Every NBA Franchise's Worst Mistake That Cost Them Championships

Every NBA franchise has something they regret doing. Whether it be a bad draft pick to a one sided trade, one wrong decision that is made in the front office of a franchise can really have a detrimental impact to the teams success for years. I mean how would it feel knowing you decided to draft Sam Bowie leaving Michael Jordan on the board in the 1984 Draft? Probably pretty awful I presume.

In this article, we will be looking at every NBA franchise's worst mistake, that ultimately ended up costing them championships in the long run. From draft picks, to trades, to offseason signings, and more, every NBA team has a moment they look back on with complete regret, knowing that a different move could have had their team raising the Larry O'Brien trophy if things went another way. If just one of these mistakes didn't happen, the outlook of the league could even look different to this day.

As always, feel free to leave any other moments that NBA franchise's completely regret in the comment section below, as we would love to hear your thoughts on this matter.

Here is every NBA franchise's worst mistake that cost them championships.


30 Atlanta Hawks: Trading Bill Russell On Draft Night

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Bill Russell is one of the greatest NBA players of all-time. I mean look at the photo of him above; all of those rings and more could have been celebrated in Atlanta instead of Boston, however the Hawks made a big mistake on the 1956 NBA Draft night. The Hawks drafted Bill Russell with the second pick in the draft which was definitely the right move in hindsight, but they then tried to use the pick to grab other players for Russell, ultimately trading him for Ed Macauley and Cliff Hagan from the Celtics. Now I'm not the biggest Hawks fan of all-time, but I don't recognize either of those names the Hawks traded Bill for. Considering Russell went on to win 11 NBA Champions with Boston, Atlanta definitely wishes they just kept who they drafted, as this cost them some rings.

29 Boston Celtics: 2001 NBA Draft Moves

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The Boston Celtics are one of the most successful sports franchises of all-time, as their long history has involved a lot of winning. This means the franchise has usually capitalized on opportunities and has not made many mistakes to cost them championships. The 2001 NBA Draft however was one of the worst nights in Boston Celtics history, as they really could have made their team a contender if they utilized that night the way they could have. Going for veterans, the team traded their 10th pick in the 2001 Draft in Joe Johnson, but they kept their 11th pick Kedrick Brown, who ended up only playing four years in his disappointing NBA career.

Players such as Zach Randolph, Tony Parker, and Gilbert Arenas were all taken behind Brown, so the Celtics really could have been something special after the 2001 NBA Draft, possibly adding more banners to their already impressive collection.

28 Brooklyn Nets: Trading Away Future For A Playoff Run

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The Brooklyn Nets have proven to be one of the worst organizations in the NBA since their relocation from New Jersey a few years ago. On June 28th, 2013, the Nets made a terrible, terrible decision as they traded Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, Kris Joseph, MarShon Brooks, Keith Bogans, future first-round picks (2014, 2016 and 2018) and the rights to swap first-round picks in 2017 to the Boston Celtics for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry.

This ended up being one of the worst trade deals of all-time, as the Nets acquired three aging players who all ended up leaving the team after two years, as the Celtics are still benefiting as they are already one of the best teams in the league who have had multiple top five draft picks due to the Nets being one of the worst teams in the league. A long road is ahead for Brooklyn, as they could have some serious young prospects right now if they didn't sell their future away.

27 Charlotte Hornets: Trading Away Kobe Bryant

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As you probably know, Kobe Bryant had one of the most successful and legendary NBA careers of all-time. A pure threat to score every time he touched the rock, Kobe had a killer instinct that only Michael Jordan could compare to. Bryant played his entire career for the Los Angeles Lakers, however the Charlotte Hornets were the team that actually drafted young Kobe, as they selected him with the 13th pick in the 1996 NBA Draft. The Hornets ended up trading him shortly after however, as they sent him to the Lakers for center Vlade Divac.

Divac played only two seasons with Charlotte before becoming a free agent and signing with the Sacramento Kings. The Mamba went on to win five NBA championships throughout his successful career, meaning if the Hornets just kept their selection, things could have gone a lot differently.

26 Chicago Bulls: Keeping Derrick Rose In With Two Minutes Left

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Derrick Rose could have had one of the greatest NBA careers of all-time. He was the youngest player to ever win the Most Valuable Player award when he was only 22 years old, which is remarkable considering the young man was playing in a league consisting of Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and so many more stars. Rose was a freak athlete before his terrible injury that happened in Game 1 of the 2012 NBA Playoffs against the Philadelphia 76ers. The Bulls were up 99-87 with less than two minutes to go in the game. Rose's injury had him going from one of the most explosive players in the league to a shell of the player he once was, as his career was completely derailed after this injury. With more MVPs and possibly championships to come, the Bulls definitely wished they took Rose out of this game before he tore his ACL.

25 Cleveland Cavaliers: Drafting Anthony Bennett

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Yes, the Cleveland Cavaliers are one of the best teams in the league right now and have won an NBA championship only a relatively short time after this regret. However drafting Anthony Bennett was a complete waste of a first pick in an NBA Draft, as the man is considered to be one of the worst draft busts of all time due to his inability to contribute on the court. Let's just say the Cavaliers drafted Giannis Antetokounmpo (who was drafted 14 picks behind Bennett) instead. This would have meant LeBron would have been joining Kyrie Irving, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and considering it took Giannis a few years to develop, the Cavs would have still been able to attain the first pick in the draft the next year, meaning they could trade Wiggins for Love.

This means that today the Cleveland Cavaliers' starting lineup would be Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Tristan Thompson. I doubt this team would have lost to the Warriors two years ago, costing The Land a championship indeed, and maybe more in the future.

24 Dallas Mavericks: 2011 Draft Misses

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The 2011 NBA Draft could have made a lot of franchises in the league much better, including the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks had the 26th and the 57th picks in the draft, however they selected Jordan Hamilton and Tanguy Ngombo, both being players who never made a name for themselves in the league and especially not for the Mavericks. Just four picks after the Mavericks selected Jordan Hamilton, the Bulls went on to take Jimmy Butler from Marquette University. And just three picks after the Mavs took Ngombo, the Kings took Isaiah Thomas with the last pick in the draft. If the Mavericks took both these guys instead of their selections, the Mavericks would be looking a whole lot different than they do now.

23 Denver Nuggets: Drafting Nikoloz Tskitishvili

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Drafted from Georgia, Nikoloz Tskitishvili never made an impact in the NBA, at all. He was picked with the fifth pick in 2005 draft by the Denver Nuggets. He averaged a very mediocre 2.9 points and 1.8 rebounds in only six seasons. Obviously not making a real impact for the Nuggets, the franchise would have been much better off if they drafted Amar'e Stoudemire instead of Nikoloz, as Amar'e ended up having a dominant career, even if he did have his problems with injuries. The next year the Nuggets drafted Carmelo Anthony, meaning both Anthony and Stoudemire would be paired up together at a young age, which would have made the Nuggets one of the best teams in the league throughout the 2000s. They definitely could have contended against the Lakers and Spurs with that duo.

22 Detroit Pistons: 2013 Offseason Signings

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The Pistons were able to sign some big names in the offseason of 2013. They ended up signing Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings on big contracts, which ended up hurting the team much more than helping. Nothing went well for the Pistons that next season, as Josh Smith was totally not meant for the small forward position they were having him play at, as he had one of, if not the worst season of his career there. Brandon Jennings was not the All-Star point guard caliber player they thought he was either, as he couldn't lead the team to any real strings of wins throughout the season.

The team already had some nice pieces with Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe in the paint, and these two signings hurt the team for years to come as the Pistons could have emerged as a much better team without the high priced signings.

21 Golden State Warriors: Trading Kevin McHale And Robert Parish

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The Golden State Warriors are easily one of the best teams in the NBA right now, and could have a solid amount of championships to their name at the end of the decade. However the Warriors could have even more banners in their stadium if they just kept what they had going for them going into the 1980 NBA Draft. The Warriors ended up trading Robert Parish and the 3rd overall pick to the Celtics for the 1st and 13th picks in the draft. The Celtics ended up winning this deal for sure, as they selected Kevin McHale with the 3rd pick, who easily ended up being the best player in the draft, and obtained Robert Parish, one of the league's greatest players. The Warriors on the other hand got Joe Carroll and Rickey Brown, who pale in comparison to the talents of McHale and Parish.

20 Houston Rockets: Signing Dwight Howard

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The Rockets definitely regret signing Dwight Howard to a maximum $88 million contract in the offseason of 2013, as the acquisition didn't end up helping Houston, just hurting. Howard just simply didn't fit in with the Rockets like many thought he would, as he had one of the worst seasons of his career and the Rockets went from being projected to being one of the most dominant teams in the West to fighting for a playoff spot. The Rockets' success right now goes to show they never needed Howard to be a good team, as they are one of the best teams in the league right now without D12. Signing anyone other than Howard that offseason would have helped the Rockets more, and definitely wouldn't have done such a number on their salary either.

19 Indiana Pacers: Drafting George McCloud

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George McCloud did absolutely nothing positive for the Indiana Pacers, which is generally not something you want to say about a guy you took with the 7th pick in the 1989 NBA Draft. McCloud just lost his confidence apparently after not playing much minutes throughout his rookie season, and his play was so bad on the court he was booed every time he was put into the game. McCloud recalled on his time in Indiana saying he knew that he could play, he just didn't think Indiana was the right place for him. This proved true, as after leaving the league, he then played for the Dallas Mavericks and even averaged over 18 points per game in Dallas. Considering the Pacers could have taken either Shawn Kemp or Tim Hardaway with that selection, McCloud was a big regret for the Pacers.

18 Los Angeles Clippers: Trading Their 2011 First Round Pick

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The Clippers made a terrible, terrible trade with the Cavaliers in 2011, as they traded Baron Davis and an unprotected (this will come into play soon) first round draft pick to the Cavaliers for Mo Williams and Jamario Moon. The Clippers didn't end up being the worst team in the league so they only had a 2.8 percent chance of landing the first pick in the draft. In a cruel twist of fate, that's what ended up happening. That meant they literally traded away the first pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. The Cavaliers ended up taking Kyrie Irving, who has blossomed into one of the league's finest guards.

The Clippers have since righted the ship from this awful move in 2011, however behind the flashy "Lob City" team, is a squad yet to make it out of the second round as trade rumors continue to swirl around their best players.

17 Los Angeles Lakers: Drafting Kenny Carr Instead Of Bernard King

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The Lakers are easily one of the most storied and successful sports franchises of all-time, as they are just second behind the Boston Celtics for most NBA championships. The Lakers had the 6th pick in the 1977 NBA Draft, however they selected Kenny Carr, who ended up being a nice role player for a few teams in the league. What makes picking Kenny Carr so much worse is the fact that Bernard King was taken just one pick later by New York, as he ended up becoming one of the best scorers in NBA history.

Seeing King in the Lakers purple and gold would have been awesome, and the Lakers are definitely kicking themselves about this one as Bernard could have been an important piece in moving the Lakers in front of the Celtics for the most championships in the league.

16 Memphis Grizzlies: Drafting Hasheem Thabeet

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The 2009 NBA Draft could go down as one of the greatest draft classes in NBA history, as it contained some of the league's biggest stars of today. Hasheem Thabeet sadly is not one of those players, so it makes the Grizzlies look pretty foolish taking the guy with the 2nd pick in the draft. Thabeet enthralled scouts with his shot blocking and 7'3" stature, however he never found his footing in the league as he was dominated by other big men and was sent to the D-League early on.

Players taken behind of Thabeet in the draft included guys like James Harden, Stephen Curry, DeMar DeRozan, Jrue Holiday, and Jeff Teague, all of whom becoming much better players than Thabeet ever did. The Grizzlies could be one of the best teams in the league if they took one of those guys over Thabeet, but it looks as though the Grizzlies won't be winning any championships for a long time.

15 Miami Heat: Drafting Michael Beasley

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LeBron James was going to join Miami to play with his friend Dwyane Wade regardless of who the Heat selected in the 2008 NBA Draft. This means that LeBron could have been joining a team containing himself, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and either Russell Westbrook or Kevin Love, both being guys the Heat could have taken with the 2nd pick in the 2008 NBA Draft instead of Michael Beasley. Beasley is a gifted scorer, however he doesn't do much else and has had more problems off the court than people would like.

He would be disciplined by the team for allegedly smoking marijuana during the NBA’s mandatory anti-drug seminar for rookies, which was a bad sign for the future of his career. The Heat would have been much better off drafting either Westbrook or Love, as the team would be much better to this day, and may have even allured LeBron to stay in Miami. Dynasty???

14 Milwaukee Bucks: Trading Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is easily one of the greatest NBA players to ever play the game. He has scored more points than any other player in the league, with an astounding 38,387 points scored over the course of his career, Kareem is an NBA legend. Considering the Bucks ended up trading Kareem to start a youth movement in Milwaukee, the trade has since gone down as one of the most one-sided deals in NBA history. In addition to 25-year-old center Elmore Smith and rookie guard Brian Winters, the Lakers possessed the second overall and eighth overall picks in the 1975 NBA Draft. Los Angeles didn’t want to give up Winters and the picks, but the Bucks insisted that’s what it would take. Eventually Milwaukee won out, and ended up getting Smith, Winters, and two rookies named Dave Meyers and Junior Bridgeman for Kareem and Wesley. A bad trade indeed, as keeping Kareem would have kept them in championship contention for years.

13 Minnesota Timberwolves: 2009 NBA Draft Choices

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The 2009 NBA Draft could have made the Timberwolves one of the best teams in the league to this day. Containing some of the best players in the league today, the 2009 draft class could go down in history as one of the best of all-time. The Timberwolves sadly did not cash in on the talent that could have been selected. The Wolves had both the 5th and 6th pick in the draft, however they ended up taking Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn, two point guards who haven't lived up to being top 10 draft picks especially in a draft like 2009. What makes matters worse, Stephen Curry was taken by the Warriors right after both of these picks. The Wolves could have also selected DeMar DeRozan as well. Imagine a Curry and DeRozan duo; Minnesota would be very deadly.

12 New Orleans Pelicans: Trading Chris Paul

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Chris Paul was the face of New Orleans for years, as he kept the Hornets (Pelicans now) a serviceable team every year he was on the roster due to his excellent play. However the team didn't do a good job of surrounding Paul with talent, as the team failed to make the playoffs a multitude of times which lead to Paul asking for a trade. When your best player isn't happy and is requesting a trade it's hard to say no, however the deal that was closed to move Paul out of New Orleans was just not enough for easily one of the best players in the league. The Clippers gave New Orleans Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu and Minnesota’s unprotected 2012 first-round pick. That's just not enough for a franchise player like Paul.

11 New York Knicks: The Carmelo Anthony Era

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Carmelo Anthony was one of the best players in the league a few years ago, and while he still has that star power today, his run with the Knicks didn't really pan out as people wanted it to. Carmelo just doesn't have the ability to lead a team to success, and a lot of pressure was placed on him to do so in New York. The Nuggets acquired some nice pieces in the Anthony deal including Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari, who are still on the team today. When looking at both the Nuggets and the Knicks, Denver is in a much better position to win than the Knicks are.

New York has spent millions of dollars on Melo, which hasn't turned out all that well. The Knicks have become one of the laughingstocks of the league, as Derrick Rose even said they were a "super-team" at the beginning of this season. Carmelo won't be in New York for much more time, as it seems to be time to for him to part ways with his hometown team.

10 Oklahoma City Thunder: Trading James Harden

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This is one of the biggest what if's in NBA history, as the Oklahoma City Thunder had a dynasty in the making just a few years ago. The team incredibly had Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden all on the same team. All three players have since blossomed into arguably the top three players in the league today, which is just crazy to think about as they still could have all been on the same team together. Harden was traded for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two first-round picks (Steven Adams and Archie Goodwin) and a second round pick (Alex Abrines).

It's a shame things never worked out in Oklahoma City, as they easily could have three of four titles to their name, however only one of their star core is left, and it looks as though they won't be winning a championship for years to come.

9 Orlando Magic: Letting Shaq Leave

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During the '90s, the Orlando Magic had one of the most dangerous teams in all of the NBA, due to the dynamic duo they had with Penny Hardaway and Shaquille O'Neal. The two were never able to win a championship together however, but many believed they could have if Shaq stayed in Orlando instead of going to the Lakers. Shaq signing with the Lakers ended the potential Magic dynasty and created the Lakers' dynasty. The Magic could have avoided this, however they were tentative on giving Shaq a max deal, as he would be attaining more than 70% of the team's salary, but I mean he's Shaq so what do you expect? Lowballing the legendary center, Shaq signed with the Lakers which the Magic completely regret letting happen to this day.

8 Philadelphia 76ers: Drafting Larry Hughes

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As a Sixers fan, this one really hurts to talk about. In the 1998 NBA Draft, the Sixers had the 7th pick in the draft. The Sixers went with Larry Hughes, as they passed up on the 7-footer from Germany named Dirk Nowitzki, who was picked with the 8th selection. Larry Hughes never made an impact like Dirk did. If the Sixers went with Nowitzki instead of Hughes, the team would be adding Nowitzki to an already talented team, which included one of the best players ever: Allen Iverson.

Iverson and Nowitzki in tandem would have been completely unstoppable, as it would have brought some of the greatest scorers of all time together on one team. Do I hear a dynasty? Yes I do. The Sixers definitely regret not drafting Dirk, as Hughes cost them some championships.

7 Phoenix Suns: Trading Isaiah Thomas

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Isaiah Thomas is easily one of the best players in the league. As he puts up incredible stat lines night after night, it's something crazy to believe considering he was drafted with the last pick in his draft class. Isaiah Thomas could be leading the Boston Celtics to the finals this season, as he really has blossomed into one of the best players in the league.

The Suns were not aware of his talent when they sadly traded him away for simply Marcus Thornton and a top-1o protected draft pick (from 2016-2018, unprotected in 2019). Isaiah could have helped the Suns franchise a great bit since then, however the Celtics will get to reap the reward. Phoenix fans must be furious that they had a superstar in their hands, only to let him slip away.

6 Portland Trail Blazers: Drafting Sam Bowie

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The 1984 NBA Draft was one of the best the league has ever seen. It also includes one of the biggest busts we have ever seen with the Trail Blazers picking Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan. As we all know, Jordan went on to win six championships with the Bulls, but would he have been able to do it with the Trail Blazers? Probably. Keep in mind, drafting MJ likely would have meant a dream pairing of Jordan and Clyde Drexler. The Trail Blazers definitely regret passing up on the “G.O.A.T.” It must have especially hurt Portland in the 1992 Finals when Jordan and his Bulls beat them. Who can guess how many the more championships the Trail Blazers would have to their name today if they went with Jordan instead of Bowie.

5 Sacramento Kings: Trading DeMarcus Cousins For Nothing

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First off I do think it was the right move for Sacramento to trade Cousins as things just weren't going well with Boogie on the team. However, what they got for DeMarcus was just not enough and has NBA personalities on TV going crazy after seeing a superstar like Cousins traded for Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, a 2017 first-round pick and a 2017 second-rounder.

They could have gotten something much better for a player like DeMarcus, as every team in the league would love to have him on their team. Maybe the Celtics would have given up their Nets' first round draft pick this year for him. We have yet to see how this will hurt the Kings in the long term but considering the history of this franchise, they're screwed.

4 San Antonio Spurs: Trading Dennis Rodman

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The Spurs have been one of the most successful franchises in all of sports, which means they haven't squandered much of their opportunities throughout there existence in the league. Their biggest regret probably came with how they dealt with Dennis Rodman, who really was one of the league's best players as he was a rebounding machine and was one of the key pieces in the Bulls championship runs in the 90s. Before he was on the Bulls however, he was on the Spurs. The Spurs ended up trading him away for Will Perdue from the Bulls, which ended up being a terrible trade. Perdue averaged about five points per game over his stretch with San Antonio, as Rodman went on to have a great career in Chicago.

3 Toronto Raptors: Trading Vince Carter

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Vince Carter's time in Toronto was something to see as he brought a certain electricity to every game he played in. The day the Raptors shipped him away was a regret to all fans around Toronto as he was easily the best player on the team. What they got in return wasn't anything special to make things worse, adding Alonzo Mourning (who didn't even report to the team), Eric Williams, Aaron Williams and a couple of first-round picks. Not enough in my opinion to be able to attain a player such as Vince Carter for guys like that. This move is definitely the biggest Raptors regret as they ended an entertaining era of basketball up north. While their team has now returned to contention, there are still ill feelings about the Vince Carter trade.

2 Utah Jazz: Trading Away Dominique Wilkins

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The Jazz made a great decision with drafting Dominique Wilkins with the 3rd pick in the 1982 NBA Draft. What's wrong with their pick is that Dominique refused to sign with them, forcing them to move him before he even played one game for them. Obviously they couldn't keep him, so that's understandable, but they didn't get enough in return for one of the most dynamic guards of the 80s. They ended up trading him to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for John Drew, Freeman Williams and cash. Needless to say, that didn't do a whole lot to make the Jazz a better team.

Wilkins ended up having a better season than both those guys put together. Jazz fans are definitely upset with Wilkins for not even giving their city a chance.

1 Washington Wizards: Drafting Kwame Brown

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Kwame Brown is considered to be one of the worst busts in NBA history. Coming out of high school, Kwame was supposed to be a dominant big man in the league. Sadly, the Wizards went with Kwame for their number one pick in the 2001 NBA Draft. Bad move. Kwame only played four seasons for the Wizards, and he moved from team to team until his career ended in 2013. Even though there have been some great NBA players who came straight from high school, Kwame Brown was definitely not one of those players, something the Wizards had to learn the hard way. Many people point to this as one of Michael Jordan’s worst moments, as MJ was a part-owner of the Wizards at the time and had a part in the Wizards taking Brown.

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