Former Jazzmen Who Became NBA Champions

June 22nd, 2015 | by David J Smith
Former Jazz guard Brandon Rush is now officially an NBA champion. (Kelley L Cox-U)SA TODAY Sports

Former Jazz guard Brandon Rush is now officially an NBA champion. (Kelley L Cox-U)SA TODAY Sports

One of the best teams in NBA history, the Golden State Warriors are the new world champions — very well-deserved. After winning 67 games and displaying some of the best advanced stats ever, they finished the job and brought a ring home to the Bay Area, its first in 40 years. Congratulation to the Warriors.

In the process, former Jazz guard Brandon Rush earned a ring. Rush’s lone season in Salt Lake City was not much to remember at all. Injured much of the season, his poor play and questionable attitude did little to endear himself to Utah’s fan base. Even so, Rush is now an NBA champion.

He joins a line of former players who managed to get that ring following their time with the Jazz1. Here is a brief walk down memory lane.

Bobby Hansen (Utah Jazz 1983-1990), champion with 1992 Chicago Bulls 

Bobby Hansen was a big part of the transformation the Utah Jazz franchise took in the early 1980s. A gritty, tough-nosed competitor, Hansen was a player whose hustle and effort belied his lack of athleticism. He earned his reputation on the defensive end, but was capable of hitting the outside shot. While Hansen was quite popular among the Jazz organization, he was shipped to the Sacramento Kings along with center Eric Leckner in exchange for Jeff Malone. It was a trade that needed to happen to upgrade Utah’s overall talent level, but it was still difficult to see Hansen depart.

After just two games with the Kings, he was luckily traded to the Chicago Bulls. While he played sparingly, Hansen made his mark in the 1992 NBA Finals. In game six, the Portland Trailblazers had taken control, holding a 15-point lead. Bulls head honcho Phil Jackson marched out an unorthodox lineup of Scottie Pippen and four reserves, Hansen being one of them. In improbable fashion, that ragtag quintet brought Chicago back, and Michael Jordan did the rest. In that run, Hansen drained a crucial 3-pointer and played some solid defense.

Greg Foster (1995-1999), 2001 Los Angeles Lakers

After a very nomadic start to his NBA sojourn, Foster found a home with the Jazz for several seasons. While his play was limited, he occasionally provided a timely jump shot or some spirited play. Foster definitely had his moments during Utah’s pair of Finals run, including game three in 1997, where he scored 15 first-half points. He was infamously traded along with Chris Morris to the Orlando Magic for Rony Seikaly, only for that trade to be mysteriously rescinded when Seikaly did not report to the Jazz on time. Foster was brought back, and while it must have been extremely difficult, went right back into the starting lineup.

He played for four more teams after leaving Utah, winning a championship with the Shaquille O’Neal/Kobe Bryant Lakers-led team in 2001. He played a mere three minutes that postseason, but earned a ring nonetheless.

Tony Massenburg (2002-2003), 2005 San Antonio Spurs

Massenburg’s NBA tenure is the very definition of a journeyman’s career, playing for 12 different franchises. He played just one season for the Jazz, actually providing a nice physical presence off the bench. At 37 years old, Massenburg managed to end his career with a San Antonio Spurs championship.

Shandon Anderson (1996-1999), 2006 Miami Heat

Another vital cog for those Finals team, Anderson was a great find by the Jazz in the second round. He played with a maturity beyond his years and behind some solid shooting and defense, was a rotation player from day one. Many will remember his missed lay-up, but Anderson also showed a lot of heart by suiting up after his father passed away during the Playoffs.

He decided to seek for greener pastures, turning down a Jazz offer to sign with the Houston Rockets. Anderson never achieved much success there or with the New York Knicks2. He finished his NBA career with the Miami Heat, earning a championship in 2006 behind Dwyane Wade and O’Neal’s star power.

Jacque Vaughn (1997-2001), 2007 San Antonio Spurs

Vaughn was a first-round draft pick who bided his time his first few seasons with the Jazz. When Howard Eisley departed, he assumed the role as John Stockton’s back-up, doing a fine job. He went on to gain employment with four other teams, eventually finishing his playing career with the San Antonio Spurs. Vaughn played some adequate minutes behind Tony Parker, and helped the Spurs win one of their many championships in 2007. He went on to work and coach for San Antonio following his playing career, eventually getting a head coach opportunity with Orlando, which unfortunately ended unceremoniously.

Derek Fisher (2006-2007), 2009 and 2010 Los Angeles Lakers

Fisher was a longtime veteran — eight seasons with the Lakers and two with the Warriors — when the Jazz traded for him. He was an undersized shooting guard, starting alongside Deron Williams. His shooting was never great in Utah, but he did provide the team with leadership and savvy. Fisher gave Jazz fans one of the all-time great moments in 2007, in the midst of his daughter’s health issues.

Much could be said about his departure and his re-joining the Lakers, a longtime Jazz rival and nemesis. He went on to win a pair of championships with LA, to go along with the three others he contributed toward his first stint there.

DeShawn Stevenson (2000-2004), 2011 Dallas Mavericks

Stevenson was the Jazz’s first-round draft pick in 2000, right out of high school. Stevenson had an up-and-down career, including some trouble with the law the evening he was selected by Utah. He played a reserve role for three seasons, never showing much consistency. He did earn a starting spot on the memorable, overachieving 2003-2004 Jazz squad that managed a winning record post-Stockton and Malone. He was traded that February to the Orlando Magic in exchange for guard Gordan Giricek.

Stevenson played a few seasons for the Magic and then was part of some solid Washington Wizards teams before landing with the Dallas Mavericks. Although Jason Terry and J.J. Barea played more, Stevenson surprisingly was the Mavericks’ starter for much of the season. He developed into a 3-point specialist late in his career, something that was on display during the Dallas Finals run.

While most of these players were not the headlines, with Fisher being the exception, each contributed to a championship. A very small percentage of NBA players can say the same.

David J Smith

David J Smith

Besides writing for Salt City Hoops, David contributes to the Utah Jazz coverage for the Deseret News and has written for the Utah Jazz website and Hoopsworld.com (now Basketball Insiders). He graduated from BYU and works for LDS Philanthropies. He and his incredibly patient wife have five amazing children--four girls and a boy named Stockton (yes, really).
David J Smith
David J Smith

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2 Comments

  1. LKA says:

    Even more evidence that just because you have a ring you are a champion. Call it being at the right place at the right time.

  2. Jason says:

    Brandon Rush had all of 7 minutes and 3 points in the entire postseason. I guess you could call that a contribution.

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