The 10 Best NBA Free Agent Signings Ever
In just a matter of hours, teams will attempt to ink some of the biggest free agents in league history with the hopes that their business decisions will land the players and their teams on such a list.
Free agency is now a dominant monster in the NBA unlike any time in the league's history given a player's marketability and ability to become an individual megasource of income.
Throughout the years we have heard about the worst free agent signings and the biggest free agent-busts. However, over time there have been exceptional moves through free agency and it is those we look at with the 10 best free-agent signings off all time.
10. Julius Erving - Virginia Squires (1971)
The state of professional basketball was very much fractured during the early 1970s. However, the cash-strapped Virginia Squires of the ABA made one smart move when they inked Julius Erving to his first professional contract in 1971.
Erving came off two years at the University of Massachusetts where he averaged 32.5 points and 20.2 rebounds per game.
9. Cazzie Russell - Chicago Bulls (1978)
You may have never heard of Cazzie Russell, so you may ask why he's on the list? That is because Russell was the first man to sign a free agent contract in the NBA.
Following 11 years in the league with the Knicks, Warriors and Lakers, Russell was put on waivers by the Lakers following the 1977 season. He signed the first NBA free agent contract with the Bulls in 1978, playing one year in Chicago before retiring.
8. Vlade Divac - Sacramento Kings (1998)
The Kings were on the rise, but they did not truly become an NBA championship contender until inking Divac to a six-year, $62.5 million contract prior to the 1998 season. Divac was the glue for a talent-laden Kings roster that had yet to put it all together.
Not only did he have his best seasons as far as production, but his experience and hard-nosed style of play brought a toughness and resiliency to the Kings during the late-90s and early 2000s.
7. Gilbert Arenas - Washington Wizards (2003)
Arenas was a very productive player during his first two seasons in Golden State where he averaged 18 points, six assists and five rebounds a game. However, it was after signing a six-year, $63.7 million contract with the Wizards did his career truly take off.
Arenas became a high-20s points per game scorer and turned a lousy Wizards team into a regular postseason participant. His contract and tenure Wizards hit the skids following gun charges last year, but Arenas nonetheless gave the Wizards the star power and production it sought.
6. Dikembe Mutombo - Atlanta Hawks (1995)
Mutombo established his career during his four seasons with the Denver Nuggets. Yet it was in Atlanta where Mount Mutombo became a true star. Mutomobo signed a five-year, $50 million contract before the 1995 season.
It is his time in Atlanta which remember the shot-blocking, finger-waving Mutombo. He won two Defensive Player of the Year awards and made four All-Star games with the Hawks before injuries set in during the final year of the contract.
5. Robert Horry - San Antonio Spurs (2003)
"Big Shot Bob" was already a five-time title winner before he inked a deal with the Spurs. However, his signing with San Antonio and the way head coach Gregg Popovich used Horry significantly contributed to the extension of the Spurs' championship success in the post-David Robinson years.
Horry had numerous postseason clutch moments with the Spurs including the 2005 NBA Finals. Horry signed a five-year, $15 million deal with the Spurs and two championships later made it worth every penny to the franchise.
4. Tim Duncan - San Antonio Spurs (2000)
Now we couldn't possibly think of Tim Duncan in another uniform, but it was a very real possibility in 2000 (and again in 2003). Duncan's first contract expired after the Spurs title in 1999 when the thinking was the Spurs would lock him up to a max contract.
That didn't happen. Instead, Duncan signed a four-year, $45.9 million deal which made a free agent again in 2003. Perhaps it was a move to give Duncan options while he was still in the prime of his career. Nevertheless, the Spurs won another title during the 4-year contract and set the table to ink Duncan through the rest of his career four years later.
3. Steve Nash - Phoenix Suns (2004)
The Suns took something of a gamble by signing the then 30-year-old Nash to a six-year, $66 million contract. However, six years later the investment has more than paid off.
Nash was not only the perfect piece to the Suns newfound offensive style, but Nash won two MVP awards and made the Suns one of the more successful teams of the past half decade despite not winning a championship.
2. Chauncey Billups - Detroit Pistons (2002)
At the time of the signing, it looked like the Pistons merely overpaid a journeyman point guard at six-years, $35 million. It turned out the Pistons landed one of the biggest steals in free agency history.
Billups rapidly transformed into one of the games best point guards and led the Pistons to their first NBA title in 15 years.
1. Shaquille O'Neal - Los Angeles Lakers (1996)
Not only was the Shaq the best free agent signing in the history of the NBA, but it is arguably the best free agent signing in history.
Shaq bolted from Orlando for the Lakers' seven-year, $120 million offer and immediately rebuilt the Lakers into contenders. Four years into the deal the Lakers were back on top of the basketball world and ripped off three straight NBA titles.