Ever just sat there and wondered what happened to a particular star NBA player? Well it must have happened at least one time, given the way sports stories have been unfolding over the years.
There have been several players who rose to stardom in the NBA, only to drop off the cloud after a few years. That’s not saying that they left the league; you just stop hearing about them, or don’t even notice that they’re playing on a particular team.
Whether it be through trades, injury, waiving or the like, there’s always a player seemingly disappearing from the league. This list takes a look at 15 players who weren’t close to being nobodies when they just began their careers, but fell from fame in some way or the other.
Some of the circumstances are rather unfortunate, with one case being extremely disheartening, but it’s never bad catching up on the whereabouts or paths of some of the league’s favourite stars of the past. And for some, it does bring about some form of closure, even though they didn’t even know that it was needed.
So as mentioned before, here is a list of 15 players who appeared to vanish from the NBA.
15 Steve Francis
Known as 'Stevie Franchise' in his prime, the former Houston Rockets and Orlando Magic point guard seemed to have just dropped off the radar. Francis was drafted from the University of Maryland by the Vancouver Grizzlies in 1999 as the second overall pick, but was traded to the Rockets in a three-team deal, having publicly expressed that he did not wish to play for them.
He went on to become the main man in Houston, sharing the Rookie of the Year Award with Clippers' star Elton Brand in his first season, and averaging 19.3 points per game in five seasons. He also made three All-Star appearances whilst in Houston.
Francis was joined by Chinese big man Yao Ming two years into his Rockets career and formed a deadly partnership with the center. However, he would be traded to the Orlando Magic, as he didn’t suit Jeff Van Gundy’s style. Van Gundy, who took over from Rudy Tomjanovich, preferred to build his team around Yao, and would let Francis go, with Tracy McGrady going the other way.
The guard averaged over 21 points and seven assists per game in his first season, but would soon join the New York Knicks, only to return to Houston shortly after. In 2010, Francis left the United States to play for the Beijing Ducks in China. He only lasted a month there, however, and it’s his last known ball club.
Last we heard, Francis was arrested on a warrant for burglary back in November. Sad tale, that.
14 Andrew Bynum
Andrew Bynum was supposed to be the next Shaquille O’Neal, the dominant force in the paint who would lead the Los Angeles Lakers to multiple rings, yet he turned out to be just the opposite.
The one-time All-Star did win two NBA titles in L.A, but that hardly suggests that he led them. Bynum’s best season came in the 2011/12 campaign, during which he averaged 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds in 35.2 minutes per game for the Lakers, still less than Shaq’s lowest scoring season (2003/04) where he posted 21.5 points per game.
Bynum left the Lakers in 2012 via trade, for the Philadelphia 76ers after a seven-year career in Los Angeles. He spent a single season there, playing zero minutes due to knee issues, before heading to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
He didn’t last very long there either, and after just 24 games with an average of 8.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, he was traded to the Chicago Bulls, who immediately waived him. The center would join the Indiana Pacers next, but played just two games due to a knee injury. At 29, Bynum’s career is effectively over and has been so since 2014. He is unlikely to ever make a return to the NBA, given that his knees have not gotten any better over the years.
13 Kareem Rush
Kareem Rush was drafted as the 20th overall pick by the Toronto Raptors in the 2002 Draft and his rights were quickly traded to the Lakers. Despite his spot in the draft, the shooting guard was tipped to become a star by many.
Sadly, he came up in an era dominated by Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, which led Phil Jackson to play him off the bench. But after his first season, he gained the coach’s trust through his ability to nail the long ball.
Rush, though, would not survive in Los Angeles, and was traded to the Charlotte Bobcats a few games into the 2004/05 season. He set decent averages of 11.1 and 10.5 points per game in two seasons before moving to Seattle, where he was waived after a lengthy injury.
He would eventually find himself in Lithuania, the one place he was recognized as a star, playing for BC Lietuvos rytas and winning the Baltic Basketball League. He returned to the states to play for the Indiana Pacers, later moving to Philadelphia and then back to L.A with the Clippers.
He retired from basketball after a few seasons playing in the NBDL.
12 Darius Miles
One of the most promising prospects in the 2000 NBA Draft, and standing at 6'9", Darius Miles seemed destined for stardom. Miles skipped college and went straight to the league, getting drafted as the third pick in the first round by the Los Angeles Clippers.
Fans immediately took a liking to him, and teaming up with Elton Brand, Quentin Richardson, Corey Maggette and Earl Boykins, he became part of one of the most exciting, high-flying teams in the NBA. He averaged 9.4 points per game in his first two seasons in L.A, but was traded to Cleveland thereafter.
He then left for the Portland Trail Blazers, where he would become embroiled in controversy, having racially abused head coach Maurice Cheeks. His next stop would be in Boston with the Celtics, however, Miles was waived before the season even began.
The forward joined up with the Memphis Grizzlies next and things seemed to be going well at first, but the organization eventually dropped him to save cap space. Incidentally, Miles then suffered a career-ending knee injury.
Despite earning close to $62 million in his career as a basketball player – as well as even featuring on two movies – Miles is now broke and filed for bankruptcy in September of 2016.
11 Shawn Kemp
Former NBA high-flyer Shawn Kemp was a big part of the Seattle SuperSonics’ success in the early 90’s. He joined the team as the 17th overall pick in the 1989 Draft and became the youngest player in the league at the time (19).
Kemp, Gary Payton, Nate McMillan, Ricky Pierce and Eddie Johnson formed a splendid core in Seattle during his second season, often wowing crowds with his highlight-reel dunks and overall athleticism.
After leaving the Sonics in 1997, Kemp joined the Cavs, but would lose some of his explosiveness as he struggled with weight problems. His numbers, however, remained more or less the same. Kemp then moved to Portland three years after signing for Cleveland, and continued to suffer with weight issues, as well as alcohol and cocaine abuse.
He would undergo rehabilitation in his first season there and was then waived by the team after his second. In 2002, the Orlando Magic signed him as a free agent and he was part of their push for a playoff berth. The power forward was dropped the next season, though.
He tried resurrecting his career with Dallas, Denver and Chicago, but by then it was well and truly over, and his attempts proved unsuccessful. At 39, Kemp signed for a team in Italy, but returned to the States after three pre-season matches for personal reasons. He has since been arrested for drugs and weapons possession.
10 Antoine Walker
Antoine Walker was a real talent during his prime years as an NBA power forward. Drafted by the Celtics as the sixth overall pick in 1996, he led the team in scoring during his rookie year. Boston drafted Paul Pierce two years later and the two players would form a frightful scoring duo.
Walker left Boston for the Dallas Mavericks, then the Atlanta Hawks, only to return to Boston. But he would leave again for the Miami Heat and, alongside Shaquille O’Neal, Dwyane Wade, Alonzo Mourning and Gary Payton, helped lead the team to glory in 2006.
His path would lead him to Minnesota, and then Memphis, where he was ultimately waived. And he announced his retirement from basketball after playing with the Guaynabo Nets in Puerto Rico and NBDL side Idaho Stampede.
Walker made well over $100 million during his career, but bad spending saw him lose almost everything and he filed for bankruptcy in 2010, having previously gotten himself in trouble with the law over writing bad cheques to pay off gambling debts. He was even forced to sell his championship ring to remain above water, but in 2013, Walker announced that he was debt free.
He now works as a basketball analyst for 120 Sports.
9 Allan Houston
Former NBA sharpshooter Allan Houston is now the Assistant General Manager of the New York Knicks, having spent the majority of his playing career representing the organization. A potent force back in his heyday, the ex-shooting guard led his team to the 1999 NBA Finals, creating history along the way as the Knicks became the first No.8 playoff team to defeat a No.1, knocking Miami out in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Series.
Houston was drafted by the Detroit Pistons, joining the Knicks as a free agent three years later, after his rookie contract expired. He remained there for nine years and would never play with another NBA team, but knee problems led to the end of his career. Unfortunately for the Knicks, though, they signed him to a $20 million per year max contract in 2001, but hardly got their money’s worth out of him because of his injury issues; and they couldn’t trade him either.
He announced his retirement in 2005, yet attempted a return two years later, participating in training and pre-season games. It wouldn’t work out for him, however, but he did enjoy being the second-highest paid player in the league for a long enough stretch while doing a whole lot of nothing.
8 Tayshaun Prince
Tayshaun Prince played in the NBA as recently as 2016, but you probably never even noticed, despite the forward averaging 19 minutes per game for the Minnesota Timberwolves. But maybe that’s because he averaged less than three points per game in 77 outings.
Prince played his college ball with the University of Kentucky Wildcats and was drafted by the Detroit Pistons in 2002. Rick Carlisle didn’t seem to trust him very much in his first season, but he saw improved game time during the playoffs due to Carlisle’s desperation. By virtue of that, he set a record of becoming the first-ever player to average more points in the playoffs than the regular season.
It didn’t take long for the forward’s importance to be realized and he soon became a key member in the squad, helping lead the Pistons to an NBA Championship in 2004 by shutting Kobe Bryant down in the Finals.
Prince left Detroit after 11 years, moving to the Grizzlies, and would return to his first home after a stint with the Celtics. The veteran last appeared for the Timberwolves and hasn’t officially retired yet, but is without a club.
7 Eric Snow
Remember that other guard from the Allen Iverson era? Probably not, but Eric Snow was an important figure in the 76ers team under head coach Larry Brown.
Picked by the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round of the 1995 NBA Draft, Snow was instantly traded to the Seattle SuperSonics, where he only played a bit-part role for the next two-and-a-half seasons.
He joined Brown in Philadelphia in 1998, but despite being a starter, he didn’t play major minutes in the first half of his first season. His defensive ability, though, made him the perfect complement to the free-scoring Iverson and the pair formed a formidable back-court which led the 76ers to the 2001 Finals against the Lakers. Unfortunately, they were unable to dethrone the reigning champs.
Snow moved to Cleveland in 2004 and was named captain along with LeBron James three years later. He would make it to the Finals again, having made it with Seattle as well in 1996, but came up short once more.
After tearing knee cartilage prior to the following season, the point guard took up an unofficial post as assistant coach to Mike Brown while working as an analyst for NBA TV. He was later released by the Cavs, however, and is now working as an assistant coach at collegiate level with the Florida Atlantic University.
6 Latrell Sprewell
Things were never going to end well for former Warriors and Knicks star Latrell Sprewell. The 6'5" shooting guard boasted bags of raw talent, but his temperament and pomp proved his downfall in the end.
The four-time All-Star began his career with the Warriors in 1992, putting up impressive numbers in his rookie year. It didn’t take him long to become their star player, but after infamously choking out his coach, P.J Carlesimo, during a training session in 1997 and being suspended for almost an entire season, the exit door couldn’t have grown any larger.
Sprewell moved to New York the following year without playing another match for the Warriors due to his suspension and a lockout. It was a huge gamble on the Knicks’ part, but the player swore he was a changed man.
He soon became an influential figure for the team and put up good numbers, but he was fined a record amount of $250,000 after breaking his hand on his yacht before the start of the 2002/03 season.
The Milwauke-born talent was traded to the Timberwolves the following year and, along with Kevin Garnett and Sam Cassell, formed the most productive three-pronged attack in the NBA. He also helped the team to their first and only Conference Finals, but they were defeated by the Lakers in six games.
Sprewell still managed to enrage everyone after turning down a three-year, $21 million deal in 2004, ridiculously and angrily claiming that he had a family to feed. He played the last year of his contract out – poorly – and despite interest from the Nuggets, Rockets, Cavaliers, Mavericks and Spurs, he never agreed another deal.
Sprewell is now quite broke, having made over $100 million during his career, and has abandoned the very family he was so insistent on feeding.
5 Kenyon Martin
Kenyon Martin was one of the most impressive, high-flying forwards in the game during his prime and teaming up with Jason Kidd as a New Jersey Net certainly enhanced his career. Martin joined the Nets as the first overall pick of the 2000 NBA Draft, having impressed as a Cincinnati Bearcat.
Two years later, with the help of Kidd and Richard Jefferson, he led the Nets to the NBA Finals. Sadly, they didn’t win a single game and were swept by a Lakers side fielding the stinging one-two punch of Shaq and Kobe.
Martin was traded to the Denver Nuggets in 2004 and spent seven years with the team. He became an unrestricted free agent in 2011 after the expiration of his contract. He would leave America’s shores for China, signing with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers in the summer, only to return in December to tend to family matters - as he put it.
The power forward returned to the NBA with the Clippers, moving to New York and then Milwaukee before announcing his retirement in 2015.
4 Baron Davis
Perhaps unfortunate not to have left the NBA on his own terms, former Hornets and Warriors guard Baron Davis, at 37, is yearning for a return to the league.
Davis was an explosive force in his early years, getting drafted by Charlotte as the third overall pick in 1999. He played as a backup guard for most of his first season, but became a leader in his second, helping the Hornets to the playoffs and sweeping the Miami Heat before bowing out to Ray Allen’s Milwaukee Bucks.
Davis was traded to the Warriors in 2005 and, despite knee troubles, led the team to their first playoff appearance in nine years. He would leave to join the Clippers in 2008, but his stint there was hampered by injuries, especially his third season, after which he was let go.
Joining the Cleveland Cavaliers, he was later waived by the club, before signing for the Knicks. Davis would suffer the worst injury of his NBA career, tearing a patellar tendon during a playoff match against the Heat in 2012. The guard underwent surgery, but hasn’t returned to the NBA since, although he played in the NBDL thereafter.
3 Ricky Davis
Sharing the court with the above-mentioned Baron Davis while at Charlotte, Ricky Davis’ career ended quite similarly, although he was a lot less disciplined than Davis, having violated the NBA’s drug policy.
Ricky joined the Hornets as a 21st overall pick in the 1998 Draft and quickly developed a reputation for his explosive style of play, highlight-reel dunks and ability to score in tight situations. He took part in the Slam Dunk contest in 2000, and had it not been for Vince Carter, he would have certainly walked away with a win.
The former player was traded to the Miami Heat in that same year, but only played in seven matches due to an injured ankle. He was shipped off to Cleveland the following season, where he played until 2003, averaging a career-high 20.6 points per game in his second season.
Davis returned to Miami in 2007, after spells with the Celtics and Timberwolves. He became a fan-favorite in Boston, getting over his selfish reputation to endear himself to the supporters. He averaged 13.4 points per game during his second spell as a Heat player, but would leave again the following season, this time to the Clippers, who waived him in his second season after he suffered a nasty left-knee injury.
2 Mike Bibby
Son of former NBA guard Henry Bibby, Mike Bibby proved a real force during his time with the Sacramento Kings. Teaming up with Chris Webber, the point guard put in some of the most brilliant performances Sacramento has ever seen.
In 2001, his first season with the team, Bibby helped lead the Kings to an NBA-best 61-21 record, also reaching the Conference Finals and forcing the Lakers to win in seven games. The sixth game of that series was marred with controversy and conspiracies of match-fixing stemmed.
Bibby was drafted by the Vancouver Grizzlies as the second overall pick in 1998, before moving to Sacramento, where he would spend seven seasons. He left for Atlanta in 2008, spending the next four seasons and averaging 14.1, 14.9, 9.1 and 9.4 points per game respectively.
He was then traded to the Washington Wizards, but was bought out of his contract after just two games in order to join a title contender. He got his wish and signed with the Miami Heat, ultimately getting to his first NBA Finals. However, the Heat lost out to the Dallas Mavericks in six games.
The guard then joined the Knicks, the team that drafted his father, and didn’t return after his one-year deal expired in 2012. He has since gone on to coach High School team Phoenix Shadow Mountain, where his son Michael used to play.
1 Robert Traylor
The last and certainly most tragic entry on this list deals with former Hornets star Robert Traylor. Nicknamed ‘Tractor Traylor’ due to his intimidating size, the ex-power forward was described as a ‘gentle giant with a generous smile’.
Traylor was drafted by the Dallas Mavericks in 1998, after an outstanding three-year college stint, but his NBA career only lasted seven years. The Mavericks immediately traded him to Milwaukee for Pat Garrity and Dirk Nowitzki. He gained acclaim after signing with the Hornets, after a spell at Cleveland, becoming a real force in the paint. However, he struggled with weight problems, and would also have heart surgery in 2005, ahead of signing with the New Jersey Nets. The Nets would let him go after he failed a physical test, though. And he would find himself playing in Puerto Rico, having played in Turkey and Mexico prior.
Sadly, Traylor passed away in 2011 through a heart attack suffered whilst in Puerto Rico at just 34 years of age. Police found him dead in his beachfront apartment after he had been missing for a few days.
"Off the court he was a gentle giant, displaying his smile and care, especially toward young people through his involvement in school visits and his work with the Special Olympics clinic,” the Bucks said in a statement after his untimely death.
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