Looking back at the Lakers' 2000-01 championship squad, it's tempting to assume that Mark Madsen or Slava Medvedenko were the least deserving ring recipients.
That dishonor goes to none other than Isaiah "J.R." Rider.
In case you're not familiar with Rider's background, allow me to provide a history lesson. Isaiah didn't catch on with a major NCAA program coming out of high school. Instead, he became a standout at Allen County Community College in Lola, Kansas, where he managed to get a GED before flunking out...but after pleading no contest to a battery misdemeanor and serving a probationary sentence. Following his flunkout, Rider moved on to Antelope Valley College in Lancaster, California, where he had to "earn" eligibility by taking seven units of physical education in summer school just to get his GPA up to 1.91. That was still below the minimum of 2.00 needed for eligibility, but an appeal was made to the state board of community colleges, which ruled that Rider eligible.
His academic efforts notwithstanding, Rider's fat stats earned him a spot on Jerry Tarkanian's squad at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
While he was at UNLV, Rider became a Second Team All-American during his senior year. He was also dogged by allegations of academic dishonesty and attitude problems. The latter came to a greasy, pus-filled head when he was arrested and spent a night in jail for assaulting a drive-through attendant at Jack in the Box. The exact nature of the crime? He threw a milkshake in the dude's face. Because it was vanilla instead of strawberry.
Still, Rider was an amazing athlete and had enough raw talent for some crappy team to take a wild gamble on him. Sure enough, the Minnesota Timberwolves selected him with the fifth overall pick in the 1993 NBA Draft. (I almost can't blame the T-Wolves for this one...it was a pretty lousy draft.)
Believe it or not, things started out pretty well for Isaiah, who won the Slam Dunk Contest and made the All-Rookie First Team. Here's the classic between-the-legs jam that won him the dunk contest and freaked out Charles Barkley the hell out:
"This was a great opportunity to get an experienced and very talented player and we're happy to have Isaiah join our team. His explosiveness and ability will help take some of the pressure off our other players, and with his youth and skills, he could be a great addition to this team for years to come."For his part, Rider was excited about his latest new beginning:
Rider said he was grateful to Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak, coach Phil Jackson and owner Jerry Buss for "having the faith in me to give me this opportunity."In his "new start," Rider played 67 games, starting in six of them, and averaged 7.6 PPG while shooting 42 percent from the field and 37 percent from beyond the arc. He added 2.3 RPG and 1.7 APG while compiling a Player Efficiency Rating of 11.8. His Offensive Rating was (gak) 97 while his Defensive Rating was (double gak) 108. He finished the season with 0.8 Win Shares.
"I'm looking forward to a new start in my career," Rider said in a statement released by the Lakers.
"I've been a Lakers fan since I was a kid growing up in Oakland watching Magic and those Showtime teams," Rider said. "Now I'm excited to play with Shaq (O'Neal), Kobe (Bryant) and the rest of the guys and to hopefully get a championship ring next spring."
In January 2006, Rider was arrested on kidnapping charges in Marin City, California for taking a female friend in his car against her will. He was charged with domestic violence and ordered to stay out of Marin City.That's right, kids. Rider has more arrests for kidnapping than rings.
Despite this court order, he was spotted in the area a few weeks later. A Marin County sheriff's deputy confronted him, and while fleeing, Rider hit another car. He was arrested in Alameda County in late 2006, and transferred to the Marin County jail after three judges in that county issued bench warrants against him. In February 2007, Rider pleaded guilty to several charges, including felony cocaine possession and evading an officer.
He was sentenced to seven months in jail, 120 hours community service and three years' probation. He will also have to complete a drug education program. At sentencing, Rider admitted to a longstanding problem with marijuana; he'd also begun lacing it with cocaine.
On January 6, 2008, Rider was again arrested, this time in Berkeley, California after a confrontation with a taxi driver upon a no-bail warrant for unlawful firearm possession and separate $5,000 warrant for grand theft issued by the Oakland Police Department.
On March 5, 2008, Rider was arrested and was held in the Marin County Jail in San Rafael, California. He was charged and pled guilty for possession of a controlled narcotic substance, disobeying a court order, evading a peace officer, providing false information to a peace officer, and driving on a suspended license.
On early Saturday morning, March 29, 2008, Rider was arrested in the Skid Row district of Los Angeles for investigation of auto theft and was released from Los Angeles County jail in the afternoon. He was scheduled to appear in court on April 23, 2008.
In October 2009, Rider signed with the North Texas Fresh of the American Basketball Association. Rider played one game for the North Texas Fresh, and then was cut in early January from the team.
On April 9, 2010, Rider was arrested near his home in Mesa, AZ for assaulting his fiancé and stiffing a cab driver, after having been involved in three separate incidents in five days.
On April 14, 2000, he was again arrested for allegedly kidnapping his one month old son the previous evening. Rider was released after questioning with the police stating they would submit the details to the county attorney's office for a possible custodial interference charge.