championship piggyback

championship piggyback (cham'-pe-uhn-ship pig'-e-bak) noun. The situation in which one or more players -- usually roleplayers and/or aging veterans -- sign on with or get traded to a "sure bet" championship contender, often for a reduced salary, in the hopes of winning that elusive NBA title before retirement.

Usage example: Almost half of the Celtics' current roster are playing championship piggyback.

Word Trivia: By my count, the Boston Celtics are the current league leaders in championship piggybackers: Eddie House (who was practically out of the league), James Posey (who left the Heat), P.J. Brown (who left his couch), Sam Cassell (who forced the Clippers into a buyout), and Scot Pollard (is he even still playing?) all jumped onto the Celtic Championship Express. (I'm both thankful and kind of disappointed that Reggie Miller didn't do it.) The Spurs, always a highly desireable location for the CPs (who can forget Glenn Robinson celebrating the hell out of the 2005 NBA title?), has two standing examples (Brent Barry and Michael Finley) and two new additions (Damon Stoudemire and Kurt Thomas).

Of course, the most classic contemporary example of championship piggybacking was when Gary Payton and Karl Malone took huge paycuts -- GP accepted the mid-level exception and The Mailman took the veteran's minimum -- to sign with the Lakers back in 2003-04. Of course, we all know how that turned out. The irony is that Malone obviously wanted a "sure thing" but turned down an offer from the Spurs, who were the reigning champs, because he wanted to be the X Factor that pushed L.A. back over the top. Unfortunately for Malone, L.A.'s medical staff misdiagnosed his knee injury, telling him that a torn medial collateral ligament was nothing more than a sprain, which caused further injury and transformed the former NBA ironman into a shuffling, slow-footed shell of his former self. If you ever wonder why the Pistons mandhandled the Lakers in the 2004 NBA Finals, that's a big reason why.

The second most famous recent example has to be the 2005-06 Miami Heat, a team chock-full of late 90s and early 2000s All-Stars like Alonzo Mourning, Antoine Walker, Gary Payton, and Jason Williams. Yes, that abomination won the NBA title and despoiled 2000 years of human history with the words "Antoine Walker, World Champion," but this year's 13-win squad is living, breathing, sucking proof that karma is indeed a real thing. It also shows what can happen when a team mortgages its future for The Now.

The Chicago Bulls were a favored CP destination back in the 1990s, with guys like Dennis Rodman, Joe Klein, Luc Longley, Ron Harper, Steve Kerr, and even Robert Parish -- okay, that one hurt me physically -- signing on to play caddy for Michael Jordan. The Celtics and Lakers of the 80s got their fair share of piggybacking: Boston picked up guys like Bill Walton, Jerry Sichting, and Scott Wedman, and L.A. rented the services of Bob McAdoo, Mychal Thompson, and Orlando Woolridge, among others.

Oh, and let's not forget that Clyde Drexler did it with the Houston Rockets in 1994-95 -- and got a ring for his troubles -- which led both Charles Barkley and Scottie Pippen to jump on the Houston rocketship in 1997-98 and 1998-99 respectively. Too bad The Dream, Sir Charles and Pip were old and used up by then. Sorry. I mean "past their prime."

Upate: Reader Jaiwanjin called me out on the following somewhat unforgivable omission: "You absolutely can't leave Mitch Richmond and the 2002 Lakers off this list. The lone bright spot for Sacramento fans seeing L.A. beat their beloved team was seeing their long time martyr dance with glee at getting his ring. They even let him play a few minutes in one of the games against New Jersey." Thanks, Jaiwanjin. You're absolutely right. My bad.

Synonyms: I created the term "championship piggyback," but I also once referred to players who do it as "championship remoras," so named after those little suckerfish that latch onto sharks, whales and other large fish in order to live off of their scraps. According to Wikipedia: "The relationship between remoras and their hosts is most often taken to be one of commensalism, specifically phoresy. The host they attach to for transport gains nothing from the relationship, but also loses little." Is there any better way to describe Glenn Robinson's stint with the Spurs back in '05, or Scot Pollard's run with the Celtics today? Personally, I don't think so.

Addendum: Here are a few notes in response to some remarks that have been posted in the comments section.

1. Championship piggybackers aren't all losers who can't play. The Rockets don't win a title without Clyde in 1995, and the Bulls don't pull of that second three-peat wtihout Rodman. But the point remains that Drexler worked to get traded to Houston and The Worm wanted to go to Chicago, and in both cases they did it for a shot at winning.

2. Reason number one is why I chose to term it "championship piggyback" instead of "championship remora." The latter term is reserved for the Glenn Robinsons and Mitch Richmonds of the world. However, good players piggyback too. Malone - who's one of my all-time favorite players - did it with the Lakers, and he had a hell of a lot left in the tank...before the Lakers' medical staff failed to properly diagnose the problem with his knee.

3. Piggybacking can happen by trade in addition to free agency. Players and their agents often work behind the scenes to work out a trade to a contender. Happens all the time.

4. Players like Cassell, Rodman, Posey, etc. may already have rings, but that doesn't mean they don't want more. If Cassell didn't care about winning another title, why not just finish out the year as a Clipper and then retire? He wants to go out on top. Posey got a taste of winning with the Heat, concluded those days were over in Miami, and jumped ship to the next best championship option.

Houston was struggling when Clyde got there, but mostly due to injuries. And he believed that, with The Dream in his prime, they could win the big one together...and he was never going to win it in Portland. He's said this.

Pippen's tank wasn't empty in 1998-99, but he had back and leg issues and wasn't the explosive force he had been in the early and mid-90s. He did sign for big $$, but I only said "often at a reduced salary." And there's no question he chose Houston at that time because he thought Pip + Dream + Barkley = Title. No question.

The KG situation was close, but the Celtics had won 24 games the previous season and Pierce and Allen have never been anywhere close to a championship. When Clyde, then later Barkley and Pippen, went to Houston, that team had won a title with Hakeem. Garnett's trade was more of a gamble. But it's a close one.

One last note: Barry and Finley are indeed valuable roleplayers with the Spurs. But, as noted, piggybackers aren't always useless slobs. They sometimes contribute greatly to the cause. However, there's no question that Finley went to the Spurs, and Barry recently returned, because they felt as though it was the best systerm for them and held the greatest chance for winning another title.

Labels: , , , , , ,

25 Comments:
Anonymous Shrugz said...
I just call those people douchebags

cuz they COULD have signed for less with the team that they maxed out on and help THEM get better players but no they jump ship and sign with another team for less money

Blogger Wild Yams said...
So since Gary Payton pulled this act in both LA and Miami, would that make him the champion of championship piggyback?

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Spot on comment, with one exception: Although Dennis Rodman certainly was a championship hanger-on, he had previously won two championships with the Pistons. So he isn't so much of a championship piggyback as a disloyal bandwagoner - How do you go from the Bad Boys to the Bulls? Did the Jordan Rules mean nothing?

Blogger flohtingPoint said...
Eddie House (who was practically out of the league)

Ah, I wouldn't say he was practically out of the league... He had a decent season with Phoenix two years ago and shot 40% from downtown with NJ last year. Teams can do a lot worse than Eddie.

Blogger Jaiwanjin said...
You absolutely can't leave Mitch Richmond and the 2002 Lakers off this list. The lone bright spot for Sacramento fans seeing LA beat their beloved team was seeing their long time martyr dance with glee at getting his ring.

They even let him play a few minutes in one of the games against New Jersey.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
shrugz -- "Douchebags" also works...

wild yams -- You know, he sort of it. It also proves that, if at first you don't succeed, try, try again (to leech off of someone else's success).

flohtingPoint -- I'm not denying House has skillz, just pointing out that he didn't exactly have a lot of suitors before Danny Ainge gave him a call, and that call really only came because the C's were desperate for bench depth.

jaiwanjin -- You're right. And now quoted in the post.

Anonymous MattK said...
Weren't there rumours last fall that Payton might try to return to the Celtics, around the same time Reggie Miller was thinking about it?

Anonymous Wormboy said...
I like "championship remoras" so much better. It's fantastic imagery! "Piggyback" is so pedestrian.

Anonymous Geert, Netherlands. said...
I don't really see Brent Barry and Michael Finley as championship piggyback riders. Come on, they are part of the rotation as valuable roleplayers for respectively 4 and 3 seasons!

In my opinion, the term "championship piggyback rider" points mostly to past their prime stars who kinda betray their old team and their legacy. For instance, Malone just should have retired als a Jazz.

Keep up the cool blogging!

Anonymous Shrugz said...
AHAH I'm like the most pessimistic, hating, b-ball fan ever LOL

Anonymous bob marley said...
the mailman should have stayed and retired with the jazz after passing kareem for all time leading scorer. that would have been alot sweeter than losing like he did in LA.

Anonymous Tiel said...
Sure you can call Sam Cassell a Piggybag *or whatever* but James Posey? Comeon man...

Dude went to Miami because he wasn't wanted in Memphis. He didnt ask for it. He won a championship and... to turn things around... Miami won a chanpionship because of James Posey. He hustled his ass off!

He has his ring, he doesnt need another. He went to Boston for very little cash-money in a time when there were a lot more doubters off the C's than there are now.

I love your blogs, I agree most of the time. But you just can't hate on James Posey like that.

Anonymous Funks said...
Bit harsh tagging Clyde as a remora - was a starter-for-a-starter trade and dude averaged 20+ - not exactly a role player.
And how you forgot Isiah Rider's goofy grin at the end of the Laker's bench .. he and Mitch were swapping tales of games with 2mins court time ...

Anonymous gebwel said...
if you consider the worm as CP, you should consider garnett a CP as well. come on, dennis was a roleplayer, but he's still in his prime. in fact, the bulls probably wouldn't achieve the 2nd threepeat if it wasn't for him. remember, KG previously turned down a trade proposal to the celtics. but after boston got ray allen, he changed his mind. isn't that somewhat piggybacking?

Anonymous Rainbow Bright said...
Hey! Clyde was still good when he won his ring with the Rockets. And still posterized a few cats during his last leg.

Anonymous your favourite sun said...
This is a great word but some of your examples are terrible. Dennis Rodman and Luc Longley didn't sign with the Bulls, they were traded to them, while Ron Harper signed when Jordan was retired(and for good money). Rodman was no longer welcome in San Antonio, who would have dumped him on anyone but only the Bulls were takers(at least, I assume so, if no other team was willing to give up anything better than Will Perdue). Is it really piggybacking to accept a trade to the only team willing to have you? I'm also inclined to agree with gebwel that the Bulls may not win those titles without Rodman...

To the anonymous comment above--how is a player supposed to be loyal to a franchise that didn't want him and wasn't loyal to him? Is he supposed to retire to avoid playing for a team other than the one who drafted him? Loyalty is great but it usually has to go both ways.

Speaking of going from Bad Boys to the Bulls, John Salley signed with Chicago in '96 when it was crystal clear they were on their way to winning 70+.

Drexler also was traded midseason, and while Houston was struggling. They entered the playoffs as the sixth seed iirc. Defending champions or no, joining up with the sixth seed is hardly championship piggybacking.

It's also harsh to call the Pippen of '98 "used up." Old(by NBA standards), sure, but he had a lot of quality basketball still left in the tank. He also signed for eight figures, roughly 5x more than he was making with the Bulls. Shouldn't CP be reserved for guys signing below market value?

Blogger stephanie g said...
Yeah, I'm not sure if you should call players who are still extremely good remoras. Rodman may have been old but he was an invaluable pillar. Plus I dunno about players who already earned their rings (Cassell, Powe, Rodman, etc.) since, well, they may join that particular team just to get even more jewelry but they don't have the air of desperation as a Barkley or a Malone or a GP.

Anonymous Murcy said...
hey, the stuff is great, but come on The Worm really, really was an important part of that bulls team, with his relentless defense and grea rebounding, and they needed steve kerr's threes (lie you know, for winning a championship). he was a CP rather in san antonio at the end of his career.

Anonymous pierrot said...
Yeah, the examples are terrible. Another bad one is Kurt Thomas ... he was traded to San Antonio, he didn't sign with them. It's not like Seattle gave him away, either. They got a first rounder out of it. Thomas could end up being very useful for the Spurs (which is why they acquired him, obviously).

Blogger Basketbawful said...
A few notes:

1. Championship piggybackers aren't all losers who can't play. The Rockets don't win a title without Clyde in 1995, and the Bulls don't pull of that second three-peat wtihout Rodman. But the point remains that Drexler worked to get traded to Houston and The Worm wanted to go to Chicago, and in both cases they did it for a shot at winning.

2. Reason number one is why I chose to term it "championship piggyback" instead of "championship remora." The latter term is reserved for the Glenn Robinsons and Mitch Richmonds of the world. However, good players piggyback too. Malone - who's one of my all-time favorite players - did it with the Lakers, and he had a hell of a lot left in the tank...before the Lakers' medical staff failed to properly diagnose the problem with his knee.

3. Piggybacking can happen by trade in addition to free agency. Players and their agents often work behind the scenes to work out a trade to a contender. Happens all the time.

4. Players like Cassell, Rodman, Posey, etc. may already have rings, but that doesn't mean they don't want more. If Cassell didn't care about winning another title, why not just finish out the year as a Clipper and then retire? He wants to go out on top. Posey got a taste of winning with the Heat, concluded those days were over in Miami, and jumped ship to the next best championship option.

Houston was struggling when Clyde got there, but mostly due to injuries. And he believed that, with The Dream in his prime, they could win the big one together...and he was never going to win it in Portland. He's said this.

Pippen's tank wasn't empty in 1998-99, but he had back and leg issues and wasn't the explosive force he had been in the early and mid-90s. He did sign for big $$, but I only said "often at a reduced salary." And there's no question he chose Houston at that time because he thought Pip + Dream + Barkley = Title. No question.

The KG situation was close, but the Celtics had won 24 games the previous season and Pierce and Allen have never been anywhere close to a championship. When Clyde, then later Barkley and Pippen, went to Houston, that team had won a title with Hakeem. Garnett's trade was more of a gamble. But it's a close one.

One last note: Barry and Finley are indeed valuable roleplayers with the Spurs. But, as noted, piggybackers aren't always useless slobs. They sometimes contribute greatly to the cause. However, there's no question that Finley went to the Spurs, and Barry recently returned, because they felt as though it was the best systerm for them and held the greatest chance for winning another title.

Anonymous lechuck said...
i enjoy reading your blog, especially the word of the day part, but i have to say that you're throwing the term around too loosely on this one. while your definition clearly states that CP is someone who:
(a) is a roleplayer/aging veteran
(b) signs with or asks to get traded to a "sure bet" contender
(c) accepts a reduced salary
(d) hopes to win the elusive title before retirement.

many of your examples can only fall in 1 or 2 description. i understand that not all of them should fit under every description, but they should at least fall under minimum of 2.

for example, malone and payton might fall under all of the above, but rodman would only fall under (a) and probably (b) if you're stretching it. drexler probably only fell under (a) and (d). if you think that pippen and drexler are CP, you should put garnett into consideration because he's at least (b) and (d) if not also (a) and (c).

the obvious example of piggybacking IMO were those who jumped on to a perennial contender like richmond to lakers or big dog to spurs. plus, payton and malone. to put miami heat as an example is a little bit stretching since they're actually a bunch of "misfits" with many issues (walker and payton for selfishness, zo for medical condition, williams for his inconsistency) who - surprisingly -happened to mix pretty well w/ the two superstars. but it was initially a huge gamble, kinda like the celtics now, and not as "sure bet" as people might think today.

anyway, how about coining a word of the day for your next edition for those who jumped off a contender to a crappy team for better reward money-wise ala the matrix to miami or stephen jackson from spurs to atlanta?

Blogger Basketbawful said...
lechuck -- I don't have to stretch things too far for Rodman. For instance, his contract expired after his first season with the Bulls. He wanted a high-paying, long-term deal and the Bulls said "no way." So then he asked for a one-year deal worth $10 million, guaranteed. They Bulls said, "Uhm, no." He finally accepted a one-year deal worth $9 million, with only $6 million guaranteed and the rest available through activators (such as his rebounding average and number of games played). He signed ANOTHER one-year deal after that one expired, with the same general parameters.

You also have to add in the fact that Rodman was going to a team he had previously hated, full of players who had hated him. Of course, it's worth noting that Rodman did it partly for the money, partly for the winning, and partly for the celebrity.

Also, I use the term loosely because it's a loose term. Anybody who tries to tag along with a "sure bet" contender is a championship piggybacker. The details (roleplayer/aging vet, reduced salary, etc.) are more like guidelines than actual rules (with apologies to Captain Barbosa).

Garnett definitely deserves consideration, except that it was his arrival that turned the Celtics into a "sure bet." Without him, they'd make the playoffs and that would be about it. Clyde went to the Rockets after they won a title. Rodman went to the Bulls after Jordan had returned, and had to figure they were due for at least another championship.

I include the 2005-06 Miami Heat because that team was brought together for the sole purpose of winning a title. They had been close the season before. And the only reason those players consented to go there and accept what was, for them, reduced roles (do you think GP wanted to come off the bench?) is that they wanted to get the ring.

Anonymous your favourite sun said...
Other examples of CP: AC Green and Horace Grant with the Shaq Lakers, in different seasons. Ron Harper and his creaky knees joined up with that team once Phil got there, too. And John Salley again--he dusted off the cobwebs to come back in 99/00 after missing three full seasons following his Bulls CP in '96.

Ime Udoka should be considered one of the more bizarre examples, in that he only had one full NBA season and decided to CP with the Spurs.

Should Pau Gasol, Jason Kidd and Shaq of this season be counted? All were disgruntled on bad teams and got themselves traded to legit contenders.

Blogger b said...
KG case can't even be close.... KG brings the championship- how can he be compared to piggyback?

Blogger el sucko said...
glen rice anyone?

Links to this post:
Create a Link