Let me make my stance very clear: NBA players deserve to get paid. They bring in tremendous amounts of revenue, and are alone, their own brands. Without them, their franchise flattens economically. The owner and the player are at an equal give-and-take.
But if I’m honest, I sometimes (often) resent these giant contracts. Most of them are guaranteed. Meaning the player will be paid in full, barring injury, a dip in performance, or any other matter. I again, get it. A player deserves to be paid, and shouldn’t, always, hinge that pay, on whether their body gives out.
Except, sometimes it isn’t that. It’s simply a player getting his money and quitting. Going from a workhorse to a sluggish slug. These contracts screw it up for fans. Do so, by clogging the team’s payroll, resulting in a downturn of overall quality.
Essentially one could argue these large contracts screw it for the fans. Unless it’s a slam dunk star, a LeBron James or Michael Jordan. A player we know will be nothing short of brilliant. Below are fifteen major deals that went real sour. Some of them might make you squirm, as the deal represents your favorite team – something you’d long tried to forget.
15 Rashard Lewis: 6-Years, $118 Million (Magic)
Rashard Lewis could score. We know this. Had that top tier mid-range jump shot, which, if left alone, he’d drill about every time. He also had tremendous size for a more perimeter oriented player, allowing him to post up smaller forwards, face up and get an ample look, if tightly contested. He is one of the few players drafted out of High School, to become a relative star, and attend an All-Star Game.
But be honest. Was he ever really a star? I’d argue no. Look, he was a great piece around a real star player. From 2002 to 2008, he averaged 19.1 points and 6.6 rebounds. But there’s a reason the Sonics didn’t heavily bid for him the Summer of 2007. The year the Magic gave him superstar dollars.
Post-contract, Lewis’s true colors surfaced. He was a solid player, not necessarily the adjective you’d like to hear, when paying a guy nearly 20-million per year. Over three and a half years with Orlando, Lewis averaged 15.8 points and 4.9 rebounds, strangling the Magic with an unnecessary salary cap issue.
14 Vin Baker: 7-Years, $86 Million (Sonics)
I loved Vin Baker. For four years with the Milwaukee Bucks, the mobile big man, with an uncanny ability to dribble, shoot the face up and finish around the rim with tremendous athleticism, wowed fans. He completed a trio with Glenn Robinson and Ray Allen, that made Milwaukee hopefuls imagine big things in the future. Over those four years, Baker went to three All-Star games, averaging a whopping 21 and 10 his last season with the club. He was, considered, a top two or three Power Forward.
But that’s when crap went South. Baker signed a mega deal to join Gary Payton in Seattle, the Summer of 1997. A deal, in the mind of critics, making Seattle an automatic Finals favorite. His deal was good the first year. Baker averaged 19 and 8, and went to another All-Star game. But that’s when the lockout happened. And Baker lost his footing.
Post-lockout, Baker was an out of shape big man with depression issues. Injuries set in. As did Baker’s drive. He’d never attend another All-Star game. Becoming an overpaid bench players.
13 Eddy Curry: 6-Years, $60 Million (Knicks)
Are you really surprised? James Dolan, here. JAMES DOLAN. He is arguably the worst basketball mind running an organization. When he signed the big lefty with an ability to score around the rim, nobody thought it was a good idea. Curry was a lackluster defensive presence, with an efficient, yet limited offensive game. He also had ongoing issues with weight and conditioning, making him a constant liability on both ends.
The year the Knicks paid Curry to be their big man in the middle, he’d averaged a career best 16 points and 5 rebounds. The first year of the deal, Dolan looked wise. Curry was good. Had his best year, 19.5 points and 7 rebounds on 58% shooting.
Well, the Knicks got one good year. Because after that showing, we all know the story. Curry came in out of shape. Looked disinterested. Then, battled a heart issue. Over the next four years, he played in 69 games total, averaging 10.8 points and 3.9 rebounds.
12 Gilbert Arenas: 6-Years, $111 Million (Wizards)
Oh Lord. Don’t get me going on Gilbert Arenas. I don’t care what you tell me. The guy was always overrated. His numbers bloated by an outlandish number of erratic hoists, at any place on the floor. Sure, he hit some. But at what peril? He got nobody involved. NOBODY. In fact, I argue the best player during the Wizards' run as one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference, was Caron Butler.
Coming off knee surgery after a season that saw him average 28.4 points, the Wizards couldn’t let Arenas go. And here’s what they got: chronic knee issues and a gun in the locker room. Arenas literally played 68 games the next three-and-half years for the Wizards. Over that span he looked disheveled, disinterested and a flat out bust. The Wizards gladly dealt him to Orlando the Winter of 2011. A move that opened the door to John Wall.
11 Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway: 7-Years, $87 Million (Suns)
Remember the Chris Rock commercials? The ones where he played “Lil’ Penny?” That’s how huge Penny Hardaway was early in his career.
With the Magic, Penny completed one of the most dynamic, dominate duos ever, with Shaquille O’Neal. The 6’7”, long armed Magic Johnson like point-forward, was nearly impossible to stop. The result…a Finals appearance in 1995, four All-Star appearances and three First Team All-NBA nods.
But, as you’ve noticed, issues arose with Penny’s health. He missed 95 games from 1997 to 1999. So, the Magic, decided to let him walk. The Summer of 1999, the Suns agreed to star money with Penny, though his best years behind him.
And, as predicted, it didn’t end well. Over four and a half seasons with Phoenix, Penny missed 135 games. A shell of himself, he became a role guy, averaging 11.1 points and 3.5 assists. One could say that injuries affected his ability but he often looked disinterested.
10 Erick Dampier: 7-Years, $73 Million (Mavericks)
The thing that makes Mark Cuban one of the better owners in the NBA, is he hates to lose. Lose, on the court, and off the court. He’s a real business man. An opportunist who trusts his instinct, when it comes to major investments. Like any great business mogul will tell you, you win some and lose some. What matters, is how you approach the loss. How you get better in the face of adversity.
Well…like LaFrentz, here’s where Cuban clearly lost his way. Erick Dampier, no better than a backup big man, getting $10 Million a year? It’s so dumb, it’s downright laughable. How or why, I don’t know. Cuban must have thought he saw something in the brute of a big, I, or you, or anyone for that matter, saw.
When the Mavericks signed Dampier, he’d played seven years with the Warriors. Over that span, he averaged 9.5 points and 7.8 rebounds. Was an utter liability at the free throw, line, and had an issue of getting in foul trouble.
Dampier would go on to play six more years with the Mavericks, averaging 6.1 points and 7.6 rebounds in 23 minutes of play. The last three he became a middle rotation bench guy.
9 Amar’e Stoudemire: 5-Years, $100 Million (Knicks)
Like so many, Stoudemire succumbed to injuries. Had he not, he’d still be posterizing his defenders with his freakish strength and athleticism. For most of the 2000s, Stoudemire, was easily a top three power forward. In fact, for a couple of those years, you could argue the best. Over eight years with the Suns he averaged 21.4 points and 8.9 rebounds. He attended six All-Star games and was five times named to an All-NBA bid.
It made sense why the Knicks signed him. After losing out on LeBron, they went hunting for the next best franchise face. And that face was, Amar’e, the young talent with the big grin and mean ability to hammer down dunks and hit the twelve foot face up.
The first year of the deal was one of Amare’s best. He averaged 25.3 points and 8.0 rebounds, proving why they signed him to all that money. But then came the glass knees. Over the next three and a half seasons, Amar’e missed 128 games. He was relegated to a limited bench role, and as result, his number nowhere near the money he was paid. Unfortunately for Knick fans, they never got to witness Amar’e and Carmelo get in a groove together. It could have been special.
8 Bryant “Big Country” Reeves: 6-Years, $65 Million (Grizzlies)
You could argue that no player fit their nickname better than “Big Country,” did. Dude was a big boy. A beast in college. In fact, considered by most college hoops critics, to be one of the best big men, ever to grace the collegiate game.
Reeves was the Grizzlies first mega pick. He was the imposing force, they imagined building a future around. When picked, the NBA game was centered around big men. So, it all made sense. Reeves would be the new franchise’s force, the one able to go mono y mono, with the likes of Shaq, Zo, Hakeem, Dikembe, David Robinson or Patrick Ewing.
The deal was wise at the time. Over his first three years in the league, Reeves had developed into an efficient, double-double machine. But like most big men, the wear and tear, took its toll on his 7’0” 275-pound frame. Reeves career lasted only six years’ total. And if you split the six years into two halves, you’ll see how badly he broke down. A knee issue caused him to miss 57 games the first year of his mega deal. That added to limited lateral speed, resulting in tremendous decrease in minutes his last two years.
Reeves retired in 2001.
First three years, before contract: 35.2 minutes, 15.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 75 games per season.
Last three years, after contract: 25.1 minutes, 9.1 points, 5.7 rebounds, 56 games per season.
7 Stephon Marbury: 4-Years, $76 Million (Knicks)
Isiah Thomas was not the best GM. He had a bad habit of signing the wrong guys, resulting in tons of cruddy Knick teams. One of such moves, was the contract extension tender given to Marbury the Summer of 2005, a 4-year, $76 Million deal.
Over the four years, Isiah Thomas and Marbury hit a roadblock. Marbury believed he was the best player on the team, but needed more help. Thomas thought Marbury was lackadaisical, disinterested and an egotistical brat. The result, was chronic benching of Marbury. In fact, at one point, Marbury was flat out asked to leave the team and not return.
Before his time with the Knicks, Marbury was one of the league’s premier point guards. He was Derrick Rose, before Rose. A brute, lightening quick competitor, with a speedy dribble and ability to stop in transition and knock down a jump shot.
Unfortunately, Marbury’s worst years were the years he made the most money. Over those four years, he played just three of them with the Knicks, averaging 13.8 points. The Knicks were so sick of him, they bought out his contract in 2008, allowing him to sign a one year deal with the Celtics.
6 Ben Gordon: 5-Years, $60 Million (Pistons)
When Joe Dumars dismantled most of the 2004 title contending team, he quickly went out on the hunt to reform one. This time looking for quick impact scorers, as opposed to the team’s former defensive identity.
Step one, in his mind: Sign Ben Gordon. The former University of Connecticut stand out, who alongside former pro, Emeka Okafor, led the Huskies to a 2004 National title. Up to the signing the Summer of 2009, Gordon had been good for the Bulls, averaging 18.5 points over five years, including a 2005 Sixth Man Award. But there was a reason the Bulls held pat on their 5-year, $50 Million tender. Never raising it, to overwhelmingly sway Gordon their direction.
Dumars, did him better. Upped the offer $10 million. He thought he had his go-to-scorer. But Gordon proved why the Bulls weren’t going past the 50. Over three years with Detroit, two of which he came off the bench, Gordon was a streaky, low percentage shooter, averaging 12.9 points.
The borderline All-Star, now nothing but a bench scrub.
5 Charlie Villanueva: 5-Years, $40 Million (Pistons)
And, the other Dumars mistake: Charlie Villanueva. Also, a former Connecticut Huskie, who played on the 2004 National title team. It was as if, the Huskies were haunting Dumars and the city of Detroit, eating up much of their salary and stunting the rebuilding effort.
What had Villanueva ever done? His two years in college were underwhelming. But because he was 6’11” and 230-pounds, his size, alone, led him in the league, automatically receiving large amounts of minutes.
Villanueva was one of those big men, who had no inside game. He liked facing up and as result, fell in love with the three-point shot. The year before Dumars made the mistake of signing him, he had his best year with Milwaukee, averaging 16.2 points and connecting on 36% of his three pointers.
Dumars hands him starter money, and Villanueva, like Gordon, plays like a middle bench guy. Over five years with the Pistons, Charlie averaged 8.3 points, and battled numerous injuries.
4 Michael Redd: 6-Years, $80 Million (Bucks)
Michael Redd was the guy who pushed out Ray Allen. Let me repeat myself: Michael Redd was the guy who pushed RAY ALLEN. As in legendary three points marks-man Ray Allen. Yes, it’s true. But hear me here. For five years, Redd was arguably a top three or four guard in the game. He was fluid, quick, had an uncanny ability to finish around the rim, a top free throw shooter, and dangerous from three. He was a 2004 All-NBA 2nd Team, and made an All-Star game.
The Bucks, of course, wanted to keep him the Summer of 2005. Their biggest counter-bidder were the Cleveland Cavs. But the Bucks did Redd good, gave him one more year and max money. Redd, for the most part, held up his end of the bargain, the first half of the contract. Over the first three years, he averaged 69 games per year, and upped his scoring average to 24.7 points per night. And yet, that’s right when the wheels came off. Injuries stole Redd. Over the next two years he’d play in just 28 games, averaging a mediocre 7.5 points. The Bucks dealt him to the Suns the last year of the contract, but paid most his salary.
3 Allan Houston: 6-Years, $100 Million (Knicks)
It pains me putting Houston on this list. Mainly because he was a great guy, someone, understandably, an owner would like to build around. Not because Houston was a superstar, necessarily. Because he wasn’t. But mainly for his leadership, his ability to hit the clutch shot and consistently contribute at a near, All-Star level.
Before the Knicks signed an ageing Houston to large amounts of money, he’d been good, really good. Led the Knicks to the 1999 Finals, and was coming off one of his better years, averaging 19 points, while shooting 90% from the free throw line.
It wasn’t that Houston wasn’t worth the money, short term. What people mocked, was the length. Because the first two years of the deal, were Houston’s best. He averaged 22.6 points over those two years, attending back to back All-Star games. But like predicted, injuries set in. Houston would go on to play only 70 games the next two seasons, becoming all but a bench option. He retired the Summer of 2005.
2 Raef LaFrentz: 7-Years, $70 Million (Mavericks)
There was a time when Mark Cuban forked over serious amounts of dough, to create a deep roster. And boy did he have that. In the early 2000s, names like Nick Van Exel, LaFrentz, Antawn Jamison and Antoine Walker, backed up the likes of Dirk Nowitzki, Michael Finley and Steve Nash. Cuban’s teams could flat out score. Whether they could defend is another story. But they were good enough, to consistently win between 55 to 60 games over a five or six-year run.
But this is where Cuban may have a gotten a little too willy-nilly. When he re-signed LaFrentz to the deal, the 6’11” lefty, had never averaged more than 14.9 points or 7.8 rebounds. He was an average defensive player. Lacked strength around the rim. Nothing more than a poor man’s Jamison. No knock, on Jamison intended, as he’d go on to have a borderline Hall of Fame career.
But LaFrentz? Meh. His best years clearly came with Kansas in college. After the deal, LaFrentz averaged 9.3 points and 4.8 rebounds. So, bad, Cuban traded him, while taking on a large part of his remaining salary.
1 Brian Grant: 7-Years, $86 Million (Heat)
Pat Riley thought Brian Grant was the missing piece to the Heat’s future as a title contending team. It’s so funny, I nearly choked on my pear while typing this.
Grant got superstar money. In 2000, $86 million was Franchise Face money. Not money spent on a guy who over six seasons split between the Trailblazers and Kings, averaged 11.3 points and 7.6 rebounds.
Well…Grant did as we could have guessed. Over four years with the Heat, he split time between starting and bench play, averaging 11.0 points and 8.5 rebounds.