Ron Harper had an accomplished NBA career from 1986-2001. A five-time NBA Champion, Harper was the Cleveland Cavaliers’ eighth pick in the 1986 Draft and would garner All-Rookie First Team honors that season.
With a career average of 13.8 points per contest, Harper had stops in Los Angeles as a member of the Clippers and then in Chicago with the Bulls, where he won four rings under head coach Phil Jackson and teammates Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman.
Harper and the Bulls parted ways after their last championship run, and he partnered up again with Jackson when he became head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers in 1999.
One person who had a front-row seat to Harper’s brilliance in the Lakers’ system was John Celestand, who was the Lakers’ 30th pick in the 1999 NBA Draft and was a standout at Villanova University.
Appearing on the Scoop B Radio Podcast, Celestand weighed in on Harper at point guard for the Lakers. “I’ll say this and I’m not ashamed to say this, when they signed Ron, I was mad,” he told me.
“Because I knew I wasn’t going to play. Already I knew when I got there they got Fisher, they got Kobe, Tyronn Lue was there, right? Then they sign Brian Shaw. But when I heard Ron Harper was coming … and I knew Ron Harper had that connection with Phil Jackson from the Chicago days, he’s got three rings already. There’s no way I’m playing. Whatever I do, I’m not playing.”
That was honest. Celestand added more context.
“The only reason why I got to play a lot in the beginning of the season is because Kobe broke his wrist,” he said.
So the first 15-16 games, I was playing. But one thing I do remember was when Ron showed up, once he got in shape it was seamless! He didn’t do anything great at that age, right? He didn’t shoot great, he didn’t move that great but, he was a veteran and he was a calming factor for us. He knew the Triangle Offense. He knew where the ball had to go at all times. He had won so there was no pressure on him to win, right? He was already a winner. The pressure was on Kobe and Shaq. He could have lost and said like, ‘I got my three rings, right?’ So he was able to come there and show us the things that we had to do win and the way that he did it, it was seamless. Even Brian Shaw. But Brian Shaw came in and he was a veteran but he never ran the Triangle before, so he was learning.
Celestand says Harper’s experience running the Bulls’ offense rubbed off on the Lakers. “Harp was the one saying, ‘Here’s an option,’” he recounted on Scoop B Radio.
“‘Here’s what you can do if they overplay you. Don’t throw the ball into the corners, do this’ you know? I don’t think we win a championship if he wasn’t there. I really don’t think we do.”