The NBA draft is like a box of chocolates: you never know….you know the rest. The point is that the draft, and even the draft lottery, is a crap-shoot. It’s rolling dice. It’s flipping a coin. There are just as many draft busts as there are superstars while most of the players seem to fall somewhere in the middle.
Post-NBA careers are as volatile as playing careers for these highly drafted players. You can have guys who did nothing in the NBA but turned out to be high-quality people who contributed much more outside of basketball than inside the game. Likewise, you could have guys who were great basketball players but turned out to be horrible human beings (a simple search on this website will expose you to some of those people).
In this article, we will focus on only the highly-drafted players, but we will also look at the two ways one can go after playing. They can become high-level functioning members of society or they can struggle with a multitude of issues. This list only looks at players who are no longer in the NBA though you can expect some current players to end up on later versions of this list (in both categories). Here are 8 NBA draft busts doing well for themselves and 7 NBA draft busts doing terribly.
15 Doing Well: Bobby Hurley
Hurley is one of the most-famous college basketball players of the last 30 years but may have also been the worst NBA player in the last 40+ years. He was the seventh overall pick of the 1993 draft but he is, statistically, the worst NBA player since at least the 1973-74 season. After retiring at the age of 26, Hurley then became a racehorse owner and breeder in Florida. After doing that for a few years, Hurley then took up coaching and he had a great mentor as his father, Bobby Sr., is one of the most famous high school basketball coaches in the country. Hurley started off as an assistant with mid-major programs in 2010 and just five years later he had been promoted to a head coaching job at a Power 5 school. He is currently the head coach at Arizona State but expect him to move onto an even bigger school after a couple of successful seasons with the Sun Devils.
14 Doing Terribly: Eddy Curry
Curry was the best high school player in his class and was the no. 1 player in recruiting rankings. The Chicago native bypassed college basketball and became the fourth overall pick of the Bulls in 2001. Nicknamed “Baby Shaq”, the only similarity between Shaq and Curry were their ever-expanding waistlines. Curry would play 11 years in the NBA and made over $70 million in earnings. Despite that, Curry was certainly not exempt from off-court troubles including being sued by his male chauffeur for sexual harassment. Just a couple of months later, Curry’s house in Chicago was in foreclosure as he owed nearly a quarter-million in mortgage payments on the home.
However, those issues were nothing compared to when Curry’s ex-girlfriend and 10-month-old daughter were murdered in Chicago. The assailant was an attorney who had served in a custody case against Curry regarding his daughter. He was convicted of the killings and was sentenced to life imprisonment.
13 Doing Well: Eric Montross
After winning a national championship and being a two-time All-American at UNC, Montross was one of the top prospects of the 1994 NBA Draft. He ended up being the ninth overall pick by the Boston Celtics who had just jettisoned Robert Parish after 14 seasons with the club. Montross replaced Parish as the Celtics center and he had a promising rookie year with 10 PPG and 7 RPG. But Montross would never match those numbers again during his eight NBA seasons and he was done by 30. But Montross stayed in good graces with his alma mater and returned to UNC in various roles. He has been a broadcaster for UNC basketball games and is currently a Major Gift Director for the UNC Athletic Department. Montross also serves on the Board of Directors for various foundations in the Chapel Hill area.
12 Doing Terribly: Sebastian Telfair
So much promise and so much disappointment. Telfair was the first point guard to go from prep-to-pro and appeared on the cover of Slam Magazine alongside fellow high schooler LeBron James.
Definitely LeBron and Telfair for me. It's the cover that instantly came to mind when I read this tweet. pic.twitter.com/sA63NJARfm— Mike McClure (@Mike5754) May 18, 2017
That would be the last time that Telfair would be mentioned in the same sentence as James as their careers went in opposite directions in the NBA. Telfair was a lottery pick in 2004 but amounted to nothing more than a journeyman NBA player. He played for eight teams in 10 seasons and never even averaged double-figures once. Bassy would have numerous legal problems both during and after his NBA career including being robbed in 2006 which then forced him to leave a preseason game the next night to observe a police lineup. He was also arrested in 2007 for weapons possession but he would save his “best” in 2017 when he was arrested for weapons and drugs. A search of Telfair’s vehicle revealed three loaded firearms, a semiautomatic rifle, a bullet-proof vest and two bags of MJ.
11 Doing Well: Jonathan Bender
Bender was considered arguably the best high school player to ever come out of Mississippi and he didn’t disappoint in his first game on a national stage. In the 1999 McDonald’s All-American Game, Bender broke Michael Jordan’s 18-year-old record for most points scored and he then became the fifth overall pick in the draft. But injuries marred Bender’s entire NBA career and he played in just 29 percent of his team’s games over his 11-year career. But those recurring injuries inspired Bender to invent a medical device to help people cope with their ailments. The device, called the JBIT MedPro, pulled over $500,000 in revenue in its first year on the market which is a nice addition to the $30 million that Bender pulled in during his playing career.
10 Doing Terribly: Shelden Williams
Williams was an All-American at Duke who left as the school’s all-time leader in rebounds and blocked shots. He was the No. 5 overall pick of the 2006 draft and was picked ahead of such players as Paul Millsap, Brandon Roy and Kyle Lowry. Through six NBA seasons, Williams showed nothing that made him a force in college as he played for seven teams as essentially a third-team center. He did, however, earn over $12 million in his NBA career and married WNBA MVP Candace Parker.
After eight years of marriage, Williams filed for divorce AND asked for spousal support. By the way, despite being arguably the greatest women’s basketball player in the world, Parker pulls in just over $200,000 annually in the WNBA. Irreconcilable differences was the reason for the divorce but social media couldn’t wait to roast Williams for asking for spousal support:
Shelden Williams is broke and wants summa that Sparks championship money from Candace Parker lol— T'Cheeba (@itzTimmyB) November 10, 2016
9 Doing Well: Trajan Langdon
California-born and Alaska-raised, Langdon was the predecessor of J.J. Redick in terms of marksmen at Duke. He was a two-time All-American with the Blue Devils and was a great all-around athlete who was also drafted by the San Diego Padres. However, Langdon stuck with basketball and was a lottery pick by the Cavs in 1999. Langdon wasn’t able to adapt to the size and speed of the NBA and lasted just three years there before heading overseas. He experienced a bit more success in the foreign leagues and retired from the game in 2011. He then became a scout for the San Antonio Spurs where he met Sean Marks who was an assistant coach. In 2016, Marks was named the General Manager of the Nets and he brought Langdon with him to Brooklyn as the former Blue Devil was named assistant GM.
8 Doing Terribly: O.J. Mayo
“Grocery list” was one of the most promising amateur players in recent memory as he had LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony coming to watch his high school games. Mayo was named Mr. Basketball as a senior which goes to the best high school player in the country and then enrolled at USC. Mayo had a solid single season in college and then became the third overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft. Mayo had a decent rookie year as he averaged 18.5 PPG and made first team All-Rookie.
However, things would start to deteriorate after that as Mayo would get punched by teammate Tony Allen for not paying up after a card game and then get suspended 10 games for PEDs. Meanwhile his father was charged with attempted murder in 2010 and Mayo would bounce from Memphis to Dallas to Milwaukee.
In 2016 he failed another drug test but this one was for a “drug of abuse” instead of a PED. As a result, Mayo was hit with a two-year suspension and isn’t eligible to apply for reinstatement until 2018.
7 Doing Well: Luke Jackson
Jackson was one of the best players in Oregon history and was the Cavaliers’ first 1st-round pick after taking LeBron James. Jackson was taken 10th overall in the 2004 draft and he was expected to be LeBron’s partner on the wing for the next decade. However, he barely got off the bench in Cleveland and would play a total of 73 NBA games. He would spend the next seven years shuffling between the G-League and overseas leagues before retiring in 2011.
Jackson, who has a political science degree, then decided to become a coach after a couple of stints coaching in basketball camps including the Michael Jordan Camp. Jackson became the head coach at Northwest Christian University which is a prestigious school in Oregon. They compete in the NAIA and made the NAIA Division II basketball tournament in three of Jackson’s first four seasons.
6 Doing Terribly: Keon Clark
If you don’t remember Keon Clark, imagine a skinny version of Kevin Durant…exactly. Clark was the last lottery pick of the 1998 draft and really had one NBA skill and that was blocking shots. In 2001 he set an NBA record for most blocked shots in a game (12) without committing a personal foul. Clark played in 353 NBA games over six seasons, and according to himself, he never played any of those 353 games sober. He was essentially the NBA version of Josh Gordon with one-sixteenth of the talent. After retiring, Clark was due to stand trial on weapons charges just outside of Chicago but went on the run as a fugitive instead. He was finally captured in Houston and was sentenced to eight years in prison on the weapons charge. He was finally released in 2017 and is currently living in Danville, Illinois.
5 Doing Well: Sean May
The big burly center of UNC’s 2005 title-winning team, Sean May was named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player. He then stayed local as he was drafted by the Charlotte Bobcats with the 13th pick in the 2005 draft. However, May experienced a rash of injuries in the NBA including the dreaded microfracture surgery. Even after recovering from that, he struggled to stay in shape and played in just 119 of a possible 410 games in his five-year NBA career. May then headed overseas where he experienced success including winning championships in both France and Turkey. After retiring in 2015, May came back stateside and joined UNC’s basketball staff. He first served as the Director of Player Personnel and now enters his first season as the UNC Director of Basketball Operations.
4 Doing Terribly: Robert Swift
Unless the NBA changes its rules, Robert Swift will go down as the only white player in league history to jump straight from high school. The 7’1” redhead was a star player in Bakersfield, California and passed on a USC scholarship to declare for the NBA draft. He was taken 12th overall in 2004 by the then-SuperSonics but barely got off the bench in his four seasons. He played a total of 97 games in his NBA career, in part to injuries, but more so due to ineffectiveness. Swift recorded two double-doubles in his entire career which equals his number of arrests.
After playing overseas and then coming back to the United States, Swift was charged in 2014 for unlawful possession of a shotgun. Police had found him living in the home of an alleged narcotics dealer. Just months later, Swift was arrested again for attempting an armed home invasion while high. Swift tried out for the Warriors’ G-League team in 2016 but was not signed and it appears his basketball career is over.
3 Doing Well: Jay Williams
Over the last 60 years of the NBA Draft, the only top-two draft pick who has played fewer NBA games than Jay Williams is Len Bias who died before ever playing a game. Of course, Williams’ brief NBA career was due to a motorcycle accident that nearly killed him, but Jay Will wasn’t cutting it up in his one pro season. Williams appeared to be on his way to the “Doing Terribly” part of this list when he developed an addiction to painkillers after the accident, but he turned his life around. He’s written a book, become a motivational speaker and is currently the college basketball version of Lee Corso as an ESPN analyst on College GameDay. But, perhaps even most impressive is that he used to date Charissa Thompson.
2 Doing Terribly: Chris Washburn
Despite producing three Hall of Famers late in the draft (Dennis Rodman, Arvydas Sabonis, Drazen Petrovic), the 1986 NBA Draft is known for its lack of stars at the top. The first overall pick, Brad Daugherty, is the only player picked in the top 23 to make an All-Star game. The second pick was Len Bias who died before playing a game and the third pick was Chris Washburn who was an athletic seven-footer from NC State.
Washburn never showed off any of the talent which made him the third overall pick as he had trouble staying on the court. As a rookie he had knee tendonitis which required him to take anti-inflammatories. The medicine then led to a kidney infection and just three months into his NBA career, Washburn developed a cocaine addiction. He would struggle with drug problems during his brief two-year career and was banned for life from the NBA in 1989. After becoming destitute for a number of years, Washburn finally kicked his drug addiction. However, the last known news on him came in 2014 when he was arrested for obtaining property under false pretenses after pulling away from a gas station without paying.
1 Doing Well: Bryant Reeves
Big Country was the Grizzlies first-ever draft pick when he was taken sixth overall in 1995. He was supposed to be the face of the franchise but had trouble staying in shape during his six-year career. Those weight problems then led to back problems and back spasms during a game in 2001 forced Reeves to exit a game while being carried by eight teammates. After retiring, Big Country became Big Continent and checked in at about 350 pounds. However, besides eating well, he is also living well as he has a 300-acre cattle ranch in Oklahoma in addition to a 15,000-square foot house. Reeves made over $55 million during his NBA career, and it appears that he saved his money unlike many other former players.