In the NBA, certain names stand alone. There’s only one LeBron James; guys like Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are untouchable legends. Not every player is known for their athletic ability, though. Just look at Brian Scalabrine.
While the forward averaged 3.1 points per game for his entire career, he still became a cult hero among basketball fans. The White Mamba didn’t just receive praise and admiration, though; during his 11 seasons in the association, he earned more than $20 million.
Brian Scalabrine’s basketball career
After playing his high school ball in Washington state, Brian Scalabrine headed to Highline Community College in Des Moines, Washington. While the program wasn’t a powerhouse, the forward proved to be a capable player; after one season, he transferred to USC.
During his three seasons with the Trojans, Scalabrine continued to improve. He averaged 15.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per game and earned a spot on the 2000 All Pac-10 First-Team; that was enough to make him a second-round draft pick in 2001.
Scalabrine landed with the New Jersey Nets but missed most of his rookie season with a foot injury; he would spend a total of four seasons with the club, finding his niche as a reserve big man and spot starter, capable of stepping in to pull down a handful of rebounds and score a couple of points. He continued that role with the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls before calling it a career.
In total, Scalabrine spent 11 seasons in the NBA. He averaged 3.1 points, two rebounds, and 13 minutes of action per game and, perhaps more importantly, won a championship with the Boston Celtics.
NBA fans loved the White Mamba
In a sport dominated by superstars, Brian Scalabrine’s stat line barely registered on the Richter scale. That reality, however, didn’t stop him from becoming a fan favorite known as the White Mamba.
For sports fans, Scalabrine fell right in the sweet spot. As Ben Wittenstein wrote in 2013, the forward looked like someone from your local pick-up game who was drafted into the action. He was capable enough to earn a spot on an NBA roster and do a job for some pretty good teams, but still filled the role of the relatable underdog. Most fans can’t dunk like LeBron James, but they could relate to the White Mamba. And those fans loved him.
“I think [Celtics fans] think I averaged like 20 points a game, the way they treat me,” Scalabrine explained in 2018 interview with James Herbert of CBS Sports. “I ask people that all the time. I’m like, ‘You guys know I averaged like two points a game, right?’ And they’re like, ‘Yeah, yeah, we love you Scal!’ It’s like, all right!”
Brian Scalabrine still earned plenty of money in the NBA
After the 2011-12 NBA season, Brian Scalabrine called in a career. While he hasn’t dropped off the face of the earth—he had a brief coaching stint, suited up for the Big 3 basketball league, and has found a home in the media—the former forward didn’t need to find a day job to pay his bills.
According to HoopsHype, Scalabrine took home roughly $20 million in salary during his NBA career; his net worth clocks in at an estimated $10 million. While that’s not a great deal in the world of professional sports, it’s not a bad payday for an average of 13 minutes of action per night.
Independent of the money, though, Scalabrine still looks back on his career fondly. He was never the best player on the floor, but he spent more than a decade as a professional basketball player.
“I’m all for it,” Scalabrine explained when Herbert asked him about his status as a cult hero. “I recognize it’s not like a shame to admit you’re not a top player in the NBA. There’s 400 guys in the world who play in the NBA. I played 11 years. I love the fact that I was on good teams. I love the fact that I was surrounded by Hall of Famers who won championships. My rolodex of people that I know, respect, and talk to, I could have never imagined. Regardless of playing the last two minutes of games or whatever, my teammates and coaches always counted on me.”