Why start counting NBA championships only from the 80s? It’s really to make this list more interesting. If this list covered all of NBA history, it would be dominated by players who won championships from the 50s to the 70s, and they would mostly be from the same team, too. That’s because the era was dominated by the Boston Celtics with 13 titles. As a result, the players with the most NBA titles in history are led by Boston’s Bill Russell with 11, followed by 7 other Boston players from that era.
In contrast, 1980 to the present, while still featuring periods of domination by certain teams, is marked by a greater variety of franchises that won championships. Consequentially, the list of players who won the most titles in that period is also more diverse with several teams being represented, and with players even winning championships with different teams.
Arranged according to their career salaries (adjusted for inflation), here are the ten players who have won the most NBA championships from 1980 to the present:
10. Steve Kerr – 5 Championships – $24.2 Million
Sure, Steve Kerr‘s career salary is a huge sum. However, considering that he played fifteen long seasons in the NBA and won five championships, his basketball earnings aren’t really that impressive.
Truth be told, while Steve had his shining moments in particular games, including in the playoffs, he was never really a huge superstar. In terms of points scored, Kerr wasn’t able to put together a season where he averaged ten or more points per game. In fact, he achieved his highest ppg average in the 1993-1994 season with 8.6.
However, Kerr owns a record that still stands to this day. His career 3-point shooting percentage of .454 makes him the most accurate 3-point shooter in NBA history. Furthermore, along with Frank Saul, Kerr is one of only two NBA players who have ever won two championships with two different teams in consecutive seasons. With the Chicago Bulls, he won three straight championships from 1996-1998. Then after being traded to the Spurs, Kerr won two championships with San Antonio in 1999 and 2003.
9. Dennis Rodman – 5 Championships – $47.1 Million
Dennis Rodman, in the news lately due to his self-appointed ambassadorship to North Korea, will likely be remembered more for his crazy antics than his basketball play. After all, even when he was still actively playing the game, he was in the news mostly for the wild colours he would dye his hair, his piercings and tattoos, the fights he would get into, his fling with Madonna and his brief marriage to Carmen Electra. Lost in the circus are his five NBA championships with two different teams and his two NBA Defensive Player of the Year Awards, among others.
Rodman’s five championships were, by the way, with two different teams. In 1989 and 1990 he won titles with the Detroit Pistons, and from 1996 to 1998 he won three championships with the Chicago Bulls. It also cannot be left unmentioned that “The Worm” was the NBA’s leading rebounder for a record seven straight years from 1992 to 1998. That achievement, along with the overall excellence of his career, allowed him to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011.
8. Ron Harper – 5 Championships – $53.2 Million
After Michael Jordan retired for the first time and the Bulls were rebuilding the team, they signed Ron Harper who had just completed a stint with the Clippers. With Chicago, Harper was able to reshape his role into one as a big perimeter defender, ball handler and midrange scorer – a role that helped the team win three championship from 1996-1998.
Then, when Bulls’ coach Phil Jackson headed over to Los Angeles to coach the Lakers in 1999, Harper followed. There, along with Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, Ron won two straight champions in 2000 and 2001.
With his five championship rings in hand, Ron Harper quietly retired in 2001.
7. Earvin “Magic” Johnson – 5 Championships – $64.9 Million
A Laker throughout his entire 13-year NBA career, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Jr. was the first overall pick in the 1979 Rookie Draft and went on to win Rookie of the Year honors and an NBA championship. He would then go on to win four more championships with the Lakers (1982, 1985, 1987, 1988) and three NBA Most Valuable Player trophies (1987, 1989, 1990).
Unfortunately, in 1991 Magic announced to the world that he had contracted HIV and retired from the game. Dramatically, however, he decided to play in the 1992 All-Star Game, where he won his second All-Star Game MVP Award. Players would protest his return, though, and he retired again. Surprisingly, in 1996 at 36 years of age, Johnson came back to play 32 games for the Lakers before retiring for the third and final time.
The all-time leader in average assists per game (11.2 apg), Magic Johnson was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002.
6. Robert Horry – 7 Championships – $72.7 Million
Robert Horry is not usually mentioned alongside NBA legends like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson. However, he is the only non-Celtics player to have won seven or more NBA championships in his career. He is also one of only two players to have won NBA championships with three different teams: two with the Houston Rockets (1994, 1995), three with the LA Lakers (2000, 2001, 2002), and two with the San Antonio Spurs (2005, 2007).
It’s not that Horry was just lucky to have played with outstanding teams, though. Because of his clutch shooting in important games, he was nicknamed “Big Shot Rob” and is widely considered to be one of the greatest clutch performers in the history of the NBA. In fact, he is the all-time leader in playoff games played with 255. He also holds the all-time record for three-pointers in the NBA finals (53) and is the first player ever to collect 100 steals, 100 blocked shots and 100 three pointers in one season.
5. Derek Fisher – 5 Championships – $75.4 Million
Derek Fisher is currently playing his 17th season in the NBA, and in that span of time, he has won five NBA Championships (2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, 2010), all of them with the Los Angeles Lakers. He has, however, shifted teams many times in his career.
He started out playing eight years with the Lakers before signing with Golden State in 2004. It was with the Warriors in 2006 that Fisher averaged 13.3 ppg, the highest season scoring average of his career. After that season, he was acquired by the Utah Jazz and was voted President of the NBA Players Association, serving in the position until the summer of 2013.
Today, after another stint with the Lakers and brief stays with the OKC Thunder and the Dallas Mavericks, Derek finds himself with Oklahoma City once again.
4. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – 5 Championships – $89.9 Million
While this list says Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won 5 NBA Championships because it counts only trophies acquired from the 80s onwards, “The Tower from Power” actually has 6 championships to his credit, his first one coming in 1971 with the Milwaukee Bucks. The other five championships that Kareem won, however, were all with the LA Lakers (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988).
Throughout his championship-studded career, Kareem collected a stunning array of honors. In his first year in the league, he was named 1970 Rookie of the Year. The following year, he was named MVP, and to this day Abdul-Jabbar owns the record for the most NBA Most Valuable Player Awards with six (1971, 1972, 1974, 1976, 1977 and 1980). He also holds the record for the most NBA All-Star selections (19).
3. Michael Jordan – 6 Championships – $149.8 Million
Michael Jordan‘s biography on the NBA’s website reads, “By acclamation, Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time,” and so far, it hasn’t been easy to argue against that claim.
In the season that Jordan joined the league, he won the 1985 NBA Rookie of the Year Award, signaling that great things were coming for the Brooklyn native dubbed “Air Jordan” and “His Airness” because of his awesome leaping ability and breathtaking dunks. His greatness would bear the most prized fruit six years later when he won his first championship with the Bulls in 1991. That would be followed by two more in 1992 and 1993 until he abruptly retired at the beginning of the 1993-1994 season to pursue an uneventful career in professional baseball. In 1995, however, Jordan came back to lead the Bulls to three more championships in 1996, 1997, and 1998.
Throughout his career, Michael was named an All-Star fourteen times, won six NBA Finals MVP Awards, and received five Most Valuable Player Awards. It almost goes without saying that Jordan is a Basketball Hall of Fame inductee.
2. Scottie Pippen – 6 Championships – $152.8 Million
Unbeknownst to many, Scottie Pippen actually made more in career salary than Michael Jordan – perhaps one of the few areas where Pippen has an edge over Jordan. That’s surprising to many because Scottie is often remembered as Michael Jordan’s sidekick, each of the six championships Pippen owns being won with His Airness. However, remembering Scottie as a mere companion to Jordan isn’t entirely fair. After all, he was an outstanding player himself.
On his own, Pippen has an impressive collection of achievements. He’s a seven-time NBA All-Star and was named the NBA All-Star Game Most Valuable Player in 1994. He’s also the only person to have won an NBA title and an Olympic gold medal in the same year twice (1992 and 1996). All of his accomplishments throughout his career merited Scottie Pippen’s induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010.
1. Kobe Bryant – 5 Championships – $333.6 Million
Despite having “only” five NBA championships, the lowest number required to make it on this list, Kobe Bryant is #1 by virtue of the huge salaries that he has fetched throughout his stellar career. In fact, even if The Black Mamba’s career salary wasn’t adjusted for inflation, the $279 million he has been paid would still make him by far the wealthiest player on this list.
Not without good reason, though. Aside from Vino’s five championships (2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, 2010), he has also been named an All-Star fifteen times, the NBA All-Star Game MVP four times (2002, 2007, 2009, 2011) and the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in 2008.
Despite some basketball observers claiming that Kobe is done playing his best basketball, he recently signed a a 2-year contract extension with the Lakers reportedly worth $48.5 million.
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