Kawhi Leonard, Deion Sanders and other one-time champions

ByBrianna Williams ESPN logo
Tuesday, July 18, 2023

When Canadian rock band Trooper released their 1977 single "We're Here for a Good Time (Not a Long Time)," they probably didn't think it would apply to the Toronto Raptors over 40 years later.

Kawhi Leonard kept Trooper's sentiment strong, and it all started on July 18, 2018, when the Raptors acquired him from the San Antonio Spurs. Leonard, who played in only nine games in the season prior, quieted any concerns about his health by dropping 24 points and 12 rebounds in his debut for the Raptors.

His tenure in Toronto also included cashing in on the first Game 7 buzzer-beater in NBA history en route to leading the franchise to its first NBA Finals appearance. He ended his time as a Raptor as an NBA champion and Finals MVP, bringing Toronto its first championship of the four major North American professional sports leagues since the Toronto Blue Jays' victory in the 1993 World Series.

Leonard's performance is perhaps the crown jewel among players who won a title after joining a team for just one season.

Here are some of the other notable figures across sports who showed up and won championships in a single season.


John Salley

1999-2000 Los Angeles Lakers

Salley earned two NBA championships as a member of the Bad Boy Detroit Pistons before picking up another one with his former rival Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls in the 1996 NBA Finals.

After that, he had a short stint in the Euroleague and a couple of years away from professional basketball. He returned to the hardwood in 1999, joining his former head coach Phil Jackson, who was now leading Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant on the Los Angeles Lakers. Salley played sparingly, typically as O'Neal's backup, but still earned his fourth championship ring and became the first NBA player to win a title in three decades (1989, 1990, 1996, 2000).

Mitch Richmond

2001-02 Los Angeles Lakers

Richmond, the 1988 NBA Rookie of the Year, was a member of the Golden State Warriors' high-powered trio dubbed "Run TMC" and had his No. 2 retired by the Sacramento Kings, but the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer didn't hoist the Larry O'Brien Trophy until his final season.

Brought on by the reigning champion Lakers in the offseason, Raymond came off the bench in the regular season and through the playoffs. The last shot of his career was the Lakers' final bucket in the championship series, sealing their 4-0 series sweep over the New Jersey Nets.


Trent Dilfer

2000Baltimore Ravens

Dilfer spent the first six years of his career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before being picked up by the Ravens ahead of the 2000 season. Initially backing up Tony Banks, Dilfer was installed as starter midway through the season and led Baltimore to a 7-1 record down the stretch in his only season with the team.

The final win of those seven was a dominant 34-7 triumph over the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV. Dilfer threw for 153 yards and a touchdown in the victory.

Deion Sanders

1994 San Francisco 49ers

Sanders earned his sole NFL Defensive Player of the Year award in his single season with San Francisco. He recorded six interceptions, one shy of his career high, and returned half of them for touchdowns -- including two of 90-plus yards.

He ended his time in the Bay Area with his first Super Bowl win.

Darrelle Revis

2014New England Patriots

"Revis Island" was a well-known (and often avoided) area when the future Hall of Fame cornerback joined the Pats in between terms with the New York Jets and a brief stint with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Super Bowl XLIX marked his only appearance in the NFL's title game. Revis picked up a sack and a tackle during the Patriots' memorable 28-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks.


Ivan Rodriguez

2003 Florida Marlins

After spending more than a decade with the Texas Rangers, Rodriguez made an immediate impact upon joining a young Marlins squad, hitting a home run in his debut. The 10-time Gold Glove-winning catcher set multiple franchise records at his position, including boasting a .297 batting average. He was the National League Championship Series MVP and ended his time in Miami with the franchise's second World Series championship.

Dave Winfield

1992 Toronto Blue Jays

Winfield joined his fourth MLB team nearly two decades into his career. The Blue Jays ended the regular season tied for an AL-best 96 wins and cruised to the World Series.

Winfield hit a game-winning two-run double in the 11th inning to secure the franchise's first title.

Jack Morris

1991 Minnesota Twins

The Saint Paul, Minnesota, native returned to his home state after 13 seasons with the Detroit Tigers. He earned 18 wins and boasted a 3.43 ERA, helping the team go from last place in the AL West to the pennant.

Morris took the mound for Game 7 of the 1991 World Series against the Atlanta Braves and was named the Series MVP after throwing 10 shutout innings.

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