I was always impressed by Ron Harper. He was a prolific scorer early in his career -- he averaged better than 18 points per game seven times in his first eight years, and better than 20 points three times. But when he had the opportunity to win championships with the Bulls, he just flipped a switch and took on a complementary role to Michael Jordan.
In five years with the Bulls, he averaged double-figures once (11.2 points in 1999), but he was content with a reduced role and won three NBA titles playing the role of the sidekick. He then went on to Los Angeles and did the same thing for the Lakers, winning two more times in 2000 and 2001.
While I knew he could score and play the role of the good teammate, there were several things I didn't know about him that I learned today by reading the profile on him in Tuesday's Detroit News. For instance, he went to Miami of Ohio. Who knew? It's always nice to see small school players establish themselves in the pros. Also, he has a stutter, which was an embarrassing problem for him growing up.
From the News:
The notes Ron Harper took in class went beyond the reading and arithmetic assignments teachers gave him.
He kept close tabs on everybody who made fun of his stutter when he raised a hand to answer questions. He heard the snickers and giggles, and they hurt, even though Harper was the star basketball player at Kiser High School in Akron.
Honestly, reading that made me a little scared, because it rarely ends well when the picked-on kid starts making lists.
Harper didn't curse his antagonists. A part of him actually enjoyed the teasing because he was certain he'd get his revenge -- during afternoon pickup basketball games.
"My friends used to laugh at me every day," Harper said. "But the first thing they would say when they stepped on the basketball court was, 'I got Ron.'
"I'd say, 'You're not on my team today because you laughed at me in class. So we are going to go at it.' I made fun of them back (playing basketball). I got my revenge.
"Now laugh at me. I got my five rings. I got the last laugh."
OK, big exhale, this is a heart-warming story, not one that involves grudges and clocktowers. It's a good read -- the type of story that you only get a chance to hear when there's five days between games. Sure, it's a borderline Puff Piece, but a profile like this is more informative than knowing that Dale Davis is allegedly a good speller. Besides, at least it's relevant to the team, introducing a member of the coaching staff who plays a large role in the team's success but otherwise spends most of the time being invisible to the media.
Believe his five rings [Detroit News]