Is there anything more frustrating for fans than seeing a player with all the physical tools to be a great NBA player but, for whatever reason, can’t ever seem to apply their gifts to be sensational? Every player in the NBA is good, but what separates good players from great players is work ethic, passion and maniacal drive to be better than good.
There are some players who appear to be born to play professional basketball, blessed with incredible length and athleticism, but for reasons they only know, they are rarely locked in to the action. It’s not inconceivable that these players simply aren’t interested in basketball and go through the motions to collect huge paychecks for a few years before they move on to their true passion.
Many of these players are naturally gifted while some are pressured to play the game of basketball due to their height. NBA fans, beware your GM signing any of these players because these are the 15 NBA players who HATED playing basketball.
15. Larry Sanders
Cavs fans should be wary about the front office kicking the tires of the former Milwaukee Buck.
Sanders was bought out of his four-year, $44 million contract in February, 2015 because he lost his love for the game. Feeling the pressure to perform on a new big-money contract, Larry Sanders got injured and sat out an entire season. In that time, Sanders started experimenting with making music, writing and art. These new passions, combined with Sanders’ increasing problems with anxiety, mood disorders and medicinal marijuana use eventually led to his hiatus from the game.
An agile big man and a vicious shot blocker, we certainly hope Larry Sanders finds a way to rekindle his love for the game as a role player on a championship team. Otherwise, he may just go down as the proud owner of one of the stranger career trajectories in NBA history.
14. O.J. Mayo
O.J. Mayo was a dominant player in high school, but how much did Mayo benefit from a lack of decent competition? When he got to college, Mayo’s interest in his career was called into question when it was revealed that Mayo had received numerous gifts, violating NCAA rules. On January 3, 2010, USC announced Mayo was ineligible for the 2007-2008 season because he received improper benefits.
By the time he reached the pro ranks in Memphis, Mayo was late for shootarounds, fought with teammates and tested positive for steroids. He rarely looked engaged while on the court and would eventually be banned from the league for two years after violating the NBA’s drug policy in July 2016. Had he cared about basketball, you would think Mayo would find some help staying away from banned substances. Mayo is eligible for re-instatement in 2018.
13. Hedo Turkoglu
The Turkish forward was last seen in the NBA with the L.A. Clippers in 2015. Though Turkoglu managed to play 15 years in the NBA, you can’t help but question his motivation.
By the end of his career, Turkoglu was out of shape and rarely drove to the basket, which he was once immensely talented at. Turkoglu was content with catching the ball on the perimeter and jacking up threes until he returned to the bench. He may have been a good shooter but he could have helped his teams a lot more if he went to the hoop once or twice.
Not to mention is abysmal rebounding numbers. At 6’10”, Turkoglu was only averaging three board per game by the end of his career. Being that big, grabbing so few boards and launching a ton of threes makes you wonder if he even liked professional basketball or just wanted to shoot.
12. Lamar Odom
Lamar Odom might not hate basketball, it’s just that he loved weed so much more.
The lefty from Queens at times looked like Scottie Pippen (albeit with weaker defense) at times in his playing career, but these moments of brilliance were always tempered by his marijuana use, which caused him to miss a significant chunk of time.
After he left the Clippers, he went to Miami where he and a young Dwyane Wade took the Heat to the playoffs, but he was then traded to the Lakers for Shaquille O’Neal. He won two championships in a supporting role with Kobe Bryant’s Lakers before he was traded to the Mavs. Odom wasn’t happy with the trade and let it be known with 50 games of truly uninspired basketball.
11. Darko Milicic
In the 2003 NBA Draft, Darko Milicic from Serbia was selected second overall by the Detroit Pistons after LeBron James, which is crazy when you see that Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade were all selected afterwards. Milicic’s name is synonymous with “bust” and for why Darko didn’t work out look no further than his work ethic.
Milicic recently spoke to Serbia’s B92 and explained he wasn’t looking to win basketball games, he was just trying to stroke his ego. “My goal wasn’t to silence the critics, it was to silence my ego. Tonight I want to feed my ego, so I’ll play a great game against Duncan or Gasol. Tomorrow, we have a totally irrelevant game against a center that’s 10 times weaker so I’ll put up another great game and become a consistent player because that’s what they want from me. But I simply couldn’t, I wasn’t ready or willing to put in the work…”
10. David Robinson
David Robinson may be a Spurs legend and one of the best bigs to ever play the game, but the even-tempered center from Key West, Florida was never known for his passion.
Growing up, Robinson was a nerd. He was always tinkering with machines and was a total sci-fi addict who only dabbled in basketball for fun. When he transferred to Osbourn Park High School in Manassas, Virginia, he was pulled aside by the coach who more or less made him play basketball because he was 6’7″ and still growing.
Robinson would later turn down scholarship from major basketball programs in order to pursue his dream of becoming an engineer in Annapolis at the United States Naval Academy. Though he bloomed into a fierce competitor, David Robinson’s love of the game took a lot longer to manifest than most other NBA legends.
9. Jeff Green
Teams keep talking themselves into acquiring Jeff Green because of his physical profile and skill set. He’s a long, athletic 6’9 forward who can handle the ball, play on the perimeter and has the size to play the 4 spot in small lineups. On paper, adding Jeff Green gives any lineup a huge boost of versatility.
However, there’s a reason Green has never been able to integrate himself into the cores of former teams Oklahoma City, Boston, Memphis and the Clippers. He is frustratingly inconsistent. One night, he’ll play like a star. The next, he’s a black hole on the floor. Jeff Green has all the physical tools but he’s lacking a mental edge to take him to the next level. Green’s passion for the game has been questioned over the years.
8. Andray Blatche
Before he took off for China’s CBA, Andray Blatche built an NBA career out of being lazy, immature and selfish. Blatche entered the NBA as a 19-year-old straight out of high school and spent the first three years of his career doing hardly anything.
Once he began producing offensively, he began receiving minutes. He proved to be a decent scorer, hitting the mid-range and inside shots, but he was nonexistent everywhere else. He never committed to drives, refused to play defense and almost never passed the ball. Another instance of an NBA preferring shooting hoops to the actual game of basketball, which requires driving, passing and defense.
7. Baron Davis
Once upon a time, Baron Davis was one of the league’s best point guards. He was averaging nearly eight assists per game and made it onto two All-Star teams. Not to mention, he was one of the league’s most explosive players whenever a lane was open.
Despite this, he was always kind of out of shape and often injured because of this. It was also well-known that he only gave an effort when he was feeling up for it. Davis’ career would have been longer if he had cared enough to put in the required work.
6. Rashard Lewis
A power forward that doesn’t have the frame to bang down low isn’t necessarily a bad thing provided they can space the floor with some shooting. In theory, Rashard Lewis could have served teams well that way, except that was pretty much all he ever wanted to do.
To make matters even worse, Lewis was a terrible defender. Whoever he was guarding almost always led to an easy blow-by or getting worked in the post. His refusal to change his game throughout his career always made us wonder if he interested at all by what was going on in the game.
5. Antoine Walker
Antoine Walker was a good player. Reminder: he made the All-Star game three times. But he could have been a great player if he wasn’t so lazy.
Walker would launch jumpers from everywhere, which was fine on hot nights, but he never shot better than 43 percent from the field. And for all the threes he liked to take, he only shot 32 percent for his career. This was incredibly frustrating for Celtics fans as they would rarely see Walker’s 6’9″, 265-pound frame in the post. He summed up his personal philosophy on shooting perfectly when he responded to a reporter asking why he took so many threes by saying, “because there are no fours.”
A power forward playing like an inefficient shooting guard is no good, especially when he has no interest in defense whatsoever. Walker was good doing the bare minimum, leaving fans to forever wonder what could have been had he cared.
4. Anthony Bennett
At UNLV, Anthony Bennett proved to be a useful offensive weapon with length and explosiveness. A sieve defensively, but what prospect doesn’t need a little help with D? So the Cavaliers picked Bennett first overall and it was all down hill from there.
“I don’t think they got the full scoop on (Bennett),” a scout told Sporting News. “The Cavs got a rosy version of his work ethic and attitude.” Bennett pouted and quit on plays through his whole rookie season. He would help the Cavs acquire Kevin Love and therefore a championship, but he’s been waived by four teams in four years.
3. Kwame Brown
Can anyone really blame Kwame Brown for hating basketball? Handpicked by Michael Jordan first overall, the all-time berated Brown all through his rookie year, often saying whatever he could to the 19-year-old to get him to cry in front of his teammates.
For twelve seasons, Brown drifted from team to team, collecting paychecks along the way and not doing much else besides getting into altercations with teammates and coaches. One of the biggest draft busts in NBA history, Kwame Brown really didn’t seem to have any interest in basketball, although he continued finding a new team thanks to his size.
2. Andrea Bargnani
Andrea Bargnani is skilled but he’s not much else. The 7-foot tall Italian center never grabbed more than six rebounds a game and only averaged a block per game three times. Raptor, Knicks and Nets fans would be hard pressed to think of a time Bargnani ever box someone out or post up. All Bargnani ever really did was hang around the three-point line and wait for the ACC crowd to shower him in ironic applause.
The general consensus on Bargnani is that he doesn’t care. Not just about basketball but anything in particular. He is a naturally aloof guy. Which must make fans wonder what Bryan Colangelo saw in the Italian center that would make him a future leader and star. Bargnani once said that he doesn’t rebound because it’s called basketball, and not rebound-ball, so there you have it.
1. Andrew Bynum
In 2013, Andrew Bynum’s injury-riddled NBA career came to a screeching halt when the Cleveland Cavaliers suspended the 26-year-old center indefinitely for “conduct detrimental to the team.”
An exact reason for the suspension was never given. Adrian Wojnarowski quoted a league source, “He doesn’t want to play basketball anymore. He never liked it that much in the first place.” It’s strange that Cleveland even signed Bynum, as other teams courting Bynum were concerned about his desire to play and the commitment to continue rehabbing his repeated knee problems. For Andrew Bynum, there was nothing noble about playing in the NBA. It was just a job. A job that paid well but took his knees away in the process.
Bynum was the youngest player to ever play in an NBA game at the age of 18 years and 6 days. He was voted as an NBA All-Star in 2012 and has won back-to-back championships with the Lakers.