Being labeled a bust must be exceptionally tough. It simply means that you’re not doing your job right and you should either put in the extra effort or realize that you should focus on other things. The guys on this list picked the latter and decided to earn their living doing things other than basketball, including coaching or scouting players. Being mocked by fans, these guys decided to step away from the sport they’ve been spending decades working on. While for most of us playing the sport that you love is a dream job, for them the game either brought back too many bad memories, or simply nobody wanted them near their teams due to their bad reputations.
There’s nothing wrong with stepping away from basketball, let alone getting a regular job when your NBA dream doesn’t come to fruition. At least these guys made it to the league, which already makes them better than most of the basketball-playing population. Could we do their jobs better than them? On the court no, but off it? Probably. Given the same abilities though, maybe we could stay in the NBA. I mean, once you get close to the game that you love, why in the world would you want to move away from it? These guys did that, and while it’s tempting to criticize them for that move, on the flip side, they did and still do what’s necessary to provide for their families.
15. Bryant Reeves
Bryant “Big Country” Reeves earned the nickname not because of his enormous frame, but because after his first airplane flight he was surprised that the United States were so big. Reeves wasn’t really a bust, as he was able to remain a starter in the league for six seasons. Unfortunately, he was a starter for the Vancouver Grizzlies, one of the worst teams in league history. In his first season Reeves made the Second All-Rookie Team, and he was the first player ever picked by the Grizzlies in the draft. During the 1998-99 lockout Reeves gained weight – he never was particularly slim in the first place – and the rest of his career was plagued by injuries. He eventually gave up sports and invested his earnings into a 300-acre cattle farm in Oklahoma.
14. Mark Blount
The big centre wasn’t necessarily a bust either, albeit for different reasons. He was picked by the end of the second round of the draft, so the expectations weren’t really that high for him. His nickname (Big Basic) does him a lot of justice, as he was never capable of playing on a substantially good level, yet earned starter minutes on a lot of good NBA teams. He’s currently an owner of two Auntie Anne’s pretzel franchises in South Florida. His last team in the league was the Miami Heat and he liked the city so much that he stayed there. At least he was able to get into starting his own business as a franchisee.
13. Chris Washburn
If there was ever a poster boy for the dangers associated with combining professional sports and substance abuse, it’s Washburn. He was picked third in the 1986 NBA Draft, in front of Chuck Person, Ron Harper or Mark Price. The second player in that draft was Len Bias, who passed away before playing his first NBA game. Washburn didn’t learn from the mistake of his more talented peer and also continued to abuse substances while trying to sustain an NBA career. He was out of the league after two seasons. He received a lifetime ban from the league for failing three consecutive substance tests. Now he’s a peer support specialist, helping others avoid the mistakes he committed during his career. He used to own a chicken wing restaurant as well.
12. Maceo Baston
Baston is another second round draft pick, falling to the last pick of the 1998 NBA Draft. The power forward who came out of Michigan found it hard to impress NBA teams and was forced to polish his skills overseas, eventually being picked up by the Raptors. He also played for the Pacers, but never made a big enough impact to become an important reserve, let alone earn starter minutes. When he ended his career, he came back to Michigan and opened up a cupcake store with his wife. Taste Love Cupcakes actually earned a top prize in the Cupcake Wars television program.
11. Keith Closs
Most recently, Closs was mentioned by Shaquille O’Neal as the man against who he scored 61 points (his best during a single NBA game). The problem with that statement was that Closs was inactive during that game and Shaq played against Michael Olowokandi instead. The centre was at the time struggling with drinking, an addiction that plagued his professional career. He was actually addicted before he even joined the Clippers! The fact that he stays sober is enough to put him on this list. He might be delusional about his potential and ability to hold down Shaq (Closs’ Clippers were 0-8 in these games), but hey, at least he isn’t drinking. Good for you Keith!
10. Shawn Bradley
Bradley was hailed as a pioneer that was supposed to change the way basketball was going to be played. The 7’6″ Bradley was drafted after Chris Webber with the second pick in the 1993 NBA Draft. The Sixers considered him the athlete of the future, but the big guy was just too nice to be a good NBA player. His religion – Bradley is a mormon – always came first, so professional basketball was just a job. He was great at blocking, but also too often appeared on various posters, as various NBA players dunked on him. After his career was over Bradley came back to Utah, where he ran for office in 2010. He’s an important figure in the community, known for his charity work.
9. Sam Bowie
The man notorious for being picked before Michael Jordan by the Blazers and lying about his health to actually earn such a high selection, Sam Bowie is forever remembered by basketball fans as a quintessential bust. Bowie lied about the state of his knees to get paid and he actually earned a substantial amount of money. The Kentucky product played for the Blazers, Nets and the Lakers. He ended his career with averages of 10.9 points and 7.5 rebounds. He invested the money earned on the basketball court in horses – remember, he was at the University of Kentucky for four years. As a horse trainer he is actually quite successful, albeit not as much as he probably expected – the same as with his NBA career.
8. Jonathan Bender
Chosen with the fifth pick in the 1999 NBA Draft, Bender was a high school phenomenon picked before Shawn Marion, Ron Artest or Andrei Kirilenko, just to mention a few talented forwards that the Raptors could’ve selected. On draft day Bender was traded to the Pacers, where he stayed for seven seasons, playing more than 60 games in a season just once. He made a brief comeback in 2009-10 with the Knicks and then called it quits. His career never took off due to knee injuries so Bender decided to take matters into his own hands and… invented a rehabilitation device that strengthens knee muscles without hurting the joints.
7. Dan Dickau
Coming from Gonzaga, Dickau wasn’t necessarily the next John Stockton, but he could have been a usable NBA point guard. Could have been, but never was. Instead, he was traded eight times during his NBA career, the first move coming on the day he was drafted. The former All-American was only once a starter, for the New Orleans Hornets, and he wasn’t good enough to earn that honor in the following seasons. He later played in Europe, but failed to make an impact. In 2013 in Spokane Dickau opened up a barber shop called The Barbers. Since point guards are expected to be the most creative players on the basketball court, it’s no wonder that Dickau failed in the league.
6. Kelvin Ransey
There was a time, one Michael Jordan ago, when the Chicago Bulls weren’t very good. To put things more clearly, they were terrible and had as many NBA Championship titles as you or me. In the 1980 NBA Draft they selected Ransey with the fourth pick to be the team’s point guard of the future and then traded him before the season even began. Ransey played in the NBA for six seasons and was actually runner-up for the Rookie of the Year title for the Portland Trail Blazers. He wasn’t a bad NBA player, but didn’t produce what was expected of such a high pick. When his career was over Ransey came back to his home state and became a pastor. He said that he wasn’t interested in basketball anymore – despite attempting a comeback in 1989 – and decided to serve God instead.
5. Ed O’Bannon
Now known mostly as the guy to whom we owe – albeit rightfully, as student athletes deserve to get paid for their likeness – the lack of NCAA video games, O’Bannon was at one time a serious baller. UCLA won the championship in 1995 and the man that led the team was drafted with the ninth pick of the following NBA Draft. Unfortunately for him, O’Bannon wasn’t able to enjoy the same success in the pros as he did in college and he was out of the league after just two seasons. After a couple of years in Europe, he came back to the USA and completed his bachelor’s degree in history. He’s now working in a car dealership in Nevada.
4. David Harrison
Chosen with the 29th pick of the 2004 NBA Draft, Harrison wasn’t exactly supposed to dominate in the league, but taking into consideration that the Indiana Pacers were forced to play Jeff Foster at centre season after season, they could make use of a big body in the middle, if only to relieve Jermaine O’Neal from too much work under the basket.
Throughout his four years in Indiana Harrison never seemed to be interested in basketball. When his career was over he was forced to work at a McDonald’s. He resigned after two weeks and now trades stocks, plus owns a mobile game application company. Instead of laughing at him, we should actually appreciate his willingness to do everything to provide for his family.
3. Luther Wright
In NBA Live 2K18 MyCareer mode the gamer-controlled player makes a comeback to basketball after some time away to practice his craft as a DJ. Luther Wright followed an opposite path. Wright was drafted by the Utah Jazz with the 18th pick in 1993 after two years at Seton Hall. His career there wasn’t all that great, as he averaged 9 points, 2 blocks and almost 8 rebounds a game, but the pick was a sign of a certain trend – just a year earlier rookies Shaquille O’Neal and Alonzo Mourning set the league on fire, so teams were in need of young big men. Wright was done with basketball after just one season, as he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. In consequence, the Jazz subjected basketball fans to years of watching Greg Ostertag, so thanks for that. As for Wright, he now works as a DJ, known under the nickname Wright at the Rock. At 7’2″ he makes quite an impression at parties.
2. Raef LaFrentz
The Kansas centre was supposed to be more than a decent starter in the NBA for years to come, but due to injuries his minutes on the hardwood were fairly limited. He appeared in less than half of regular season games in four of his ten NBA seasons. Furthermore, he was picked before Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki or Paul Pierce. He was OK, but never made an impact like the guys that were picked after him. Once his career was over, LaFrentz came back to Iowa to work on his large property. He made a lot of money during his NBA career – after all centres get very handsomely paid since “you can’t teach height” – so you can bet that he invested a lot into it.
1. Darko Milicic
The man picked in front of Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will never live down being a bust. During his ten years in the league Darko was rarely given a proper shot to develop into a player that he could become. The potential was there, but Darko just couldn’t handle the pressure of playing professional basketball and was too often sulking and frustrated. Being picked number two put a giant target on his back, he just couldn’t handle it. After his retirement from basketball Darko moved back to Serbia, where he briefly attempted a career in kickboxing. He’s now an apple farmer, living big due to good investments. The farm is enjoying a steady growth, his kids go to a private school and his wife has her own fashion line. Not bad for a bust, right?
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