Oliver Lafayette: NBA Champion?

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Updated: June 3, 2010

Charles Barkley doesn’t have an NBA championship ring. Neither does John Stockton, Karl Malone, or Patrick Ewing. Neither do two-time MVPs LeBron James or Steve Nash. But if the Boston Celtics win four more games this season and defeat the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2010 NBA Finals, Oliver Lafayette will receive a championship ring.

Fairness aside—Lafayette played one game for Boston after an April call-up and has spent the postseason in street clothes (but with courtside seats!) as an inactive member of the Celtics—the story of Lafayette’s 2009-10 basketball season is already remarkable regardless of how the final weeks play out.

Back in November, Lafayette was in D-League training camp with the Erie BayHawks, the team he started 23 games and averaged 13.6 points per game for during the 2008-09 season. Lafayette was in the starting lineup for Erie when they played their sole preseason game against the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. Erie won the game 106-100, and Lafayette was the team’s second leading scorer, which made it all the more surprising when Erie announced its final roster cuts included Lafayette.

His time without a team did not last long as the Fort Wayne Mad Ants—the same team that he’d helped Erie defeat in the preseason—signed both he and Rod Wilmont, another player cut by the BayHawks, less than a week later.

Lafayette went on to play in 48 games for Fort Wayne, starting 42 of them. He averaged 17.1 points, 6.5 assists, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.8 steals in 35.3 minutes per game for the season. Despite the strong, consistent performance, Lafayette’s name was not one floated around when most people discussed the top call-up candidates for much of the season.

But a late season push that included a 33-point effort against his former team in Erie helped Lafayette get noticed. In a six day span from March 28-April 2, Lafayette led the Mad Ants to a 4-0 record despite playing all four games on the road. In those games, he averaged 28.8 points, 8.5 assists, 6.8 rebounds, and 2 steals, and he shot 51.3 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3-point range.

On April 14, the Boston Celtics decided they liked what they saw well enough to make Lafayette the 40th Gatorade call-up of the 2009-10 season. He suited up that night for the Celtics’ regular season finale and played 22 minutes in a 106-95 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. Lafayette scored 7 points on 3-6 shooting to go along with 4 rebounds and 2 assists.

As the Boston Globe reported, Lafayette realizes he lucked into a good situation. “I didn’t expect to see any of this,’’ Lafayette said. “To get here and just hop on a team like this, it’s a great honor to be here.’’

Of course, as the old saying goes, “You make your own luck.” By persevering after being cut by Erie and working hard to improve as a player through an up-and-down season with the Mad Ants, Lafayette earned a roster spot on an NBA team. This particular NBA team just happened to be about to make an unlikely run at an NBA title.

Now relegated to practice player, Lafayette gets to spend time practicing against the likes of Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and company can’t hurt his development as a competitor. It may not be the NBA dream scenario that kids dream about growing up, but if the NBA hands Oliver Lafayette a 2009-10 NBA championship ring for his contributions to the Celtics, who’s going to blame him for accepting it. Whether his ring would signify the beginning or the end of his NBA journey probably depends on how much of his teammates’ championship competitiveness has rubbed off on him.

2 Comments

  1. news

    December 19, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    3 ice

  2. Graham Clayton

    October 17, 2016 at 11:57 pm

    Does Lafayette still hold the record for the most points scored in a 1-game NBA career?

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