A word that has been a part of sports for a long time, but has been brought up more as of recent is: Pedigree. In a way it can be the trajectory of your career based on where you have been. In most conversations of greatness, or what have you done for me lately, the first thing that is discussed is the number of championships. I believe that is the highest standard to determine the pedigree of an individual or an organization. Something I believe is rarely ever discussed are some of the major accomplishments that are made by a select few during their collegiate career. Those achievements by a select few help us as spectators understand the reason for an individuals success even though oftentimes they fall off our radar due to the learning curve.
It is extremely difficult to reach the NCAA Final Four, let alone win the entire tournament. That is why it is called March Madness, nobody ever in the history of the tournament has been able to calculate the outcome. Yet, this years NBA Free Agency saw two names get signed to multi year deals. Those two names being Jalen Brunson and Donte DiVincenzo. These two, along with Mikal Bridges were a part of the 2017-2018 Villanova Wildcat National Champion winning team. They were also a part of the 2015-2016 Villanova Wildcat team that won it all during the 2016 tournament. These players hoisted the Trophy twice in their collegiate career and are now in the spotlight as their rookie contracts come to expire.
Since the 2005-2006 NCAA Basketball season only three teams have won at least two championships with at least one player being on both of those teams. That is the aforementioned Villanova Wildcats, the 2011 and 2014 Uconn Huskies, and the 2006 and 2007 Florida Gators. In NBA Free Agency history we have only seen a total of four other players win multiple national championships and then enter free agency after their rookie contract. Of the seven total players only one could be considered a bust based on this formula; getting paid as a two time national champion. That player being Shabazz Napier from the Uconn Huskies. He would go on two be signed to small deals no more than 3 million dollars a year. He also lacked the one thing that most of the others have in common, defensive pedigree.
The other players not yet mentioned are Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer, and Al Horford; all from the University of Florida team that won back to back championships. Of all the names mention only Brunson and Napier are known mostly for their offense. Brunson was able to flip a switch late in the season this year which gave him the opportunity he has now, Napier was not able to adjust in the same way. All the others are either known for being defensive anchors, or have a defensive edge to their game that make them viable for at the very least a competent role player.
After their rookie contracts both Joakim Noah and Al Horford went on to sign rookie extensions of 5 years $60 million, Noah with the Bulls and Horford with the Atlanta Hawks. Corey Brewer would sign with the Dallas Mavericks for 3 years $9.2 million. Brewer won an NBA Title with the Mavericks during that contract. Both Brewer and Horford could be considered journeymen, but for sure all of them had long successful careers. Horford just recently held a primary role in the success of the Boston Celtics in this years playoff run.
Mikal Bridges did not enter free agency as he was a key piece to the Phoenix Suns NBA Finals run in 2021. In October of 2021 he signed a rookie extension for 4 years $90.9 million. Jalen Brunson just signed a 4 year $104 million deal with the New York Knicks. Donte DiVincenzo signed a 2 year $9.3 million deal with the Golden State Warriors, which may not seem like a lot. If you look at the career of someone like Corey Brewer this is a step in a long line of contract signings. With that said, DiVincenzo is already a NBA Champion from his contributions to the Milwaukee Bucks’ Mikal Bridges lost in the NBA Finals to DiVincenzo’s Milwaukee Bucks’ in the same series.
They have helped form a winning culture, which is now instilled in their frame of mind. If the formula is correct the future for these three young players is bright. At the very least these players will play more than 10 years in the league while contributing to the success of their teams. With one championship amongst this group of three, I would bet that they will see more success over the course of their career than the likes of Horford, Noah, and Brewer.