There are so many players that get to fulfill their lifelong dream of playing in the NBA. It is hard to keep them all straight, even for fans of each team. If you ask any fan to name all of the players on their favorite team, it can be certain that they’ll miss at least one, maybe two or more, players on the team.
It can be said for players that played in the NBA in the past as well. For example, if you plug in the original PlayStation and put NBA Live 98 in to play, the familiar names like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony will not show up or even be mentioned in the game. You go through the rosters and will catch yourself saying “he played in the NBA?” mixed in with the occasional “oh, I forgot that he played.” The same thing can be said for NBA video games today. You check out all of the rosters, even the available free agents, and you are bound to see a couple players you totally forgot about.
This list will help you brush up on former NBA players that should not be forgotten as well as players today that often forgotten. So here you go, enjoy the list!
20 John Wallace
Career Stats: 7 seasons, 7.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, 0.7 assists per game
You are probably sitting there reading this, saying “who is John Wallace?” and “why is this guy on this list?” He was drafted by the New York Knicks out of Syracuse in the first round with the eighteenth pick in 1996 and was hyped to be the next big New York sports star. His jersey was sold in stores all over the tristate area, along with other players on this list, before he even played a single NBA game. As it turns out, you can chalk him up as one of the Knicks’ biggest draft failures in franchise history because he only lasted one season with the team averaging a dismal 4.8 points per game.
He was traded to the Raptors during the following offseason and the 1997-98 season looked like Wallace was not a bust after all with him averaging 14 points per game, but sadly, he never averaged double digits again during the next five seasons. He last played overseas for Snaidero Udine, an Italian team in 2005 and now is a board member for a charity in New York that helps children in need.
19 Elton Brand
Career: 17 seasons, 15.9 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists per game
Now, here is a name you probably have not heard in a couple of years and yes, he still plays. He is one of those players mentioned in the intro that if you saw step on the court, you would say to yourself: “I forgot he still plays.”
Elton Brand was the first pick in the 1999 draft by the Chicago Bulls who were still trying to recover from the retirement of Michael Jordan. He did not disappoint in his rookie season, averaging 20.1 points per game and making the Bulls look smart for picking him number one.
His career with the Bulls lasted two seasons before he was traded on draft night 2001 along with Brian Skinner to the Clippers for the rights to Tyson Chandler. Pretty fair trade, don’t you think? He continued his success with the Clippers and with most other teams he played for. The last five years have shown that Brand is clearly at the end of his career through the decline in his numbers. This past season, the Sixers brought him in mostly as a mentor to their young players and Brand played sparingly.
18 Drew Gooden
Career: 14 seasons, 11.0 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.1 assists per game
Like Brand, Drew Gooden does still play. It seems like he is on a different team every season because during his fourteen-year career, he has played for ten different teams, in the Grizzlies, Magic, Cavaliers, Bulls, Kings, Spurs, Mavericks, Clippers, Bucks, and Wizards.
He was originally drafted fourth overall by the Memphis Grizzlies in 2002. During the 2002-03 season, he was traded along with Gordan Giricek to the Magic for Mike Miller, Ryan Humphrey, and two draft picks.
Throughout his career, he has been a contributor for whichever team he has played for, averaging double digits ten out of the fourteen years he has been in the league. That statistic is surprising because seeing that he has bounced around so much, one would think that he was maybe a player who rode the bench and did not see time unless the game was a blow out. However, by looking at his stats, Gooden is not that. He is a solid role player.
17 Shabazz Napier
Career: 2 seasons, 4.4 points, 1.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists per game
Remember when this guy was drafted by the Heat? Napier was just coming off doing his best Kemba Walker impersonation by taking the Connecticut Huskies on his back and leading them to an improbable run to the National Championship. The scouts were saying the Heat traded up with the Hornets to draft him twenty-fourth overall because LeBron James tweeted out that he wanted to play with him.
Since LeBron was a free agent and pondering whether he should resign with Miami or take his talents somewhere else, the Heat thought it would entice him to come back if they drafted Napier. As it turns out, LeBron laughed at that thought and went home, signing with the Cavaliers. Napier did not work out for the Heat either. He lasted one season averaging 5.1 points per game before Pat Riley and company shipped him off to Orlando.
During this past season with the Magic, he averaged 3.7 points per game, which led the Magic to let him go in free agency where he later signed with the Blazers. Napier is one of those players who had success in college, but has not seen it translate in the pros.
16 Eric Snow
Career: 13 seasons, 6.8 points, 2.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists per game
Here is some trivia for you: Who was Allen Iverson’s backcourt running mate for most of his career in Philadelphia? If your answer was Eric Snow, you were right.
Looking at his career stats, he did not really have the most eye-popping numbers, but he was a solid point guard who was more of the floor general type. He made his living on getting his teammates involved more than lighting up the box score. He did all of the things that coaches look for that do not show up in the box score.
His best stretch during his career came as a member of the Sixers, from 2001-04, where he averaged double digits each of those three seasons. He also had a big role in helping the team reach the NBA Finals in 2001, which they lost to the Lakers in five games. Snow is a perfect example of a player who plays his part on the team, but is overshadowed by the star.
15 Mitch McGary
Career: 2 seasons, 4.4 points, 3.5 rebounds, 0.3 assists per game
This is an example of a guy who should have come out of school and entered the draft after his freshman year, but did not and now regrets that he ever made that decision.
During his freshman year at Michigan, McGary averaged only 7.5 points per game, but what really got the scouts’ attention was how he played in the NCAA tournament, helping the Wolverines reach the National Championship game. During the tournament, he averaged 14.3 points and 10.7 rebounds per game and had the look of the next great NBA big man. He fit what many teams look for in a big man today. He could bang in the paint and wasn't afraid to step out and shoot the jump shot. He also had another skill that made teams salivate even more and that was his passing. He had an incredible passing ability for a big man.
McGary passed up the chance to be drafted in 2012-13 and returned to school. That was his downfall. During his sophomore season, he only played in eight games because of a back injury and that scared many NBA teams off from picking him. The Thunder drafted him 21st overall in the 2014 draft and have used him sparingly. He probably wishes he had come out after his freshman year because things might have been different.
14 Kevin Willis
Career: 20 seasons, 12.1 points, 8.4 rebounds, 0.9 assists per game
Yes, Kevin Willis lasted 21 seasons in the NBA and, no, that is not a typo. What it does not say is that he did it as a seven footer as well.
He was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks with the eleventh pick back in 1984. He played with the Hawks for the first ten seasons of his career and every year, except his rookie year, he averaged double digit points per game. He did that for most of his career, but like Elton Brand, towards the end of his career, his numbers decreased and it showed that his years in the NBA were winding down.
Fun fact about Willis is that from 2003-04 to when he retired after the 2006-07 season, he was the oldest player in the NBA. Whether you are watching old NBA games on NBA TV or playing a throwback NBA video game, you will probably see him sitting on the bench waiting for his chance to play.
13 Cleanthony Early
Career: 2 seasons, 4.3 points, 2.2 rebounds, 0.8 assists per game
Here is another dud that was drafted in 2014 that many people do not remember. During his senior season at Wichita State, he played a big role and helped lead the Shockers to an undefeated season that abruptly ended with a loss to the eighth-seeded Kentucky Wildcats in the NCAA tournament’s round of thirty-two. He averaged 16.4 points per game during that season and many NBA teams fell in love with his game. He was a slasher who could take over a game and had the range to stretch the floor past the three-point line.
The Knicks took him in the second round with the 34th pick and many Ney York fans thought it was a steal. The jury is still out on that. He has played sparingly for the Knicks during the past two seasons and has seen most of his playing time with their D-League affiliate, Westchester Knicks. The Knicks seem to have their fair share of draft picks who people are constantly forgetting about and Early is one of them.
12 Rik Smits
Career: 12 seasons, 14.8 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists per game
You probably do not remember this name unless you were a fan of the NBA back in the mid-1990s and followed Reggie Miller. This was the big man on that Pacers team that Miller played on. He was drafted by the Pacers with the second overall pick out of Marist in the 1988 draft and spent all twelve seasons of his career with them.
Smits helped anchor the Pacers’ front court during their deep playoff runs in 1997-98, 1998-99, and 1999-00. In the 1997-98 Eastern Conference Finals, they became the second team to take the Jordan and Pippen led Chicago Bulls to game seven, in which the Bulls prevailed. Their 1999-00 playoff run got the Pacers to the Finals, but they were beaten by the Lakers in six games. Smits was named to his only All-Star game of his career in 1998 where he scored ten points, seven rebounds and four assists.
Like Eric Snow above, Smits was just another player to play in the shadow of a great player.
11 Sean Elliott
Career: 12 seasons, 14.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists per game
This guy is another example, like Eric Snow and Rik Smits above, of a player who was in the shadow of the star on the team. Elliott spent eleven of his twelve seasons in the NBA with the Spurs and played with “The Admiral” David Robinson until they drafted Tim Duncan in 1997. Then, he had to contend for the spotlight with Robinson and Duncan. Being the team player that he was, Elliott let Robinson and Duncan have the spotlight and put up his numbers, even if it came without notice.
The highlight of his career would have to be what happened after the 1998-99 lockout-shortened season. The Spurs were just coming off of winning the NBA championship over the New York Knicks, when a few weeks later, Elliott came out and said that he had been playing the past season with kidney disease and he needed a transplant. He received a transplant from his brother and on March 13th, 2000, returned to NBA action becoming the first player to ever come back from a kidney transplant.
10 Keith Van Horn
Career: 10 seasons, 16.0 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists per game
Here is another guy who Tim Duncan took the spotlight from. Keith Van Horn was selected second overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1997 NBA draft after Duncan was selected first by the Spurs.
He was eventually traded to the then New Jersey Nets for the Philly kid, Tim Thomas, who the Nets selected with the seventh pick in the draft, along with other pieces. After the Nets got Van Horn and made a couple trades to fix up their team, expectations were that the Nets had went from cellar dwellers to potential Eastern Conference contenders, even with the Jordan and Pippen led Bulls still in the mix.
During Van Horn’s rookie season, he averaged 19.7 points per game and helped the Nets to a 41-41 record that was good enough to clinch the eighth spot in the playoffs, where they were eventually swept by the Bulls. Van Horn would play four more seasons with the Nets before being traded to the Sixers for Dikembe Mutombo. He also played with the Knicks, Bucks, and Mavericks during his career.
9 Marcus Camby
Career: 16 seasons, 9.5 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists per game
This is a name that will probably come as a refresher for most of you. Marcus Camby, like Kevin Willis above, was a reliable big man to come in and bang around with the opposition in the paint during his career.
His career numbers are not as good as Willis’, but Camby did have his moments. He was drafted with the second overall pick by the Toronto Raptors in the 1996 draft and spent two seasons with them, averaging double-digit points per game each season, before being traded to the Knicks for veteran Charles Oakley. He was brought on to back up Patrick Ewing and, during the 1998-99 lockout shortened season, he helped the Knicks clinch the eighth seed in the playoffs despite only having a 27-23 record. With the emergence of Camby and teammate Latrell Sprewell’s play, the Knicks did the unthinkable and went from the eighth seed in the East to Eastern Conference champions before losing in the Finals to the Spurs.
Camby spent his career playing with six teams including the Raptors, Knicks, Nuggets, Clippers, Blazers, and Rockets.
8 Antoine Walker
Career: 12 seasons, 17.5 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists per game
Following Marcus Camby is another guy who was drafted high in the 1996 draft that turned out to be a pretty good player, which nobody nowadays remembers. Walker was drafted with the sixth overall pick out of Kentucky by the Boston Celtics and was the face of the Celtics franchise until he was traded to the Mavericks nine days into the 2003-04 season.
During his time with the Celtics, he averaged double-digit points each season and when the team selected Paul Pierce with the tenth overall pick in the 1998 draft, fans started to dream of the days that might be ahead with Walker and Pierce teaming up to lead the Celtics back to the top of the NBA mountain. It did not work out that way. They only made the playoffs in the last two seasons before Walker was traded and did not get to the finals, losing in 2002 to the then New Jersey Nets in six games in the Conference Finals. Walker did get his NBA Championship as a member of the Heat in 2006, in which he helped the team, averaging 13.3 points per game during their playoff run.
7 Gheorghe Muresan
Career: 6 seasons, 9.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, 0.5 assists per game
Here is more trivia: Who are the two tallest players to ever play in the NBA? If you said Gheorghe Muresan and Manute Bol, you are right. If not, keep trying because there might be some more coming. Just a note, his first name is pronounced like George.
Gheorghe Muresan stood at 7'7", which tied Manute Bol as the tallest man to ever lace up his sneakers and play in the NBA. A fun fact about him is he is also the tallest man living in Romania and is the second tallest man to live in the European Union.
Muresan was selected 13th overall by the then-Washington Bullets in the 1993 draft out of Romania. He averaged double-digit points in three of his four seasons with Washington before signing with the Nets for the last two years of his career. There will probably never be another NBA player who is as tall as Muresan, so his name is worth knowing.
6 Antawn Jamison
Career: 16 seasons, 18.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists per game
Here is more trivia: Who was the player that was traded on draft night in 1998 for Vince Carter? That answer would be Antawn Jamison, who coincidentally was a teammate of Carter’s during their days at North Carolina.
Jamison was drafted with the fourth overall pick in that draft by the Raptors before eventually being traded for Carter. Jamison, during his sixteen-year career, was consistent when it came to his performance. He averaged double-digit points in every season except for his rookie year and the last two of his career. He was not a slam dunk phenomenon like Carter was, but when it comes to looking at their stats, Jamison matches up pretty tightly with Carter.
During his sixteen seasons in the NBA, Jamison played with six teams including the Warriors, Mavericks, Wizards, Cavaliers, Lakers, and Clippers before hanging it up in 2014. When you look back on draft night trades, you can say that Vince Carter for Antawn Jamison was a pretty fair deal.
5 Allan Houston
Career: 12 seasons, 17.3 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists per game
If you are not a die-hard Knicks fan, you might not remember the name Allan Houston. Houston was selected with the eleventh overall pick by the Detroit Pistons in the 1993 draft and spent three seasons with them before taking his talents to the Big Apple to join the Knicks.
He was originally brought in to give John Starks a break whenever he needed, but Houston was such a producer that the coach made a switch with the starting lineup, replacing Starks with Houston. Houston did not let his coach down. Every year with the Knicks, his scoring average went up from 14.8 in 1996-97 to 22.5 in 2002-03. He even played a key role in helping get the Knicks to the 1999 Finals where they were beaten by the Spurs in five games. He played two more seasons after 2002-03 with the Knicks, scoring double digits but was hampered by injuries and was forced to hang it up in 2005.
4 Larry Johnson
Career: 10 seasons, 16.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists per game
This guy is the start of the three players to have a role in Space Jam that people really do not talk about today and his nickname is “Grand Ma Ma.” For all of those movie-goers who love Space Jam, he is the one that said “It gave me my powers back” after Michael Jordan gives the players, from whom the Monstars stole their talents to play basketball from, their talent back.
He was also a teammate of Allan Houston and was a key member of the 1999 Knicks team that made it to the Finals before losing to the Spurs. Larry Johnson was selected with the first overall pick by the Charlotte Hornets in the 1991 draft out of UNLV. He spent his first five seasons in the league with the Hornets before being traded to the Knicks for Anthony Mason. He was never the same player with the Knicks that he was with the Hornets. He was a 18-20 point scorer for the Hornets, but never averaged that while with the Knicks.
3 Shawn Bradley
Career: 12 seasons, 8.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, 0.7 assists per game
If Gheorghe Muresan is the tallest player to ever play in the NBA, this guy is cutting it close. Shawn Bradley stands at 7'6", which gets him into the top five tallest players ever. Like mentioned with Larry Johnson, Bradley was in Space Jam and his talent was stolen by the blue not-so-bright alien named Blanko, who after receiving the talent rose to be a giant.
He was drafted with the second overall pick behind Chris Webber and one pick ahead of Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway. His height is what intrigued NBA teams into scouting him and the Sixers drafting him so high. Like Keith Van Horn above, you can say that Bradley was overshadowed by who went first before he did, but you can also say he was overshadowed by who went with the next pick.
Bradley played with the Sixers, Nets, and Mavericks, during his twelve-year career before retiring in 2005. How can two guys so tall go unremembered?
2 Muggsy Bogues
Career: 15 seasons, 7.7 points, 2.6 rebounds, 7.6 assists per game
Now that two freakishly tall guys have been talked about, we have a freakishly short guy. Nowadays in the NBA, critics talk about someone under six feet tall as having no place in the NBA. Tell that to Muggsy Bogues. Bogues stood at 5'3." He was drafted by the Washington Bullets in 1987 with the 12th overall pick.
On the Bullets at that same time, Manute Bol played. With Bol and Bogues on their team, the Bullets had on their roster both the tallest and shortest players in NBA history at the same time. Bogues’ time with the Bullets only lasted one season when he was selected by the Hornets during their expansion draft in 1988. He is remembered most for his time with the Hornets and is currently their career leader in minutes played, assists, steals, turnovers, and assists per forty-eight minutes. He also played with the Warriors and Raptors during his career and showed the critics that players under six feet can play in the NBA.
1 Charlie Ward
Career: 11 seasons, 6.3 points, 2.6 rebounds, 4.0 assists per game
Here is the final trivia question: Who is the only Heisman trophy winner to play in the NBA? The answer is Charlie Ward. Ward played quarterback for Florida State and won the Heisman trophy and Davey O’Brien trophy in 1993 as well as leading the Seminoles to the school’s first National Championship with a win in the Orange Bowl over Nebraska.
Even though he accomplished all of that, Ward was not selected in the NFL draft, so he decided to take his talents to the NBA and try to make a team. What people do not know about Ward is that he was one of those rare two sport collegiate athletes and had success on the gridiron as well as on the hardwood.
In the 1994 NBA draft, the Knicks selected Ward with the 26th overall pick. He spent most of his career as a backup point guard, but did not let his team down when he got out there on the floor. He played for the Knicks, Spurs, and Rockets during his career.
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