Basketball is a team sport, but we always recognize the special individuals who lead their team to glory. We usually list the greatest players never to win a ring, and most of them would change their individual awards (MVP, All-Star, All NBA) for just one NBA title. What about the other way around? This is a story of the man with the most NBA titles without a single All-Star appearance.
Most rings without making All-Star
The Boston Celtics drafted Tom “Satch” Sanders in ‘60 with the 8th pick. The team won two titles before Sanders joined, and Boston only knew winning since then. The Celtics went on to win another six in a row with him on the roster.
He may have played alongside other Celtics legends like Bill Russell, John Havlicek, Sam Jones, Tom Heinsohn, and Bob Cousy, but that doesn’t mean Satch was just waving a towel from the bench and collecting jewelry. Apart from his rookie season, Satch played major minutes and averaged double-digit scoring in each championship season.
In that era, superstars won titles because each knew his role in the team. It may have resulted in Tom Sanders not making any All-Star games or winning individual awards, but he was the perfect role player in a well-coached team. Even though he did not enter any record books to win personal achievements, his name entered the history books as the player to have won the most titles without making a single All-Star game.
Sacrificing offense for defense
Celtics coach Red Auerbach planned to unleash Satch to defend the opposing team’s star players such as Willis Reed, Jerry Lucas, Dave DeBusschere, and Elgin Baylor. However, the only concern was Satch’s strength was not really on defending but scoring.
In college, he played for New York University from ‘57 to ‘60. He led the team to a 22-5 record and several trips to the Final Four. Tom was even named team captain, and numbers show how hard he worked. His average of 17 points and 13 rebounds per game and field goal percentage of 52 percent are all included in the top 10 in the school’s history.
A bonafide star and a born winner who was asked to change his game and become a role player could be hard for any player but not for the power forward. Tom Sanders would go on to play 13 seasons in the NBA, all with Boston Celtics. He would average a shade below 10 points and six rebounds for his career.
If he requested a trade, Satch would have averaged more or probably became a bigger star, but Tom remained faithful to the team and gave it all every game, even if that means sacrificing his stats to let other teammates shine brighter.