(FortCollins-CO) This installment of Historical Glimpses focuses on one of the NBA’s finest stars on and off the court. A player of such caliber knew what it took to be a winner. Whether he was a main component of a championship campaign or just a role player, John “Spider” Salley knew what dynamics to bring to a true team concept by understanding his role in any given situation. As a result, he was the first player to win NBA championships with three different teams, including back-to-back rings with the Detroit “Bad-Boy” Pistons, the best regular season record setting Chicago Bulls, and the Los Angeles Lakers until Robert Horry joined him in that category just recently. Known for his long reach and jumping ability, John “Spider” Salley is the recipient of this installment of Historical Glimpses.
Salley was born in Brooklyn, New York and attended legendary Canarsie High School. After his high school days were over, John took his game to the Georgia Institute of Technology, better known as Georgia Tech. What he accomplished at Georgia Tech was nothing short of spectacular. John Salley would finish his career with the Yellow Jackets as the All-Time leading shot blocker in school history, while having averages of 33.6 minutes per game played, field goal percentage of 58.7%, 6.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.9 blocks, and 12.7 points. In conclusion of his years at Georgia Tech, the institution honored Salley by raising his number 22 to the rafters, enshrining his accomplishments forever.
With the eleventh pick in the 1986 NBA Draft the Detroit Pistons selected Spider to a team that would set the all-time standard in what it meant to be tough. Two years after finishing the regular season 46-36 and drafting the “Spider“, Salley and a tremendous supporting cast were finishing the regular season 63-19 and were poised to win the NBA Championship in a legendary battle with the Los Angeles Lakers. At this point, the Pistons had created a name for themselves by playing some of the most tenacious defense the league had ever seen, or has seen since. Aptly dubbed the, “Detroit Bad Boys”, they squared off against Magic and Kareem of the Los Angeles Lakers after sweeping their way to the Finals. After the previous season’s heartbreak against the Lakers in game seven of the Finals, the Pistons were not going to be denied. The “Bad Boys” swept the Lakers and ruined Kareem’s farewell tour. That concluded a playoff run of sweeping three different ball clubs and only losing two games in total to the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals. No Piston player finished in the top 20 in scoring, or top ten in free throw percentage, steals, blocked shots, or three-point field goals made. It was truly a team concept and its no surprise that John Salley was an intricate part of something as such.
Next year would be only slightly different, but with the same end result for Spider and the Pistons. The Pistons still didn’t have any player post in the top five of any statistical category, except for Joe Dumars in free-throw percentage. But would still win the NBA Championship at the season‘s conclusion, with their only true test being the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals. Not many players in NBA history are part of back-to-back championships with the same team. Salley was now in that elite category in only his third year in the league. Salley would continue to play for the Pistons for two more years and at the time of his trade to the Miami Heat he was fourth on the Pistons All-Time blocks list.
Salley played three seasons for the Heat and would leave the franchise in similar fashion to how he departed the Pistons. Only this time he would finish third on the franchise All-Time s blocks list as he was traded in the expansion draft to the Toronto Raptors in 1995.
Maybe spiders don’t like the cold, or that the Chicago Bulls knew that Salley was just the team player that they needed to win 72 games in 1996, but John only stayed up north for 25 games before the Bulls acquired him on their way to the NBA Championship. Salley now had three rings on his resume and retired after the 1996 season. He had been player representative for the NBA’s Player Association while with the Pistons, Heat, and Raptors, a consistent winner, and tremendous teammate while fulfilling different roles with different teams. A story book career indeed, but Salley’s story wouldn’t be complete without some tangled webbing, remember he is the Spider…
After dabbling in the entertainment industry and taking a three year hiatus from basketball, Salley returned to the league at the midway point with the Los Angeles Lakers, a team that he had once played a part in defeating, to embody the concept of team. His role with the Lakers can be summed up by his newest moniker with the team. Referred to as, “Sensei”, because of his wisdom and success. He would teach the Lakers what it takes to be the NBA Champions. Salley had now won his fourth ring, with three different teams, and had been the first player to ever do so.
Named, “Best Interview in the NBA”, three consecutive years by the Associated Press is no surprise either. John has been an effective communicator on a team level his entire career and it is no surprise that he is continued his success in the world of entertainment. Since his second retirement, John “Spider” Salley has been a co-host on the Fox Sports Net show, “The Best Damn Sports Show Period”, and has continued to be a hot commodity for cameos on other television shows and movies. Salley is also a motivational speaker and an inspiration for young people all over the world. There is not a destination too far for the Spider to speak at, and if there is a positive influence to be made he is always there. His career resume reads like this: Four NBA championships with averages of seven points per game, 1.2 assists, and 4.5 rebounds. He finished his career with 983 blocks and will always be remembered for his long reach swatting balls into the first, second, and third row of seats. Salley was a winner. He knew what it took to win and knew how to execute and lead his team with an often times silent confidence rarely duplicated. A player with many talents is why John “Spider” Salley is this installment of Historical Glimpses.