Journeyman realizes first NBA title
Entering last season, San Antonio Spurs journeyman forward Tony Massenburg had seemingly done it all. Over the course of his 15-year pro career, Massenburg, 37, had been traded three times, picked in an expansion draft, signed numerous 10-day contracts, went on hiatuses to Italy and Spain and even was with the Grizzlies when they relocated from Vancouver to Memphis. He even shared the honor of having competed for the most NBA franchises (12) with Chucky Brown.
Still, there was something missing from his résumé. An NBA title.
That all changed the night of July 23, 2005 when the Spurs defeated the Pistons 91-84 in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. As Massenburg kissed the Larry O'Brien Trophy while soaked in champagne, it couldn't have mattered to him that he received just nine minutes in the Finals series and 28 minutes over the course of the entire playoffs.
After all, this was a guy who once played a total of 90 minutes for four different teams in one season. Massenburg had to fight just to stay in the league let alone get off the bench. Still, there's something about him as a player that keeps teams finding spots on their rosters for him.
"Actually I was here (with San Antonio) my second year, and I got released, I think in January or sometime around there," Massenburg told the website InsideHoops.com about his 90-minute season. "Did three ten-days with Golden State, Boston and Charlotte I think it was. So that's four teams in one year. Next two years I played in Europe, and came back and played a year with the Clippers. Went in the expansion draft to Toronto the following season.
"Got traded from there in February to Philly. New Jersey the next year. Vancouver for a couple of years. Houston for one year. Got hurt in Houston and only played about ten games. Went back to Vancouver for a couple of years. Then Utah, Sacramento. There you go."
To his credit, Massenburg's continued to persist even though he's never found a place to call home.
"When you've been doing it after 15 years, you must be doing something right," he continued. "People aren't going to just keep passing you around if you can't bring anything to the court, so. There are a lot of guys that have played on a lot of teams that haven't played 15 years, so, it's just a part of the business, that's how I look at it."
Not surprisingly, Massenburg has accumulated plenty of stories from his basketball journeys.
While with the Clippers in 1994-95, "The hot spot, believe it or not, was TGI Friday's," he told SI.com. "Magic Johnson used to throw a party every Friday."
On the Vancouver Grizzlies, he said, "Nobody was hot on Canada, mainly because of the taxes. And there are things you can't get in Vancouver, like Cap'n Crunch."
And with Utah in 2002-03, Massenburg said, "I got to know Karl [Malone] pretty well. We went hunting and snowmobiling a couple of times. He's got a huge ranch compound. It's ridiculous."
With the Spurs, the story only seemed to be about capturing a championship. San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich is known for running a tight ship and not allowing distractions to interrupt his squad's goals.
"We're focused on winning this year," Massenburg told InsideHoops.com last fall. "Trying to win a championship. Anything else is sort of pushed off to the side, because I think everybody is focused on that."
Obviously the focus paid off for the Spurs. As it did for Massenburg. His ability to keep himself in pristine physical shape, his willingness to do the little things on the court and his humble demeanor off of it kept him in the league long enough to win a title.
And that's why even though Massenburg never won a title until this season, he's always been a champion in his own right.