Torrey Craig’s career as a professional basketball player has been an uphill fight from the very beginning. Craig started at the lowest level of DI college basketball, startedtarted playing in Australia after going undrafted, spent a year in the G League playing in South Dakota, and then finally broke into the rotation with the Denver Nuggets.
Craig signed with the Milwaukee Bucks ahead of this season, but never really found a place on Mike Budenholzer’s team. The Bucks traded Craig to the Phoenix Suns on March 18 for nothing more than cash considerations after Milwaukee acquired P.J. Tucker from the Houston Rockets.
With the Suns and Bucks now squaring off in the 2021 NBA Finals, that means Craig is getting a ring regardless of who wins. It’s a pretty amazing story for a player who grinded his way into an NBA roster spot from the very bottom of the sport’s hierarchy.
Torrey Craig is now a 2021 NBA Champion!— SB Nation (@SBNation) July 4, 2021
The Finals haven't started yet, but Craig started the season on the Bucks and now he's on the Suns. He's getting a ring regardless pic.twitter.com/tWyJTCTQYn
Craig hailed from small town Great Falls, South Carolina with a population around 2,000. He wasn’t found on any national recruiting rankings coming out of high school. The best scholarship offer he could get came from USC Upstate, a program that was just earning DI eligibility when he walked on campus ahead of the 2010-2011 season.
The Spartans went just 5-25 in Craig’s first season, but he led the team in scoring and was named the Atlantic Sun’s Freshman of the Year. Craig would win conference player of the year as a sophomore, and then turn in two more productive seasons for teams that could never reach the NCAA tournament. He was far off the radar during the 2014 NBA Draft, and headed off to Australia to start his professional career after going unselected.
Craig began his tenure in the NBL with the Cairns Taipans, then went to the Wellington Saints, and then ended up with the Brisbane Bullets from 2014-2016. After a stint with the Gold Coast Rollers of the Queensland Basketball League, Craig got a shot in NBA summer league with the Denver Nuggets. Denver liked what it saw enough to offer him a two-way contract. Craig spent much of the 2017-2018 season with the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the G League, but showed enough skill as a defender to earn a two-year, $4 million contract from Denver ahead of the next season.
Craig would become a valuable contributor at the end of Denver’s rotation over the next two seasons, making 83 starts across the regular season and playoffs before he signed with Milwaukee after the bubble. While Craig only played in 18 games for the Bucks and never left much of an imprint, he has been a factor for the Suns’ bench since the midseason trade.
Craig has appeared in all 16 of the Suns’ playoff games, averaging just under 13 minutes per game and mostly being counted on to defend bigger wings when he’s on the floor. Craig is perhaps the least noteworthy player you’ll see on the floor in the Finals, but the fact that he’s there at all is an enormous testament to how hard he’s worked. This is a player who has never once had an opportunity handed to him, and who has had to work for everything he’s gotten.
There are only 450 roster spots in the NBA, and it should go without saying that each one is extremely competitive. Craig has had to overcome extremely long odds to get his. Now he’s a champion regardless of what happens in the Finals. That’s something worth celebrating.