Greatest free agency signings in NBA history: 18. Ron Harper- Chicago Bulls, 1994
This probably goes without saying: every player on a championship team needs to be the primary scorer in order to impact the game. There are so many aspects and unappreciated nuances to the game to just ignore them in favor of the dudes who score most of the points.
It’s this sort of outlook that allows most sensible sports fans (read: not Skip Bayless) to credit Kyrie Irving for driving the stake through the Golden State Warriors’ collective hearts while also acknowledging that LeBron James’ block a couple of possessions prior softened up the chest cavity. In short: there’s room to credit multiple teammates for making plays that help win a team achievement.
In that vein, let’s talk about Ron Harper. Prior to signing with the Jordan-led Bulls in 1994, though he signed while Jordan was still working on his baseball career, Harper was something of a second-tier two-way star. He always filled out the points part of the box score to go along with sterling defense — peaking out at .171 WS/48 with the 88-89 Cavs — but it was pretty clear he wasn’t going to be the best player on a championship team.
So, as he aged, Harper reinvented himself as a high-value role player on the Bulls. His explanation for his philosophical change was succinct: “In my early days I could score with anybody, I felt,” he says, his mouth backfiring momentarily. “But I want to win.”
In the process, Harper arguably became a more productive player in his reduced role with the Bulls than he ever was as the lead scorer for the Clippers and Cavs, as his .128 WS/48 in Chicago easily trumps the .092 he amassed in the front nine of his career.