When talking about some of the most underrated and underappreciated players in NBA history, the name Ron Harper has to come to mind. The 6'5'' point guard was a true winner who won five championships and served as that perfect supporting cast guy to some of the greatest teams in history (1995-1998 Bulls) and (1999-2001 Lakers). But before he was just a role player, Ron Harper was a borderline All-Star for years.
The Cavaliers/Clippers days
Before becoming a champion and vital role player for the Bulls and Lakers, Harper looked like the next rising star in his younger days. Harper came into the league ready, averaging 22.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg, and 4.8 apg in his rookie season. The combination of size, athleticism, and scoring ability made him a dangerous player.
Harper would be consistent for years, despite one significant injury, and average those kinds of numbers for the Cavs and the Clippers all through his 20's. How he didn't make a single All-Star game in that period is a mystery, as he got snubbed numerous times. Age and injuries eventually slowed him down, and he decided to buy into a team role, play for championships and make his legacy in a different way.
The glory days alongside MJ
In 1994, at 31 years old, Harper joined the Chicago Bulls and won three championships in a row, playing as the starting point guard alongside Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, and Luc Longley. Harper's numbers were far from his usual production, but it was just what the Bulls needed. Great play on the defensive side of the floor while setting up the offense and being the stabilizer on the other end.
During those days, Harper established a great relationship with his teammates, especially MJ, who had great respect for him. After all, these two had some fierce battles in the '80s, as the two had very similar games. Harper was often compared to Jordan, and the two naturally had a bit of a rivalry.
Despite being teammates and friends, later on, the competitive spirit stayed, with the two often played 1-on-1 in practice to keep each other sharp. In an interview, Harper got asked if he ever beat Jordan, to which Ron would respond with a huge grin:
"Oh yeah, yeah. Mike, you know I gave you the business. Me and Mike played a lot of basketball. It was a great experience not only to play against him but be his teammate too."
Ron Harper, The Universe Galaxy
Harper would also go on to explain what is necessary to stop a player like Jordan: "You gotta have a lot of good teammates. You're not gonna guard him by yourself. You gotta have some good help. He's a player, he can do it all, so you gotta have one hand up in his face and hope it don't go in the basket", Harper said.
I love Harper's confidence and swagger, as I can definitely believe he gave Jordan the business more than once. Ron Harper was a true baller on both sides of the floor, even in his older days. I'm sure Jordan probably won more of those battles, but Harp definitely didn't make it easy for him. I would pay good money to see those duels.