooks in Washington, the same coach that stirred him to his first NBA Finals appearance. Aside from this, the former league MVP will have plenty of help as he shares the floor with fellow All-Star Bradley Beal and young overseas talents Davis Bertrans, Rui Hachimura, and Deni Avdija.
At age 32, Westbrook may be past his prime. Because of this, his chances of winning a ring is getting slimmer. It will be a shame to see Westbrook not win a NBA championship in his career, given how he makes emphatic dunks and drops historical triple doubles anytime he wants to. For such a talented player, hopefully, he can win one in the near future. If Westbrook can help power the Washington Wizards to championship relevancy, then it’ll no doubt be a sight to see for basketball fans.
3. Carmelo Anthony
Career stats: 23.6 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.5 blocks
Awards: 10x NBA All-Star, 2x All-NBA Second Team, 4x All-NBA Third Team, 1x League Leader in Points, 1x All-Rookie First Team
When it comes to scoring outside the paint, there is not a lot who is as lethal as Carmelo Anthony, especially during his peak years. Drafted by the Denver Nuggets in 2003, Melo wasted no time in making a name for himself in the league. His outside shooting during catch and shoot situations or off the dribble made him next to impossible to guard one on one.
However despite his talent and skills, Melo hasn’t won a NBA championship. This is actually surprising given that he was considered to be the second most talented player just next to LeBron James in the 2003 NBA Draft. Among the Top Five drafted players in that class, James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Darko Milicic have all won at least one championship.
Melo’s closest to winning a title was during the 2008-2009 season, in which he led the Nuggets to the Western Conference Finals. Unfortunately, they had to go against a very hungry Los Angeles Lakers team led by no other than the late Kobe Bryant. Despite averaging 27.5 points per game in that series, the Nuggets conceded to the Lakers in six games. After that, the 10 time All-Star just couldn’t go deep in the postseason.
Melo has proven to everyone that he has the talent individually. In fact, his time with the New York Knicks saw him score multiple 40 point outings, including a 50 point explosion against the Miami Heat in which he took no shots inside the paint. Unfortunately, these terrific individual scoring performances never translated into championships, as the Knicks never made a great impact in the playoffs with Melo around.
The 6’8 swingman has undoubtedly had a fruitful NBA career individually, but his inability to play as a team threatened his career. In fact, after unsuccessful stints in Oklahoma and Houston, Melo found himself without a team for a while before the Blazers picked him up just last season. Furthermore, even his former coach, George Karl, tweeted about Melo’s immaturity as he wished he could have molded him into a championship player.
Fortunately, Melo has been showing signs of progress with the Blazers. Because of this, all the more we want to see him win his first NBA championship. Although Melo may not be the kind of player that can score 40-50 points on a consistent basis anymore, as he is no longer in his peak years, there is no question that he can still be a solid veteran that can easily fulfill his role in the team. In fact, the All-Star forward has worked well with the Blazers duo so far.
According to NBC Sports, Melo said about working with Blazers stars Damien Lillard and CJ McCollum, “Easy. It’s easy. When it comes to basketball, we know the situation…Dame, CJ, and I fall in line.”
A player that was in a similar situation to Melo was Dwight Howard, who had a great individual career but was hindered by ego issues. The good news is Howard successfully maintained his ego and won a championship with the Lakers this year while playing alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis. If Melo can do the same and help take the Blazers to another level, then he might just win his first championship. Should he win one, not only does it complete the rejuvenation of his career, but it’ll also mark Melo’s successful evolution into a team-oriented player.
4. Derrick Rose
Career stats: 18.8 points, 5.6 assists, 3.4 rebounds, 0.8 steals, 0.3 blocks
Awards: 1x MVP, 3x NBA All-Star, 1x All-NBA First Team, 1x Rookie of the Year, 1x All-Rookie First Team
Derrick Rose was a superstar that we all loved, especially when he was the face of the Chicago Bulls. With Rose around, the Bulls were a championship contender once again. In fact, he was also the youngest to be named the Season MVP and first Bulls player to bag the award since Michael Jordan. The catquick guard was a nightmare for opposing teams due to his killer crossovers and thunderous dunks.
Unfortunately, knee injuries derailed the former league MVP. There is no doubt that Rose is no longer like his younger self that dominated the league few years ago. However, the three time All-Star has proved to everyone that he isn’t finished yet with his basketball career.
After an uneventful stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Rose developed into a legitimate sixth man for the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Detroit Pistons. As a role player, Rose hovered around 18 points per outing including a 50 point explosion in 2018. Furthermore, he also appeared in 50 games for the Pistons last season. This only showed that Rose has developed a perimeter game and veered away from explosive dunks that was the root of his injuries.
The road has been rough for Rose, due to unfortunate knee injuries. But thankfully, he has found a way to remain healthy while playing the game he loves. As a result, there is no better way to compensate the former MVP with a NBA title. Rose is currently on the trading block. As a spark plug off the bench, he is certainly a player that can help any championship contending team go deep in the postseason. If Rose does get traded to a championship contender and ends up with a ring, then this is no doubt the best vindication for him and his career.
5. Chris Paul
Career stats: 18.5 points, 9.5 assists, 4.5 rebounds, 2.2 steals, 0.1 blocks
Awards: 10x NBA All-Star, 1x All-Star MVP, 4x All-NBA First Team, 4x All-NBA Second Team, 1x All-NBA Third Team, 7x NBA All-Defensive First Team, 2x NBA All-Defensive Second Ream, 1x Rookie of the Year, 1x All-Rookie First Team, 4x League Leader in Assists, 6x League Leader in Steals
Chris Paul is one of the best elite guards in the league. His combination of playmaking, defense, midrange shooting, and leadership makes him a valuable asset for any team. Unfortunately, a championship ring remains elusive for CP3. In fact, Paul has never reached the NBA Finals in his career and the deepest he went was appearing in the Western Conference Finals in 2018 with the Houston Rockets before going down with a hamstring injury and suffering a playoff exit at the hands of the Golden State Warriors. It is worth noting that out of 11 postseason appearances, CP3 has only made a conference finals trip once in his career. Sadly, untimely injuries and the tough Western Conference have played a big role in this.
There is no question that CP3 someday deserves a ring, given that he could arguably make a case to be the best point guard in the league during his prime years. In fact, Paul ranks seventh in both the all time assists and steals leaders list, as he could even climb higher as the years go by. Furthermore, Paul has made the teams he played for such as the New Orleans Hornets, Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets, and Oklahoma City Thunder into a playoff contender. Throughout his career, he also averaged a near double-double in points and assists, while making a great impact on defense.
The All-Star guard is currently with a new team again, this time with the rising Phoenix Suns. While playing alongside young stars in Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton, Paul might be the crucial piece the franchise needs to end its long postseason drought. If Paul can raise the level of Booker and Ayton, then hopefully the Suns can pull off some surprises in the upcoming season. Although his age could be a concern, given that he is nearing “Father Time”, the 10 time All-Star proved to everyone that he still has a lot of gas left in the tank. CP3 led the Thunder to a postseason appearance and pushed the Houston Rockets to seven games in the first round despite being the lone star of the team. He also averaged 17.6 points, 6.7 assists, and 5.0 rebounds per outing in his 15th season in the league.
Nevertheless down the road, we hope that Paul can get at least a championship ring. This would only solidify Paul as one of the greatest point guards in league history. It would be a shame to see another elite player like CP3 hang up his sneakers without taking home a NBA ring.
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