The majority of top NBA stars usually have a long tenure of superb play. Recently retired legends Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan all spent well over a decade dominating the league. LeBron James doesn’t appear to be ending his reign of incredible play any time soon. The athleticism of NBA stars often allows them to have a longer career than stars in other sports such as the NFL. We have witnessed a small sample size of tremendous talents fizzle out faster than anyone would have expected. A combination of injuries, the rest of the league figuring out how to stop them, bad decisions and unfortunate luck can lead to a downfall.
We’ll take a look at some of the memorable stars that had impressive stints and even legendary careers in a few cases. These specific names saw their NBA careers take a dramatic drop to the point where you forgot they even existed. No one is ever happy about their success ending, but it’s even more frustrating when it happens in such disappointing fashion. Not every basketball star gets to go out on their terms. These are fifteen once great NBA players that disappeared into oblivion towards the end of their run.
15. Shawn Kemp
The incredible talent of Shawn Kemp made it appear that he would become one of the great power forwards in the NBA. Kemp had a strong career for about a decade with the Seattle SuperSonics and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Seattle made the 1996 NBA Finals with the duo of Kemp and Gary Payton leading the way. Both the professional and personal worlds of Kemp’s life went downhill when joining the Portland Trail Blazers.
Kemp gained a lot of weight causing his basketball play to diminish and he got involved in many off court issues. The NBA career of Kemp quietly ended in 2003 averaging just 6.8 points per game. Kemp continued to work towards a NBA return but no one wanted to sign him. The former Superstar dunker is now someone fans barely remember.
14. Baron Davis
Another exciting player that had a few years of superb play before dropping off was Baron Davis. The two-time NBA All-Star had many tremendous seasons with career high averages of 22.9 points and 8.9 assists. Davis was both an impressive scorer and facilitator making him an impressive player at the point guard position. A fun aspect of Davis’ game at the time was that he often delivered highlight dunks despite it being rare from point guards of the era.
Things started to fall apart when he joined the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2011 right after LeBron James left the team. Davis’ numbers and overall play fell off big time. The New York Knicks signed him to join the core of Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, but Davis could not hang with the new young point guards. Davis was out of the league without most fans noticing the following season. The 38 year old is still hoping to make a NBA comeback, but it seems like he may be better off continuing his recent work in broadcasting.
13. Stephon Marbury
Stephon Marbury’s numbers would make you think he’d still be in the NBA today. Marbury averaged at least 20 points and 7.6 assists every season during his prime run with the New Jersey Nets and Phoenix Suns. The dream of coming home to join the New York Knicks is what eventually ended his NBA career. Marbury still put up solid numbers but the turmoil and drama in the organization saw him become malcontent.
Once the Knicks tarnished his reputation, Marbury only received one more chance on the Boston Celtics before being unofficially kicked out of the NBA. The two-time NBA All-Star was out of the league with no one talking about him. Marbury did however find success outside of North America. The point guard has been playing in China for a few years and became one of the top athletes there. Sadly, his NBA career will likely not be remembered as fondly.
12. Danny Granger
Danny Granger was one of the top stars on the Indiana Pacers during his first seven seasons in the NBA. The best season of Granger’s career saw him average 25.8 points in 2008-2009. An injury shortened season thanks to patellar tendinitis caused Granger to miss almost a full season. This happened to coincide with the ascension of young Pacers star Paul George as his replacement.
George became the face of the franchise in Granger’s absence and took his spot as the starting small forward. To make matters worse, Granger was never the same after returning from injury. Indiana would trade him but nothing would bring back the magic. Granger played two seasons after leaving the Pacers failing to prove he still could play in the NBA. The hopes of Granger are to return to the NBA one day but he has started to try a new career in broadcasting.
11. Lamar Odom
It’s easy to forget that Lamar Odom was once a great NBA player and contributed to two Los Angeles Lakers Championship wins due to how things would play out. Odom was a great all-around player that contributed in just about every aspect of the game. Fame started to get to his head during his relationship with reality television star Khloe Kardashian.
The Lakers eventually grew tired of his actions and traded him to the Dallas Mavericks. Odom struggled to adjust to his new environment and found his way out of the NBA in just two seasons after leaving his best fit. The career of Odom became irrelevant aside from the terrible off court stories involving his addiction to drugs. Odom almost died in 2015 after suffering several strokes and kidney failure. It appears he’s trying to live a clean life today which can only be commended.
10. Allen Iverson
Allen Iverson may very well be the biggest name on this list due to just how successful he was at his best. The undersized shooting guard made 11 All-Star appearances and won a regular season MVP Award during his peak. Iverson averaged 27.6 points during his time on the Philadelphia 76ers. It started to go downhill when Philadelphia traded him to the Denver Nuggets.
Iverson still put up great numbers in Denver teaming with a young Carmelo Anthony. Denver opted to trade for a traditional point guard in Chauncey Billups by sending Iverson to the Detroit Pistons. Iverson struggled badly in Detroit, Memphis and a final Philadelphia run before having to leave NBA at a younger age than expected. The fact that such a legend saw his career end so quietly was quite the sad story. Iverson has received love in the past years, especially when getting inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
9. Shareef Abdur-Rahim
Shareef Abdur-Rahim is a name very few new age basketball fans know despite his dominant numbers during his early career. The first eight seasons in the NBA saw Abdur-Rahim average between 18.7 to 23 points and 6.9 to 10.1 rebounds every year for the Vancouver Grizzlies and Atlanta Hawks. A trade to the Portland Trail Blazers was a poor fit and saw his relevance in the NBA begin to diminish.
Abdur-Rahim struggled in Portland and then had a weak final three seasons on the Sacramento Kings. The final season of his career saw him suffer a knee injury that forced him out after just six games. Abdur-Rahim would quietly retire from basketball. Unlike the majority of top scorers from his era, Abdur-Rahim gets no love today with seemingly everyone forgetting his impressive early career. The fact that most of it took place in Vancouver is likely why.
8. Mike Bibby
One player to see his value skyrocket after being traded away from the Vancouver Grizzlies was Mike Bibby. The play of Bibby on the Grizzlies was quite impressive but it went to the next level when traded to the Sacramento Kings for Jason Williams. Bibby appeared to be the missing piece that helped a talented Kings roster become a legitimate contender in the Western Conference.
The rivalry between the Kings and Los Angeles Lakers reached a peak in 2002 when Bibby hit numerous clutch shots to get Sacramento to host a Game 7 in the Western Conference Finals. Many believe if not for crooked officiating that the Kings would have won the NBA Championship that season with Bibby as the point guard. Bibby had many great seasons in the NBA before injuries and the aging process started to slow him down leading to early retirement.
7. Antoine Walker
Boston Celtics fan loved the superb play of Antoine Walker during his tenure with the team. The averages during his eight seasons in Boston saw Walker put up 20.6 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. Walker also had a flashy style and swagger that added to his play. A trade to the Dallas Mavericks saw Walker’s role in the NBA start to lessen.
Walker no longer was a top scorer at the power forward position and slowly declined over the years. By the time he reached the end of his NBA career, the average fan forgot all about him. Walker tried to remain in the league but no one wanted to sign him. The poor financial decisions off the court made it all worse and Walker had to file for bankruptcy. Many off court issues continued to haunt him but Walker is trying to move forward today as a college basketball analyst.
6. Allan Houston
Allan Houston was the biggest New York Knicks star in between the eras of Patrick Ewing and Carmelo Anthony. The shooting touch of Houston made him one of the better shooting guards of the 90s. New York actually reached the NBA Finals in 1999 behind the great play of both Houston and Latrell Sprewell. The Knicks signed Houston to a massive contract in hopes of building around him.
Various knee injuries started to take Houston out of action and eventually caused him to regret. The Knicks just couldn’t get him on the court leading to a retirement no one really talked about. Houston’s time in New York did luckily set him up for a future after retirement. The Knicks once again employed Houston as their Assistant General Manager.
5. Gilbert Arenas
The rise of Gilbert Arenas on the Washington Wizards saw him become an instant NBA Superstar after years of impressive play on the Golden State Warriors. Washington was the right fit for Arenas at the time allowing him to run the offense to success. Arenas averaged 25 points and 5.7 assists during his eight seasons on the Wizards with back to back seasons of 28+ points per game.
A horrible decision of bringing a gun with him into the locker room ultimately led to his downfall. Arenas would get suspended for the majority of a season and was never the same. Washington no longer wanted him and he could not find another good fit. Arenas retired from the NBA and holds zero relevance in the basketball world today aside from the occasional controversial Instagram post looking for attention.
4. Michael Redd
The Milwaukee Bucks appeared to strike gold when drafting Michael Redd in the 2000 NBA Draft. Redd was a great three-point shooter that put up points with ease. Milwaukee witnessed Redd average 20+ points for five consecutive seasons before tearing his ACL and MCL. Redd actually held the record for most three-pointers made in a single quarter for thirteen years until Klay Thompson broke it.
The injuries hurt the play of Redd forcing him to lose his spot as a borderline All-Star and elite shooter in the Eastern Conference. Following the end of his time on the Bucks, Redd tried to continue his career one more time having a poor season with the Phoenix Suns. It was obvious the injury ended his hot stretch but it also forced him to disappear quietly.
3. Andrew Bynum
The Los Angeles Lakers drafted Andrew Bynum out of high school with the hopes that he would succeed Shaquille O’Neal as the franchise’s next Superstar center. Bynum’s talent was incredible but health and commitment issues both prevented his potential. The big man still did play great basketball for a few seasons with career high averages of 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds per game in his final season on the Lakers.
Bynum was traded away in a blockbuster deal for Dwight Howard. The Lakers did not get what they wanted from Howard but things worked out even worse for Bynum. Injury issues started to pile up and he only played 26 more games in the NBA following the trade. Bynum unofficially retired with no fanfare and has become a forgotten man in the basketball world.
2. Steve Francis
Steve Francis looked like he would be a Superstar point guard for a long time following his early success with the Houston Rockets. The nickname “Stevie Franchise” was given to him to imply he could put a franchise on his back. Francis won the 2000 Rookie of the Year Award and made three All-Star appearances in his first four seasons in the NBA.
Houston traded him away at his peak to acquire bigger star Tracy McGrady in their hopes of becoming a title contender. Francis joined the Orlando Magic for a few seasons and still played good basketball. The eventual trade that landed him on the New York Knicks is what started his downfall. Francis went from great to competent to bad in quick fashion. The final two seasons of his career saw him lose his role as a rotation player and Francis retired. Sadly, the once great point guard could not even get drafted by Ice Cube’s Big 3 league this year.
1. Anfernee Hardaway
Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway had all of the tools to become the next NBA Superstar. The first four seasons of his career on the Orlando Magic saw him put up impressive numbers through an entertaining style of play. Penny and Shaquille O’Neal led the Magic to the 1995 NBA Finals in Hardaway’s second year before falling short to the Houston Rockets.
The combination of injury issues and O’Neal leaving his side to join the Los Angeles Lakers caused Hardaway to lose his place as the future of the NBA. Knee injuries caused his play to decline and eventually made him a forgotten name in the league. Penny retired quietly as a member of the Miami Heat in 2008. You have to wonder what his career would look like today if he remained healthy and Shaq never left Orlando.
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