During last week’s Funbag on Deadspin, Drew Magary named 10 players he would gift a championship to. It’s an excellent read, but he ended this segment by suggesting another fun game, naming people you would take a championship away from. Below are 10 players I have nominated either for being undeserving or to see just how different their careers would be without a ring.
1. Drew Brees
The ultimate stat-padder loses the one thing separating him from being completely overrated. We hear so much about his 5,000 passing yard seasons that we ignore his 7-9 seasons. It’s like winning games is only important if you’re not Brees. Also his birthmark just annoys me.
2. Paul Pierce
The fortune of acquiring two Hall of Famers at that point in his career was almost too good to be true. Considering then Timberwolves General Manager Kevin McHale was asking for dollar for dollar from the Lakers for Kevin Garnett and took 25 cents on the dollar to send him to the Celtics, his former employer, it probably was too good to be legit. Nonetheless, Pierce was aging and going nowhere in Boston until he was gift wrapped a former league MVP. Overnight the worst team in the league becomes the best and Pierce wins his only title, making him forever a hero in Boston, deserved or not. Minus that title, he’s just another guy who played in Boston but didn’t win there.
3. Kevin Durant
The best player on earth not named LeBron James, his talent has never been in question and never will be. Had he gone to any other team (other than Cleveland or Golden State) it would have been whatever, but to go to the team he literally choked a lead away a year before in order to win it feels like the easy way out. His mom needs to get out of my face too.
4. Aaron Rodgers
Only for the drama really. We can argue about the best quarterbacks ever until we’re blue in the face but the greatest talent I’ve ever seen play the quarterback position is Aaron Rodgers. He got the monkey off his back pretty early so we never had the opportunity to question him. It’s hard to believe he’s never gotten back to the big game, though if Brandon Bostick didn’t have hands like feet he’d have gotten there already.
5. Joe Flacco
Flacco was great in his march to the Super Bowl and caught a break in Denver from Rahim Moore. That said, without that run, Flacco’s reputation is on shaky ground. He probably doesn’t get the big extension and he might not even still be in Baltimore.
6. Russell Wilson
Recurring theme here with the quarterbacks who have all won one Super Bowl. Wilson played his part, but his defense and special teams outscored his opponent, he almost served no purpose in the game. A year later, he parlayed a horrific NFC Championship Game performance with a soul-crushing pick on the goal line in the Super Bowl. No ring would change the narrative on Wilson quite a bit. People wouldn’t consider him all that clutch to say the least.
7. Dirk Nowitzki
An All-Star player who was an excellent shooter and scorer and a tough cover, his career perception drastically changed after winning his only title. Nowitzki didn’t bring much else to the table, he never averaged 10 rebounds per game in a season and wasn’t much of a defender. But he sure could score. A seven-footer with legitimate range, he was a very rare commodity. His career really went downhill after he won a title never even really competing for one again. It was the last stand for the best European player ever. Minus the ring his all-time placing is a fair amount lower.
8. Alex Rodriguez
One of the best players of his generation is also one of the most controversial. He constantly faced questions about his postseason play, though his struggles were often exaggerated to a degree. That all changed in the fall of 2009, when a locked in A-Rod pummeled postseason pitching on his way to his first and only title. It relieved much of the pressure on him from the Yankee fan base. Without it, he might have been run out of town at some point. Winning truly cures all.
9. Dwyane Wade
A three-time champion, he’s the only multi-title winner on this list, but it comes with good reason. Wade played great in the 2006 NBA Finals, but he sure was on the right side of plenty of whistles. By my measure, he’s the third best shooting guard of all time but zero titles in Miami before LeBron’s arrival changes the perception about him a bit.
10. 2016 Chicago Cubs
Yep, last on the list is an entire team. After the way they treated Bartman for their team losing the game and the following game on their own their World Series Drought should have lasted another 100 years. And no, I don’t care that they gave Bartman a ring.