No matter how good a player is, they cannot win an NBA championship by themselves. To win it all, a team must have a solid supporting cast of role players. Today, we’ll take a look at some of the best role players in NBA history. If a role player hall of fame existed, these players would, without a doubt, be members.
Robert Horry is arguably the most accomplished role player of all time, with seven championships. He won two titles with the Rockets, three with the Lakers, and two with the Spurs. Horry was known well for his clutch play and defensive versatility.
Robert Horry has had several crucial playoff games and moments. However, the moment that is perhaps the most well-known was his game-winner in Game 4 against the Kings. On the verge of going down 3-1 in the 2002 Western Conference Finals, Horry would make a buzzer-beating three to tie the series. If Horry did not make this shot, it would be very likely that the Lakers would not complete their three-peat. Horry would finish the game with a crucial 18 points, 14 rebounds, and five assists.
Another vital playoff game by Horry was in Game 5 of the 2005 NBA finals. He recorded a critical 21 points and seven rebounds on 78.8 TS%. As a result of this performance, San Antonio took a 3-2 lead over the Pistons. This performance would ultimately help them secure a title.
However, Horry’s important playoff moments don’t stop there. In Game 3 of the 2001 NBA finals against the 76ers, the series was tied 1-1. Horry would nail a clutch three to give the Lakes a 92-88 lead with less than a minute left. Additionally, in Game 3 of the 2002 first round, Robert Horry would hit the series-clinching three against the Trail Blazers.
In terms of role players, Robert Horry is among the best. Horry has some incredible clutch shots and crucial performances on his resume. If there were a Role Player Hall of Fame, he would be a shoo-in.
Derek Fisher is another role player with a very accomplished career. Fisher won five championships, all with the Lakers, and was a crucial part of every title.
Derek Fisher is the benchmark for a great role player. He all 82 games of the season six times in his career, including the ’09-10 season when he was 35 years old. Fisher has the twelfth highest career plus-minus ever and the second-most playoff wins by any player.
Derek Fisher has also had some strong playoff performances throughout his eighteen-season career. For example, in Game 4 of the 2001 Western Conference Finals, he would put up 28 points, six rebounds, and five assists on an incredible 104.2 TS%. This performance would help the Lakers complete their sweep against the Spurs and advance to their second straight finals.
Derek Fisher also hit one of the most iconic buzzer-beaters in NBA history. In Game 5 of the 2004 Western Conference Semifinals, the Lakers were down 73-72 with 0.4 left on the clock. Fisher would hit an improbable buzzer-beater to give the Lakers a 3-2 series lead. The Lakers would eliminate the Spurs and eventually advance to the NBA Finals.
Derek Fisher was a scrappy, 6’1 point guard who was an extremely hard worker. The spark he brought to a team and his outstanding leadership allowed him to become one of the most significant role players ever.
Steve Kerr achieved a great deal in his fifteen-year career. He won five championships in his career, four with the Bulls and one with the Spurs.
As stated above, Kerr was an absolute sniper from downtown. He boasts the highest career 3P%, with an astonishing 45.4%. Kerr’s phenomenal three-point shooting allowed him to be a key contributor in every one of his championship runs.
In the 1997 finals, Steve Kerr hit one of the biggest shots in NBA history. In Game 6 against the Jazz, it was a tie game with 28 seconds remaining. Jordan was facing a doubled team and would pass the ball to Steve Kerr as a result. Kerr would calmly sink a seventeen-footer, and the Bulls would take a 88-86 lead with five seconds left. This shot would win the game for the Bulls and ultimately clinched their fifth championship.
Steve Kerr was a historic three-point shooter and had a great motor. As a result, Kerr became one of the best role players ever. The impact he had on the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s cannot be understated. No Role Player Hall of Fame would be complete without Steve Kerr.
Bruce Bowen is everything a role player should be and more. He didn’t have an easy path into the NBA, going undrafted. However, Bowen would have a very accomplished career, and his #12 would eventually be retired by the Spurs. In his fifteen-year career, Bowen won three championships, all with San Antonio.
Bruce Bowen knew his role very well–play great defense and occasionally hit threes. Although Bowen’s game was somewhat limited, he was very good at what he could do. For instance, he was a smothering defender, making a staggering eight all-defense teams. Additionally, Bowen even led the NBA in 3P% in the 2002-2003 season. Similar to Fisher, Bowen had terrific longevity, playing 80+ games seven times in his career.
Bruce Bowen’s defense was crucial for San Antonio, and he had some critical moments on the defensive end for the Spurs. For instance, Bowen guarded many all-time greats throughout his career.
Most notably, he guarded LeBron James for almost the entirety of the 2007 Finals. With Bowen’s incredible defense, LeBron averaged just 22 points on 35.6%. San Antonio would go on to sweep Cleveland, in large part to Bowen.
Bowen also notably played crucial defense on Kobe Bryant in Game 6 of the 2003 Western Conference Semifinals. Bowen was Kobe’s primary defender in the game and would hold Bryant to just 20 points on 9-19 shooting. As a result of his superb defensive performance, the Spurs advanced to the Western Conference Finals. Bowen’s defense would continue to be vital for the Spurs throughout the conference finals and the finals.
Bruce Bowen is a hard worker who made a name for himself on the defensive end. If there were a Role Player Hall of Fame, Bowen would be a first-ballot member.
Michael Cooper is yet another example of a very accomplished role player. Throughout the Showtime era, Michael Cooper was instrumental to the Lakers’ five championships.
Above all, Michael Cooper was an incredible wing defender. He made eight all-defensive teams in his twelve-year career and won the Defensive Player of the Year award in the 1986-1987 season. To this day, Cooper is just one of five guards ever to win the award.
Michael Cooper’s most important defensive performance was by far Game 6 of the 1985 finals. Cooper would guard Larry Bird, and as a result, held him to 12-29 shooting. Because of the stellar defense by Cooper that game, the Lakers would go on to win the series, securing Cooper his fourth championship. Bird would later say that Cooper was the most formidable defender he ever played against.
Cooper is a Hall of Fame finalist for the 2021 class. Many of his former teammates, such as Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, recently voiced their support for his possible induction.
Cooper was an elite defender and an integral part of five of the Lakers’ championships. Cooper is, without a doubt, one of the most significant role players ever; he certainly deserves an eventual induction into the Hall of Fame.
In conclusion, these role players have accomplished a great deal in their careers and were vital to several of their teams’ championships. If a Role Player Hall of Fame were to exist, each of these players would most definitely be inductees.