Having played on three of the most noteworthy NBA championship teams in recent history — the 1989 and 1990 Detroit Pistons Bad Boys and the 1996 Chicago Bulls, who won a record 72 regular-season games — Salley was signed by the Lakers in 1999 to provide veteran leadership to a team that had, in recent years, imploded during the playoffs.
Salley’s contributions on the court, where he averaged only 1.6 points and 1.4 rebounds per game, were not as important as the steadying influence he provided in the locker room and on the bench, an influence that included a wicked sense of humor. (Commenting on the fact that teammate Kobe Bryant had an 18-year-old girlfriend, Salley quipped: “Every man is jealous of Kobe. Usually you have to be 43 or 44 in L.A. before you can do that.”)
When the Lakers won the title in 2000 — the first of an eventual three-peat — it marked not only Salley’s fourth championship as a player, but gave him the distinction of being the first player to win championships with three different teams, a mark only one other player has matched: Robert Horry, another former Laker.