10. Jeremy Lin, New York Knicks (December, 2011 – Assigned to D-League)
Before Linsanity hit Madison Square Garden, Jeremy Lin was bouncing back and forth between the Reno Bighorns of the D-League and the Golden State Warriors. The Houston Rockets then signed and waived him during the ’11 preseason, before the Knicks picked him up and picked up his $800K guaranteed contract in mid-February. He played his first major minutes on February 4, scoring 25 points against the Nets. Over the two and a half weeks, he was on the cover of Time and led the Knicks to a 9-2 record while averaging 24 points on 50% FG, 9 assists and 4 rebounds. Since then he has made over $40M playing for the Rockets, Lakers, Hornets and Nets.
9. Tony Allen, Memphis Grizzlies (2010 – 3 years, $9.5M)
After spending the first six years of his career in Boston and winning the title in ’08, Tony Allen left for Memphis where he became one of the dominant defensive players in the league. He was named to three All-Defensive First-Teams and three Second-Teams while helping the Grizzlies not just win their first ever playoff game, but advance to the Western Conference Finals in 2013. He became one of the faces of The Grindhouse and re-signed with the team for four more years after being swept by the Spurs in the ’13 WCF.
8. Hassan Whiteside, Miami Heat (November, 2014 – Assigned to D-League)
Before he signed a 4-yr, $98M deal in the summer of ’16, Hassan Whiteside had played in Sacramento, Lebanon, China, Nevada, Iowa and South Dakota. Over the next season and a half in Miami, making less than $1M per year, the 7-footer reached 300 blocked shots faster than anyone in Heat history and led the league with 3.7 blocks/game in ’16 when he earned All-Defensive Second-Team honors.
7. Andre Iguodala, Golden State Warriors (2013 – 4 years, $48M)
Considered to be one of the most durable and versatile players in the league, Andre Iguodala turned down more money from the Kings and Nuggets and was close to signing with the Mavericks before the Warriors cleared enough room to sign the former Sixers all-star. He was named All Defensive First-Team in ’14 and NBA Finals MVP in ’15, becoming the first player to win the award who didn’t start a game in the regular season. In the clinching game of the ’17 Finals, he scored 20 points helping lift the Warriors to their second title in four seasons.
6. Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks (2013 – 2 years, $19M)
The Hawks landed Millsap as an all-time bargain after the Jazz renounced his rights to make room on the books for the complicated deal that got Iguodala to Golden State. He was a second-round pick in ’06 and has gone on to play more games in the NBA than anyone else in his class. Millsap immediately made the All-Star team in Atlanta and has been on it every year since. In his second season, the Hawks won 60 games and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals.
5. Ray Allen, Miami Heat (2013 – 3 years, $9.5M)
Ray Allen was already in the Hall of Fame before joining LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. It doesn’t matter than he never reached the full financial value of the deal because his game-tying, series-saving shot in Game 6 of the ’13 Finals against the Spurs locked up a spot in LeBron’s will.
4. Chris Bosh, Miami Heat (2010 – 6 years, $110M)
In seven years with Toronto, Chris Bosh went to the playoffs twice, never made it out of the first round, played for three head coaches and made five All-Star teams. While most of his box score stats dipped in Miami, he became an above-average three-point shooter and won two titles while teamed up with LeBron and Wade as part of one of the most memorable four-year runs in NBA history.
3. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers (2014 – 2 years, $42M)
He went back home to win a title and despite saying that it would take some time to come together, LeBron brought the city its first professional championship in 52 years. LeBron remarkably carried a disheveled crew to two wins in the ’15 Finals and then down 3-1 in the ’16 Finals, he dropped 41 points in both games 5 and 6, then a 27-11-11 triple-double plus The Block in game 7 to complete the historic comeback against the Warriors.
2. Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors (2016 – 2 years, $54M)
Don’t be fooled when you hear Kevin Durant opted of his contract. He’s not going anywhere. Were you fooled into thinking that it would take time for the Warriors to figure things out after bringing KD into the mix this past season? With a Larry Bird-like statistical season, Durant was also the team’s primary rim protector and posted a playoff run unlike the league has ever seen. No player had ever scored 28+ ppg, and grabbed 7+ reb. while shooting 44% from deep and compiling a 62.7 eFG% which more heavily weighs 3PM. The rest of the league was already chasing the Warriors before Durant, but there was still some hope. Now, it’s mostly desperation and prayer.
1. LeBron James, Miami Heat (2010 – 6 years, $110M)
Even though it didn’t last the full six years, LeBron leaving Cleveland for Miami changed his career, the NBA landscape and the way we consider history. He wasn’t the first all-time great player to change teams, and he won’t be the last, but hopefully there won’t be any more episodes of “The Decision.” This deal still moves some to spit venom at LeBron, but there’d be a lot worse said about him if he never left and never won. The Big 3 never lived up to its promise of “not five, not six, not seven,” but it did produce four Finals appearances, back-to-back titles and a circus tent that stood for nearly 1,500 days.