isaiah rider
Worse champ than Slava Medvedenko? Oh yes.

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.

Not even.

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 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:

The next season, Rider was even better. And worse. He averagd a career high 20.4 PPG while feuding with Minny coach Bill Blair all season long. I mean, he feuded so hard that the team was compelled to suspend him in December. But hey, he won an ESPY award for converting one of the craziest shots you'll ever see (against the Kings...sorry chris):

I would be failing as a blogger and a human being if I didn't include in Rider's accomplishments his infamous "Funk in the Trunk" track from the 1994 Basketball's Best Kept Secret CD:

Rider's attitude and behavior continued to regress the following season. No only did he resume the feud with his coaches and the front office, Rider was also convicted of fifth degree assault for kicking the manager of a sports bar. And did I mention the manager was a woman? Yeah.

After that, the T-Wolves opted to give him a one-way ticket to Portland, but not before Rider was arrested for marijuana possession. Oh, and during that arrest, he happened to have an illegal cell phone that had been modified to charge every call he made to someone else's cell phone.

Three weeks later, he was arrested for public gambling in Oakland.

Rider's three season's in Portland were highlighted by a 19.7 PPG average in 1997-98, a conviction for possession of marijuana, and a three-game suspension for spitting on a courtside spectator.

Despite his dubious history, the Hawks felt Rider was the missing piece of their puzzle. I'm not sure what kind of effed up puzzle they were putting together in Atlanta, because after flipping Steve Smith for Rider, the Hawks went on to win 28 games. This was after having finished fourth in the East the previous season. The Blazers, meanwhile, won 59 games with Smith and would have made the NBA Finals if not for one of the greatest fourth quarter collapses in NBA history.

The Hawks would have done almost anything to have taken a mulligan on the Rider trade...which was an unmitigated disaster even by the standards of a team that traded their best player ever (Dominique Wilkens) to the fucking Clippers and recently gave Joe Johnson a contract worth one billion dollars. Rider's one-season stop in Atlanta was marked by missed practices, more feuds with management, an incident in which he parked in the space at Philips arena reserved for Atlanta Thrasher's head coach Curt Fraser, another incident in which he threatened to have teammate Dikembe Mutombo killed, and of course more arrests. When it got out he'd smoked pot in an Orlando hotel room, the league tried to make Rider attend drug counseling. Naturally, he refused and was fined $200,000, after which he decided to attend the counseling.

In March of that season, Rider got tagged with a three-game suspension for showing up late to a game against the Pistons. After that, Rider demanded the team release him, to which the Hawks replied, "YES! YEA, GODS! YES!" But it was too late for the Dirty Birds...the damage had been done. The Rider trade began a nine-year playoff drought for the Hawks. I'm just sayin'.

At this point, Rider probably should have been D-U-N. But the Lakers -- like everybody else -- were intrigued by his enormous upside potential. Furthermore, they were convinced that Phil Jackson, who once upon a time had tamed Dennis Rodman, could keep Rider under control.

Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak seemed to think Rider could be everything Glen Rice hadn't been:
"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."

"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 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.

And while he wasn't quite the troublemaker he had been in Minnesota, Portland and Atlanta, it wasn't all violins and roses for Rider in L.A. During one regular season stretch, Rider missed the team bus to the Alamodome for a game against the rival Spurs. When he arrived late for the game, Rider gave Jackson a note from the hotel manager saying that the hotel operator had failed to provide Rider with his wake-up call. In March, as the team was starting to get playoff ready, Rider was suspended five games for violating the league's anti-drug program.

These incidents (not to mention his sub-par play) apparently soured Jackson on Rider, because Isaiah -- despite being the team's leading scorer off the bench and one of their better three-point shooters -- was left off the playoff roster in favor of Devean George (3.1 PPG, 30 percent FGP, 22 percent 3P%) and Greg Foster (2.0 PPG, 42 percent FGP, 33 percent 3P%). The decision didn't backfire on Jackson, as his Lakers went on to win the title anyway.

And that's how Rider became an NBA champion despite not appearing in a single playoff game.

I know this is going to shock the socks right off your feet, but the Lakers didn't re-sign Rider. The Nuggets gave him a shot, though. And Rider wasn't terrible. During his brief stop in Denver, he hit 40 percent of his treys (a career high) and averaged 9.3 PPG in only 17.3 MPG. But the Nuggets waived him after only 10 games. Rider refused to say he was retired and vowed to play in the NBA again.

He never did.

But here is a log of his post-NBA accomplishments (courtesy of Wikipedia):
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.

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.
That's right, kids. Rider has more arrests for kidnapping than rings.

But he has a ring.

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Blogger Siddarth Sharma said...
Wow. The original crazy pills. Seems that the quickest way to get on the Laker's roster is to be as big of a headcase as you can. On signing Matt Barnes, Kobe said "Anyone crazy enough to mess with me is crazy enough to play with me". Note the crazy mention.

I think this has something to do with Phil and his zen powers. As in, to bring out his calm and in control Yin, he needs banged up headcases to serve as his Yang thus ensuring balance between the two. The more banged up the headcases, the more potent Phil's zen become.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
So far you're spot on with this series. But I'm curious... what are the criteria? I mean, every team, especially really good teams, has 12th, 13th, 14th men who aren't good and don't see any time in the playoffs. But most of them are just guys who practice and cheer. Rice and Rider were both 1) way more talented than those guys, and 2) willing to squander it/sulk/commit crimes etc.

So do the people in this series have to be talented guys who ended up with a ring despite throwing most of that talent away, or just any sad sack who happened to be on the team?

I ask because I see a guy like Morrison (3rd pick) as an undeserving champion (though to be fair he has never been a malcontent), but not Mark Madsen. He was just a roster filler.

If you're including just roster fillers this would have to be a long series.

Blogger Dan B. said...
Impressive rap sheet. Almost as amazing as that blind one-handed reverse scoop shot, but more predictable.

In unrelated news, I gotta share this link: Like father, like son. Michael Jordan's 19 year old kid dropped several thousand dollars in a Vegas nightclub and tweeted about it. So now the club is being investigated for allowing someone under 21 to gamble and drink. Whoops.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
wait so some girl was dumb enough to sleep and engaged to a dude with a very public rap sheet as long as his?

are people stupid?

Blogger Dan B. said...
are people stupid?

In a word, yes.

Blogger Will said...
Dan B- How could you?! Anonymous is clearly an android or alien seeking to learn about us humans and you let him on to our stupidity? When we're serving our overlords in 5 years I'm blaming you.
WV: nonyal: how southerners say "no one"

Anonymous JJ said...
I have to disagree with this one. While not as epic as the Chaos Dunk (then again, what is?), East Bay Funk Dunk clearly validates Isaiah Rider's status as a champion.

Blogger Ash said...
I'm sorry, but Madsen is a fine champion. He gave Kevin Garnett fits, which forced the T-Wolves to sign him away from the Lakers so that he couldn't guard KG anymore.

Yes, this happened.

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
Anon - It's a Boston fan prepping himself for defense against the "kiss the rings" argument ZING

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Just goes to show...good things happen to good people.

Blogger Unknown said...
@Anonymous (the first one) - Because the 12th, 13th, and 14th guys usually know their roles with the team. Rider and Rice thought they were greater than the sum or their parts; or guys who would derail team chemistry (and winning).

Even though he's a criminal, Rider did have the coolest pre-game ritual of all time: rubbing the floor to find all the "cracks" in it. There's something almost spiritual about that, even if it is kind of crazy.

Anonymous Sabas's towel said...
I nominate sheed for this. Gifted to the pistons from the hawks if I remember. After he sulked his way out of portland (part of that 2000 collapse). Won a ring, wore a dumb belt, proceeded to torpedo their chances of defending, then half-assed his way through several more seasons while phoning it in for the pistons, and most recently the celtics.

I think this kid did the least with the most in the last 25 years, outside of coleman. almost single handedly killed three teams shot at championships, perfected "both teams played hard", set NBA record for "T"s, yet still got a ring with pistons - primarily because it was a weak year.

Blogger Dan B. said...
Will -- His race of aliens or androids will determine that humans are too stupid to use even as slaves, so they'll just ignore us and go away. You're welcome. (And if I'm wrong... Do I at least get a helmet, jumpsuit, and metal teeth? All hail the Overlord!")

Blogger Jon-Michael said...
Why do I fee like 10 years from now,
Basketbawful will be doing the same career retrospective for JR Smith?

He has so much upside and is so talented! We'd be stupid NOT to sign him!

Groan . . . .

Blogger Unknown said...
You've got so many in the running for tomorrow's team: Slava, Mad Dog, Mitch, and Samaki, although honorable mention for Rick Fox now that he'll be on Dancing with the Stars.

Blogger Will said...
I'm pretty sure there's a reason that rap album was kept a secret.

Blogger Unknown said...
When are you going to do Adam Morrison? Mike Penberthy anyone?

Blogger Will said...
Sorbo- who would you pick out of that quartet? Off the top of my head, I'd go with Walker, Texas Ranger.

Anonymous Baal said...
totally off topic: it ain't really off season untill "Shaq wrestles a 13 Year Old" makes it as an ESPN headline... that should say everything about the meaning of the Fiba World Cup... (I'm from Germany, a Soccer Nation... when the Fifa World Cup is on, our lifes completly break down and nobody would bring a David Beckham Wrestles a 13 year old title story...

Blogger Unknown said...
I'm split between Walker and Mitch. It's hard to hate on Mad Dog or Slava, because they just weren't that good, but they did their jobs as best they could and never really complained about it (nor became big distractions).

Mitch was chasing a ring, so that deserves some dishonorable mention, but Walker has a DUI (later tossed) even after he talked about his body being a temple (in an article about marijuana use in the NBA). That, and he complained about not getting paid enough by the Lakers, and left for Miami the next year to contribute nothing there.

Blogger Michael Hsu said...
JR Smith is really good. He handles the ball well and can shoot at times. I just don't understand why he's so stupid. He takes the worst shots ever and tries to go 1v1 all the time with all 24 seconds when melo is off the floor. Does George Carl really give him the free reign to do that?

The dude can sort of shoot, he handles really well, and can pass as well. Seriously he must be the most retarded player on the Nuggets. The best part is that Denver is always on TNT so everyone BUT him knows this!

They need to put Jason Kidd's brain in JR Smith's head and you would have another Kobe Bryant.

Anonymous AK Dave said...
Does Madsen make the all-mormon all-time first or second team? Just thinking out loud.

While we're talking about undeserved rings, how about throwing in Christian Laettner for the most undeserved spot on ANY team that ever won anything, EVAR (I'm talking of course about the Dream Team with Michael, Magic, Bird, Barkley, and, uh, Laettner...)

Blogger Andrew Hennings said...
Anon - Re: Criteria, it's hard to put an exact answer down but the way Bawful is doing it just "feels" right. You can still be a champion in my mind as someone who sits on the bench, as long as you go all out in practice and help out in other ways. Even if you do nothing at least you aren't actually detrimental to the team.

The guys bawful is listing seem to be guys who their teams won championships in *spite* of them. They aren't talentless, because a talentless guy would never get away with the kind of shit they got away with. They were talented enough to hang around but big enough headcases to cause a lot of damage to the team.

Anonymous Bill Foster said...
If you thought Lebron's "gone fishing" photo bullshit was a bit far. FC Stjarnan have taken it to new levels:

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I didn't realise players left off the playoff roster got a ring. That means Robert Parish got one with the Bulls, right?

Anonymous gebwel said...
i have to disagree with you calling the 1993 draft a lousy one. it had webber, penny, houston, baker and mashburn. sure, their careers were somehow derailed by injuries and personal problems, but at that time they were considered to be talented... unlike the 2000 draft which was very thin right from the beginning.

Blogger Unknown said...
The rap sheet disaster at the end is sweet. I bet he pulled some crazy stuff with Phil too and got left out of the playoffs

@Sid Phill is over 9000!