Only 2 players in NBA history have won NBA championships across 3 decades, Tim Duncan and John Salley. The Spurs' power forward is one of the most accomplished players in the history of the game, as a 5-time champion and a host of individual honors including 2 MVP Awards and 15 All-Star appearances.
John Salley was never an All-Star and made a career out of being a role player who plays hard every time he is on the court. Salley won 4 NBA titles over his career, and his impact came in the locker room as a glue guy. Of course, he joins Tim Duncan as the only two players who won rings across 3 different decades.
1989, 1990: Detroit Pistons
In 1989, John Salley was only in his 3rd NBA season and averaged 7.0 PPG and 5.0 RPG in 21.8 MPG. The role player played alongside some great players including Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars and certainly helped in providing depth for the Pistons.
The Detroit Pistons would go on to win their first title of two, and Salley will likely remember his first ring as the most important accolade of his career. In terms of being a locker room guy, Salley was truly important.
The following season, in 1990, John Salley was once again a valuable role player for the Detroit Pistons. The role player played all 82 games for the regular season, averaging 7.2 PPG and 5.4 RPG, and was becoming a prominent chemistry builder on the team as the Pistons won another championship.
1990, 1996: Chicago Bulls
In 1996, Salley would find his way onto the Chicago Bulls where he would be traded 25 games into his season. After only appearing in 17 games with the Bulls, Salley would go on to be a part of another championship team. Call it luck or call it his ability to improve team chemistry, the well-liked Salley would become a 3-time champion.
2000: Los Angeles Lakers
Once again, the role-player would find his way on a championship roster. Only a few players have the luxury of playing with Isiah Thomas, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Shaquille O'Neal, and Kobe Bryant let alone winning championships with them.
In the 2000 season, John Salley won his 4th ring with the Los Angeles Lakers. The role player would only appear in 45 games for the Lakers during the regular season, but as a 35-year old, playing major minutes was not his goal. Rather, Salley helped team chemistry as the Lakers dominated the year to win a title.
1999: San Antonio Spurs
In 1999, Tim Duncan arrived as arguably the best power forward in the NBA and even usurped David Robinson as the best player in San Antonio. The Spurs made quick work of the New York Knicks in 5 games, with Tim Duncan winning his first Finals MVP Award.
Duncan averaged 27.4 PPG and 14.0 RPG and set the tone early in the series with a monster 33-point performance. The big man was on to prove a point as he began kick-starting his legacy that would last the better part of 3 different decades of basketball.
2003, 2005, 2007: San Antonio Spurs
The era of the 2000s was dominated by 3 players: Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O'Neal. The only difference between them is that Tim Duncan was the only player to capture more championships in other decades.
Duncan won 3 titles during the 2000s with the Spurs, defeating the New Jersey Nets, Detroit Pistons, and Cleveland Cavaliers respectively. San Antonio was stacked with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili under Gregg Popovich, but Tim Duncan was the undisputed best player on the championship rosters.
2014: San Antonio Spurs
Tim Duncan won his 5th and final NBA championship in 2014 when the Spurs exacted revenge on LeBron James and the Miami Heat in the Finals. Led by the spectacular defense by Kawhi Leonard and the leadership of Tim Duncan, the Spurs would not be denied their 3rd championship in their 3rd decade.
As great as the Spurs were with a budding superstar in Kawhi Leonard and the coaching genius of Gregg Popovich, Tim Duncan was once again the constant. Ever since the big man's retirement, the Spurs have been irrelevant and that is why Duncan's 5 championships over 3 decades are important.