The scouting world today is vastly different from what it was before. These days, everything is going to be posted on social media meaning the scrutiny of the watchful eyes of fans around the world weighs heavily on the shoulders of most players. Back in the day, professional scouts were designated to give thorough reports on the strengths and weaknesses of certain players; today, there are hundreds doing so on YouTube and thousands on social media platforms most notably Twitter.
With all the film that is easily accessible today, the hype surrounding certain high school or college players are through the roof. An easy example is current Duke forward Zion Williamson. Zion has been on the limelight of basketball circles around the globe due to his athleticism and awe-inspiring dunks. The stress and pressure that is being put on the shoulders of teenage kids should not be underestimated as it could easily be the reason for the downfall of most.
This article aims to look at 10 NBA players who didn’t live up to the hype and 10 that did. Note the order is based on how hyped they were and how well, or poorly, they delivered based on said hype. That means great players who received little hype will not make the list.
20 Disappointed - Jimmer Fredette
Jimmer Fredette was unlike any college player we have seen during his time. He was scoring in bunches due to his launching, and making, deep threes left and right. The former BYU standout had a cult-like following, being dubbed by some as the next great white hope.
Unfortunately, Fredette’s skillset never translated to the NBA, as he was out of the league in only five years, where he last played for the New York Knicks. These days, Fredette is making a name for himself in China, where he earned the nickname “Lonely God.” Jimmer has also once dropped 73 points in a game in the CBA.
19 Lived Up – Ben Simmons
The hype surrounding Ben Simmons stemmed from his early high school days. The 6’10" point forward-turned-point guard seemed like he was ready to play in the NBA as early as 17-years-old. Simmons saw a handful of suitors during the 2016 draft process due to his size and skillset, which is comparable to LeBron James.
While he is by no means LeBron, Simmons has been a crucial part of the development of the Philadelphia 76ers. Last year’s rookie of the Year has certainly made the wait worth it for the entire city of Philadelphia.
18 Disappointed – Brandon Jennings
Once upon a time, Brandon Jennings was the consensus best player of the 2008 high school class. The slick scoring point guard was the talk of the time as he had an Allen Iverson-like swagger during high school. The hype faded a bit when he decided to play overseas as opposed to playing in college, but nonetheless, people were still on the Jennings train.
After a promising rookie year, Jennings is nowhere near the height he once reached. As it stands, Jennings is out of the NBA at the moment. While it may be easy to blame it on his Achilles injury, Jennings never really played at a level worthy of being called the best of his class.
17 Lived Up – Patrick Ewing
When he was at Georgetown University, Patrick Ewing was the guy to pick. Ewing had it all; he can score, he can rebound, and he can defend. When Ewing finally decided to come out of Georgetown and play in the NBA in 1985, the hype surrounding it was surreal that even to this day, people are still debating whether or not former Commissioner David Stern rigged the lottery in order for the New York Knicks to win.
As a player, Ewing averaged 21.0 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game in his historic 17-year career. Currently, Ewing has been inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
16 Disappointed – Christian Laettner
If you are not familiar with Christian Laettner, he was a scrappy power forward widely known for his time at Duke. Laettner garnered national attention during his senior year (1992) where he won every major national player of the year award, while also winning the NCAA championship that year and being the only college player in the 1992 Olympic Dream Team. The former Blue Devil was despised by opposing fans due to his ability to make clutch baskets and his overall dirty play and demeanor.
The hype was in a negative light but it was still there. Laettner was above average in his time in the NBA, only averaging 12.8 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, remaining relatively irrelevant compared to the noise he made playing collegiate basketball.
15 Lived Up – Oscar Robertson
Oscar Roberston is a unique case of living up to both high school and college hype. In high school, Oscar went 62-1 in his final two years playing for Crispus Attucks, earning him the Mr. Basketball award in Indiana back in 1956. During college, Robertson accumulated multiple Players of the Year awards as he averaged 33.8 points, 15.2 rebounds, and 7.1 assists per game in three playing years for the Cincinnati Bearcats. The production earned Oscar the privilege to be drafted first overall (territorial pick) by the Cincinnati Royals back in 1960.
Oscar is widely known for being the first player to average a triple-double in NBA history. He is a 12-time All-Star, former MVP, and an NBA champion. He most certainly lived up to the buzz surrounding his amateur days.
14 Disappointed – Shabazz Muhammad
Back in his high school days, Shabazz Muhammad tore the nation down with his ability to score and his athleticism to match. Muhammad was named Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Nevada back in 2011. At the end of his senior year, Shabazz was constantly ranked the number one or number two player of his class, behind Nerlens Noel. Former NBA player Greg Anthony went as far as to say Muhammad was a “once in a generation talent.”
As of the moment, Shabazz is currently out of the league. And while he had a couple of seasons where he averaged double digits in scoring, Muhammad never made the same impact in the pros as he did in high school.
13 Lived Up – Lew Alcindor (aka Kareem Abdul-Jabbar)
Lew Alcindor, who became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar one year into his NBA career, is considered by most the greatest collegiate basketball player of all time. Playing for UCLA, Alcindor was twice named Player of the Year, was a three-time NCAA champion, and became the very first Naismith College Player of the Year in the summer of 1969. Alcindor was so dominant that dunking was banned because it was his bread and butter offensively.
As we know him today, Alcindor turned into Abdul-Jabbar, who is considered by many the greatest center to ever grace the hardwood. He still holds the record for most points in a single career in the NBA.
12 Disappointed – Derrick Williams
Derrick Williams was a force in his two years at Arizona. While the stats aren’t mind-boggling, Williams looked too good to be playing against collegiate players. Combining his size, athleticism, and shooting, that made for an unfair matchup against any college team. The crowning jewel of Williams’ collegiate career came in the NCAA tournament when he led the Wildcats to an upset victory over number one-seeded Duke. Williams posted 32 points and 13 rebounds in the 16-point win.
Today, Williams is nothing more than a good memory. Williams never replicated his collegiate success, as he seemingly peaked in his sophomore year in the NBA. And to think it was an actual debate on who the Cavs should take between him and Kyrie Irving.
11 Lived Up – Anthony Davis
Not so long ago, Anthony Davis was seen as the perfect prospect coming out of college. With a freakishly long wingspan combined with his guard-like skills, Davis was the prototypical big man during his years at Kentucky. The former Wildcat was often compared to Kevin Garnett due to their insane defensive instincts and smooth offensive game.
Of course, Anthony Davis is one of the best players in the NBA today. A multiple time All-Star and All-NBA team member, Davis is on course to be one of the greatest players to play the game, as he has yet hit his athletic prime. AD is only 25-years-old and it is scary to think how good he can become five years from now.
10 Disappointed – Adam Morrison
Adam Morrison is known for many things, including an unwillingness to take showers, sitting on the Lakers’ bench during their 2009 championship, and his unbridled show of emotion during his final college game. What people should know more is how he was seen by many as the next Larry Bird. In fact, ESPN’s Chuck Klosterman had this to say about Morrison.
“Adam Morrison is kind of like Larry Bird. He’s not exactly like Larry Bird, but he’s closer to Bird than any college player of the past 20 years.”
The Athletic recently caught up with Morrison, who is now a retired basketball player. Morrison said he is currently a “typical soccer dad."
9 Lived Up – Michael Jordan
You may be wondering why His Airness is so low on this list. The main reason is that he was not as hyped as the guys on this list. After a late-blooming high school career where he only became a top prospect as a senior, Michael Jordan was a great college player at the University of North Carolina. Jordan was ACC Rookie of the Year in 1982, Player of the Year in 1984, and he hit the game-winning shot against Georgetown led by Patrick Ewing back in the championship game in 1982.
Jordan was considered a great prospect coming out of college, but no one in their right minds saw the success that followed. Jordan is one of the most influential figures in the world today and is rightfully considered the greatest basketball player to grace the sport.
8 Disappointed - Sebastian Telfair
Sebastian Telfair can be considered a victim of the success of Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James, as those three successfully transitioned from high school to the NBA. The hype surrounding Telfair was astronomical; Slam Magazine even had him and LeBron James on the cover of one of their issues, as they were set to be the future of basketball itself.
Shortly after making it to the NBA, it was clear as day that Telfair was not ready. The point guard struggled to adjust to an actual system wherein everyone was as talented, if not better, than him and it resulted in a disappointing professional run.
7 Lived Up – Kevin Durant
Back in 2007, the consensus was that the draft was a two-man class with Greg Oden and Kevin Durant. Durant was seen as the best one-and-done player of all-time as he averaged a double-double (25.8 points and 11.1 rebounds) in his only season at the University of Texas.
Durant was seen as the next Tracy McGrady and it is fair to say he exceeded those expectations. Durant is a two-time NBA champion and a former MVP and widely regarded as one of the best scorers the game has ever seen.
6 Disappointed – Michael Beasley
If you are unfamiliar with the work Michael Beasley did in his lone season at Kansas State, then you are missing out on utter dominance. Back in 2007-2008, Beasley, who was then a teenager, mind you, lit up the collegiate scene putting up 26.2 points and 12.4 rebounds per game, earning him Big 12 Player of the Year. Beasley was set to be the next best scoring big man as his incredible face-up game was enough for the Miami Heat to take him second overall back in 2008.
Beasley would be a major disappointment as he lacked the drive and competitive fire to match his potential as an NBA player. Today, Beasley is a backup with the Los Angeles Lakers, where is seeing limited playing time.
5 Lived Up – Tim Duncan
The hype for Tim Duncan began in his playing days at Wake Forest. Duncan garnered national attention during his second year where he was considered the best prospect but ultimately, Duncan reassured everyone that he will finish all four years of college before going pro. When the time came, teams were purposely losing games in order to have better odds at landing Duncan.
If you ask around any fan, they will say that Tim Duncan is the greatest power forward of all time and rightfully so. Duncan is a 15-time All-Star, five-time NBA champion, a two-time MVP, and is a future first ballot Hall of Famer.
4 Disappointed – O.J. Mayo
O.J. Mayo stood out in his high school career for many notable things. First off, Mayo averaged 23.1 points per game as a seventh grader, and secondly, Mayo was in a viral video where he was in a trash talk war against Michael Jordan. Most notably, Mayo was one of the best high school players of his generation.
Mayo would play for eight years in the NBA before getting suspended in 2016 for violating the league's policies. Considered a great scorer and a future superstar, Mayo would end up finishing his career in disappointing fashion.
3 Lived Up – Shaquille O’Neal
Just to show how dominant Shaquille O’Neal was at LSU, in his final two years playing for the Tigers he averaged 25.8 points, 14.3 rebounds, and 5.1 blocks. Those numbers exemplify the talent and skill O’Neal had early in his career. The dominance ultimately fueled the run that made him the first player taken in the 1992 NBA draft.
As a follow-up, O’Neal then secured four NBA championships, became a multiple time All-Star and All-NBA team member, and won one MVP award. Off the court, O’Neal broke into the mainstream due to his wacky personality and comedic timing. O’Neal took the expectations and absolutely slam dunked on it with his huge personality.
2 Disappointed – Andrew Wiggins
If you weren’t around a couple years back, the hype surrounding Andrew Wiggins was great. People were quick to say that Wiggins was the chosen one, the next in line, and most notably “Maple Jordan.” The Canadian had the athleticism and the skill that seemed like it was cut from the same cloth Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan came from. Oh, and this was all in his high school career.
While Wiggins is a serviceable player today, he is certainly no Kobe, let alone Jordan. The scoring wing is enjoying a max contract, which people dub one of the worst contracts in the NBA today due to Wiggins’ lack of defense and inefficient offense. Today the nickname “Maple Jordan” is a diss more than a compliment.
1 Lived Up – LeBron James
I could write a hundred pages on how hyped LeBron James was in high school. James was seen as the ultimate prospect, the chosen one, and the next Michael Jordan. LeBron’s high school games were getting broadcasted on national television over NBA games for crying out loud. The hype was insane back then and everyone wanted a shot at the next superstar.
Today, it is fair to say he has lived up to the hype, which is incredible to think about. Not only did he live up to it, but LeBron exceeded all expectations, as he is one of the most powerful athletes in the history of any sport. James deserves all the praise in the world for overcoming so much pressure and turning into an incredible player and more importantly, an incredible man.