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The Dos and Don’ts of Ring Chasing

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Ladies and gentlemen, get ready to meet the Splash Grandfathers. On Tuesday, the notoriously thirsty David West agreed to join the Warriors on a one-year deal for the veteran’s minimum, and, shortly thereafter, rumors began to swirl about a potential Ray Allen comeback. Allen is reportedly “intrigued by the possibility of playing for another championship,” and, given the Dubs’ reliance on the 3-ball, Golden State seems like a natural fit for him. The soon-to-be 41-year-old is already considered a legendary ring chaser, having joined the defending champion Heat in 2012 after the Celtics’ title window had closed, and coming out of a two-year retirement to play for the Warriors would cement this reputation.

As the implications of the Kevin Durant signing continue to unfold, there’s no telling how many veterans will flock to the Bay Area in search of a championship. But before impulsively following KD, West, and Co. to the Warriors, prospective ring chasers would be wise to review some of the lessons we’ve learned in recent years about the dos and don’ts of ring chasing. Here are six of them:

1. Do not: attempt to ring-chase and curse-break simultaneously.

Shaquille O’Neal’s entire career was a testament to both the benefits and pitfalls of ring chasing, and his uninspiring, injury-riddled 2009–10 campaign in Cleveland all but proved that it’s generally unwise to attempt to ring-chase and curse-break in one fell swoop (note: see no. 6 for a notable exception). Watch out, indeed:

Fortunately for wannabe Warriors, Lil B recently lifted his infamous curse on Durant, so there don’t appear to be any curses haunting Golden State … for now.

2. Do: establish a reputation as a great locker room guy before you go ring chasing.

If you can’t contribute on the court, this is a great niche to own. The Heat kept Juwan Howard around for this exact reason, despite the fact that he saw minimal playing time in their 2011–12 and 2012–13 championship seasons, and James Jones has mastered this role in Miami and Cleveland:

The Warriors could use a Splash Mentor, and Allen fits the bill.

3. Do not: join an easily combustible locker room.

When Karl Malone and Gary Payton joined the Lakers for the 2003–04 season, the Shaq-Kobe feud had reached a boiling point. The drama ultimately undermined the Lakers’ title hopes, and neither Malone nor Payton stuck around for another season in L.A. This doesn’t appear to be a concern with the Warriors right now, but who knows, maybe the brewing Under Armour–Nike battle between Steph Curry and Durant will cause some tension.

4. Do: sign with the team that presents the best opportunity for a title.

Like the great Michael Finley, who left the Mavericks in 2005 for the greener pastures of San Antonio (where he won a title in 2007), don’t let your emotions get in the way of pursuing a championship. Durant certainly didn’t, and it already seems inevitable that he’ll be celebrating a title next year. Accordingly, unless you’re pairing up with LeBron (see no. 6), don’t go to a second-tier title contender — keep it simple and take your talents to the Warriors, who are the overwhelming favorites to win it all. Remember, they don’t give out rings for making it to the Western Conference finals.

5. Do not: wait until late in the season to start ring chasing.

The basketball gods will frown upon you if you wait too long to sign with a title contender, like Tracy McGrady did when he joined the Spurs just one week before the playoffs started in 2013. Ring chasing is an inherently shameless pursuit, but you still gotta have some pride and at least stick it out for a full season. There’s no doubt in my mind that the bad karma McGrady brought by hopping on board at the last minute kept San Antonio from winning the 2013 Finals, and it’s no surprise that the Spurs proceeded to win the 2014 Finals without him. If you’re going to jump on the Warriors bandwagon, the time to do so is now.

6. Do: team up with post-2011 LeBron James.

OK, rule no. 1 — do not attempt to ring-chase and curse-break simultaneously — is totally moot if you have a midprime LeBron James on your team. The 2015–16 Cavs are evidence of this — Jones, Kevin Love, Richard Jefferson, and Mo Williams all qualify as ring chasers — and it’s a pity Shaq wasn’t around to enjoy the spoils of victory.