One of the more common basketball debates we have is if you were an NBA player, would you prefer a shit ton of money and no rings or end up being a champion with much less in terms of career earnings.
Said another way, would you rather be someone like Robert Horry or someone like James Harden?
Personally, I think either option sounds pretty freaking sweet, and often times the answer to that question is related to how old you are. For example, if you're an old like me, maybe you put winning a title above all else. If you're a younger fan, maybe you put more stock into securing the bag.
In this endless debate that honestly has no right answer considering every NBA player's situation is different, that didn't stop Stephen Jackson from weighing in on this topic by suggesting if you're an NBA player and you take money over rings, you're actually a loser
OK, there's a lot to unpack here, but I feel like the right place to start is with Stephen Jackson himself. You see, he himself chose to secure the bag over winning a ring. After the Spurs won the title in 2002-03 with Jackson on the roster, he found himself in an interesting position
While playing for under $700,000, Stephen Jackson helped the Spurs win the 2003 title. A free agent that offseason, Jackson wanted to be rewarded for his efforts, and San Antonio offered a three-year, $10 million contract. Jackson hesitated, and the Spurs yanked the offer, leaving Jackson with no better option than a one-year, $1 million contract with the Hawks.
But Jackson proved his value in Atlanta and netted a big contract with the Pacers the next year and an even bigger extension from the Warriors that paid him through this season, the final dollars come from the Spurs.
So, while San Antonio is playing in the Finals after waiving Jackson late this season, he believes he had the last laugh. Buck Harvey of the San Antonio News-Express:
Any regrets, he was asked?
“Nope,” he said. “Got my money.”
Essentially, he had a chance to stick around in SA for a modest price and continue to compete and win rings. Instead, he decided against it because he clearly wanted more money and then basically bragged about getting the bag despite not being on competitive teams. I dunno, sounds a little hypocritical to then all these years later start dragging current NBA players who choose money over rings when ya know….he chose money over rings.
So where did all this randomly come from? Earlier this summer Gilbert Arenas had this very debate on his show
and then we had current/younger players Jeff Teague and Gary Harris also weigh in
Now there's something to be said that if you're a good player and you contribute to a title, you could essentially make the money back that you sacrificed in order to win. I guess that's true to some degree, but so much of winning a title is luck/being in the right place at the right time. Not only that, but nobody really looks at Robert Horry as the GOAT despite all his rings. He's not going to make the Hall Of Fame and he made a total of about $53M playing in the league. Certainly not a bad career by any means, but considering that winning a title is never a guarantee, I don't think it's crazy that players, especially young players who may not have been paid yet opt for the money part first.
Because you know what is fully guaranteed? An NBA contract. You sign for $100M you get that $100M no matter what happens. There's a more likely chance that if you take a little less to join a team in an effort to win a ring, that championship never comes. That's why I sort of get Gary Harris' point. Get the bag first, ring chase later. You could very well be one bad injury away from being out of the league completely, so I feel like in all professional sports you should be trying to maximize your earning window. If that comes with a ring? Cool. If you're someone like James Harden and you're an All Time great and first ballot HOFer and you never won a ring but you made a shit ton of money? That sounds pretty awesome too.
Not to mention we're talking about beyond generational wealth here. Even if you're a ringless star player, if someone is going to offer you hundreds of millions while you're in your prime, nobody is saying
"You know what, let me take a massive discount to go join a team that has a chance to win instead"
especially in today's NBA. That would be silly when you can just go the Dame and Harden route. Sign your max extensions and THEN demand a trade to somewhere you think can contend, and even that's no guarantee.
Whenever this topic comes up, I always think back to what Chuck said about it
Maybe I'm in the minority, but give me the $300M career even if it means I'll never have a ring. While that's the ultimate goal, it certainly isn't the end all be all. You can still be considered a "winning player" and not have a ring. NBA history is littered with guys like that given how situational winning an NBA title actually is.