These 30 players significantly altered the fortunes of the franchises they signed with in NBA free agency, be it unprecedented consistency or championships.
For even the most well-run NBA franchises, team building can be a challenge. Even if a team’s front office successfully develops a strong core of young talent or swing the trade to end all trades, they could still need a little extra oomph to become a legitimate contender through NBA free agency.
Starting with Tom Chambers in 1988, free agency has become not only one of the quickest ways for a team to improve, but also the primary avenue for players to take control over their careers in terms of where they want to play.
While people on the side of the labor (i.e.: decent people) see free agency as an overall positive — even with the restrictions of max salaries, salary caps, and the luxury tax in place to depress players’ earning power — others like to hem and haw over how creating an open market for players within the NBA confines has led to superteams that “destroy the league” or “hurt small market teams” (despite the fact that superteams have existed since the league’s infancy).
Whichever side of the fence you sit on, there’s no denying free agency’s impact on the overall NBA landscape.
If you google “NBA free agency” right now, you will find no shortage of lists not unlike the one you’re about to read now that rank the five or 10 best signings based on whichever arbitrary reasoning the author chooses to employ.
But there’s no need to go through the trouble of opening another tab on whichever web browser you use when there’s a perfectly good list that will give you the best 30 free agency signings — based on individual and team performance — right here.
Greatest free agency signings in NBA history: 30. Steve Kerr- Chicago Bulls, 1993
If you’re under the age of, 25 or so, you probably know Steve Kerr as the man who turned the Golden State Warriors into a league-altering dynasty, but before he became an all-time great coach, or before his stints as Pheonix Suns general manager and color analyst on TNT, Kerr was a six-time NBA champion as a player with the Spurs and the Chicago Bulls.
After spending his first five seasons with the Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Orlando Magic, Kerr signed with the Bulls in 1993, where he first served as B.J. Armstrong’s backup. Kerr entered the league at a time when most teams still viewed the 3-pointer as a novelty act, particularly as the NBA transitioned from the high-octane “Showtime Era” to the slog that was iso-heavy 1990s basketball.
As such, Kerr made his money as a “3-point specialist” who was a safety valve for the star players. Much like Horry, he wasn’t a player who would keep opponents awake at night, but he often benefitted from the gravity that the likes of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen drew.
In five seasons with the Bulls, Kerr finished with .172 WS/48, higher than with any other team. His crowning achievement in the red and black — other than the titles, a 3-point contest win, and punching ultra competitive maniac Jordan — was this game-winner against the Utah Jazz in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, which secured the fifth championship for the Bulls.