With the amount of money in the NBA these days it has become common place for players to be highly overpaid for their contribution. Every summer we see more and more players who do well during a playoff run, or who have the "potential" to lead a team, given enormous, and unjustified contracts.
However, this is not a new fad. Franchises have been making bad deals, and giving player too much money for decades. There are too many examples to name when a franchise costs itself several years of mediocrity due to a horrible contract. Obviously it is not easy to know if a player is going to fall off the cliff in terms of production, but there are some cases when even casual basketball fans could have made a better decision than a team.
At the end of the day the blame has to land on the general manager, and as we have seen time and time again, general managers are the first to get fired after a horrible contract. The player of course is happy, but the organization, the GM, and the fans are left in the cold after these 15 horrible contracts. Let's take a look at the 15 worst contracts in NBA history and where those players are today.
16 Allan Houston - 2001
Contract: 6 Years/$100 Million
There was a time when every New York Knicks fan liked and supported Allan Houston. The Knicks' offensive star had one of the biggest shots in Knick history, when he hit the game-winner in Game 5 of the first round that upset the top seeded Heat. A shot that sparked the Knicks to their Cinderella run all the way to the 1999 NBA Finals. Houston was great, until he signed that six-year, $100 million contract. After that, expectations of Houston changed and he was unable to live up to the lofty expectations a contract of that size created.
Since retiring, Houston has dipped his toes into a few different business ventures as well as some political endeavorers. He has become good friends with former President, Barack Obama, and has even appeared at some speaking engagements hosted by the former President.
15 Rashard Lewis - 2007
Contract: 6 Years/$118 Million
Rashard Lewis was a nice player, but not a great player. In 2007 Lewis had made just one All-Star team in his NBA career, but In May of that year he opted out of his deal with the Sonics. For a reason that is still undiscovered, the Magic made a deal with Seattle to a sign-and-trade Lewis to a maximum contract. Lewis was ridiculously overpaid, but he was also valuable to the Magic, making one All-Star team in Orlando as well as being a solid contributor to a Magic team that made the '09 NBA Finals. Lewis' value to the team was worth a sizable salary, but he certainly did not deserve to be paid among the top three players in the game.
After leaving Orlando, Lewis chased a championship for a few years, ultimately capturing that title with the Miami Heat in 2013. After retiring in 2015 Lewis has laid pretty low, but recently he has surfaced as the captain of a team in the new 3 vs 3 basketball league sponsored by rapper Ice Cube.
14 Bryant Reeves - 1997
Contract: 6 Years/$65 Million
Don't put all of your eggs in one basket. Bryant "Big Country" Reeves was the first ever draft pick of the Vancouver Grizzlies franchise, and had a decent start to his career with solid individual performances in his first few years. Unfortunately, Reeves had arthroscopic surgery on his knee in '99, and faced more problems with chronic back issues that forced him to retire early in '02. The Grizzlies were left to foot the bill of a player who really gave them two-and-a-half seasons of basketball for a six-year deal.
After being forced to retire, Reeves bought a cattle ranch back in his hometown of Gans, Oklahoma. He is still living on the ranch with his wife, whom he is raising four children with. In an obscure piece of trivia, Shaquille O'Neal once named Bryant Reeves the hardest player he ever had to guard.
13 Amar'e Stoudemire - 2010
Contract: 5 Years/$99 Million
Any New York Knicks fan will tell you how great Amar'e Stoudemire was in his first year in New York. He over twenty-five points, and eight rebounds per game. His great season was a catalyst for the Knicks being able to sign Carmelo Anthony. Unfortunately, after that first season injuries and chemistry issues with Carmelo caused Stoudemire to decline. He had three knee surgeries and various other injuries along the way. In 2015 the Knicks and Amar'e were able to reach a buy-out and Stoudemire became an unrestricted free agent.
Once he left New York, Amar'e spent some time with the Mavericks, followed by a season with the Miami Heat. His body would just not let him compete at the highest level anymore, ultimately he was forced to play overseas this past season. What the future holds for Amar'e Stoudemire is still a mystery, but he seems hell bent on playing another season of professional basketball somewhere.
11 Jayson Williams - 1998
Contract: 6 Years/$86 Million
Jayson Williams was a quality big man in the NBA for about four seasons. During those years, he grabbed close to twelve rebounds per game. He even made an All-Star team with the New Jersey Nets in '98. After the All-Star bid, Williams signed the inflated contract. Only 30 games into his first season under the new contract he broke his leg in a collision with Stephon Marbury and two months into his new contract he was forced to have career ending surgery.
After retiring Williams began to have man run-ins with the law, including his highly publicized manslaughter case. Williams was never found guilty of the more serious charge but he did spend some time in prison on lesser charges. Recently it has been reported that Williams is writing his second book, this one is apparently telling the tails of him being abused as a child. Needless to say, Williams has had quite a wild life so far.
10 Erick Dampier - 2003
Contract: 7 Years/$73 Million
This signing will go on forever as a terrible Mavericks signing because they are the ones who ultimately signed him. What jacked up the market for Erick, and what is often forgotten is that Isiah Thomas and the New York Knicks were trying to sign Dampier before the Mavericks swooped in and got him. Dampier was never more than an average center in the league, but in 2003 the Mavericks were desperate for post players, and they believed they were one piece away from a title run. Obviously the Mavs were just a bit off when they signed Dampier, and they were only able to make that title run once they got Erick off their books.
Since retiring in 2012 at the tender age of 36, Dampier has been doing what we all wish we could do. He regularly hits up celebrity golf tournaments, and fancy dinner parties with former teammates. He seems to be living the life of a filthy rich retired 41-year-old. Must be nice huh Erick.
9 Penny Hardaway - 1999
Contract: 7 Years/$87 Million
Everyone always talks about the contributions Penny Hardaway brought to the NBA as a phenomenal player from 1993-97. He was dominant, but some red flags popped up with several knee injuries and also some issues with coaches towards the end of his tenure in Orlando. Phoenix was willing to take a flyer on Penny offering him the max, but after one strong season in Phoenix with Jason Kidd as "Backcourt 2000," Hardaway dealt with microfracture surgery and missed nearly the entire 2000-01 season. He came back but was never the same player again, and Phoenix was stuck paying the price.
Having made over $120 million during his 16 years in the NBA, Penny has a lot of business ventures going these days. He has invested over $2 million into local schools and providing children with college tuition. In 2012 Hardaway was announced to be part of an ownership group, which includes Peyton Manning and Justin Timberlake, that was to purchase a minority stake in the Memphis Grizzlies.
8 Vin Baker - 2000
Contract: 7 Years/$86 Million
Vin Baker was ultimately deserving of his contract with the Seattle SuperSonics when he got it. He was a gold medalist and a four-time All-Star, who had experienced a couple of down years prior to the contract but nothing alarming. Unfortunately, he was unable to live up to those high expectations after signing in Seattle. Baker's play consistently dropped for three consecutive seasons amid injuries and weight issues. Baker was then traded to Boston in 2002, where his struggles with alcoholism were revealed.
After retirement it was reported that Vin lost over $100 million due to financial mishaps. It was also reported that in 2015, Baker managed a Starbucks coffee shop in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. In 2017 Baker was signed to be a basketball commentator for Fox Sports.
7 Shawn Kemp - 1997
Contract: 7 Years/$107 Million
The NBA lockout during the 1998-99 NBA season did worse for Shawn Kemp than it did for probably anyone else in the league. The Cavs listed Kemp at 6'10", 280 pounds, a 34-pound increase from the previous season, but then-general manager Wayne Embry later revealed in his autobiography that Kemp reported to camp at 315 pounds. “He was really very honest about it,” former Cavs coach Mike Fratello recalled. “I said, ‘Shawn, how did this happen?’ He said, ‘Coach, I didn’t think we were coming back.’ Once one of the most exciting players in the NBA, Kemp's fall from grace was as fierce and ferocious as some of his slam dunks.
Once he retired Kemp moved back to the Seattle area. He owned and operated a bar in Seattle's Queen Anne area for years before he was forced to close the doors due to lack of business. Aside from the failed bar, Kemp has also been in the news for some criminal charges through the years, but he might be even more famous for having seven children, one of which is currently playing basketball at the University of Washington.
6 Gilbert Arenas 2008
Contract: 6 Years/$111 Million
One good thing Gilbert Arenas is his honesty. In 2013 Gilbert himself said that he might've signed the worst contract in NBA history. It was a pretty terrible experience for all parties involved. After re-upping with Washington, Arenas dealt with injuries and also the infamous incident in which he brought firearms into an NBA arena. After that, the Wizards did all they could to get out from under the contract, culminating in a trade with Orlando.
Since retiring Gilbert has found many ways to keep himself in the news. Between his admitting to running red lights, and avoiding tickets by illegally keeping the dealer plates on his car, to his insensitive words about WNBA players, somehow we still see Gilbert in the news regularly. It has recently been rumored that Gilbert is looking to get a job sitting next to Charles Barkley on the set of TNT during their pre and post game shows during the NBA season.
5 Stephon Marbury 2003
Contract: 4 Years/$76 Million
New York fans rejoiced after the Knicks acquired hometown hero Stephon Marbury, but he quickly became a villain in New York as the Knicks made the playoffs once (swept in first round of '04) throughout his tenure in New York. It was a disappointing stretch that saw Marbury cause more harm than good. Marbury routinely got into arguments with coaches, including both Mike D'Antoni, and Larry Brown. He also had feuds with the team owner and General Manager.
Once Marbury was out of New York he spent 24 games in Boston before heading to China to play in their professional league, the Chinese Basketball Association. Moving to China was the best thing that ever happened to Marbury. He became a mega-star in the CBA, winning three championships, and multiple MVP Awards. He recently had his contract terminated by the Beijing Ducks after a dispute over what his role with the team would be. Marbury had previously said he planned on playing one final season in 2017-18.
4 Mike Conley - 2016
Contract: 5 Years/$154 Million
The richest contract in NBA history was given to a player who has zero All-Star Game appearances. Mike Conley is currently the highest paid basketball player in the history of basketball, and for no reason. He is the point guard of a team that has never reached an NBA Finals, and many believe he is not even the best player on his own team.
The Memphis Grizzlies were so terrified that they may lose their young point guard that they dramatically overpaid for him last season, and the signing could potentially handcuff the franchise for years to come. If Conley doesn't continue to progress, and fast, the Grizzlies will continue to be first round fodder in the Western Conference playoffs, as they were again this season. Conley is a very good player, and deserves to be paid accordingly, however, he is nowhere near the stratosphere of best players in the world, but somehow, he is paid more than any other player to ever play the game. The only saving grace for Memphis on this deal, is that it is only five years.
3 Timofey Mozgov - 2016
Contract: 4 Years/$64 Million
Mozgov is the prime example of a player being overpaid due to his team's success. It was a toss up on weather Mozgov or Mathew Dellevedova would be inserted into this spot, but since Delly actually had a decent season this year it was Timofey's spot. Mozgov won an NBA championship last season along side LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love. During the championship season, Mozgov averaged a staggering 6.6 points, and 4.4 rebounds, and was gifted over $60 million by the Los Angeles Lakers.
Mozgov just finished the first season of his four year deal. In his defense, Timofey did average seven points, and almost five rebounds per game this past season. With production like that, it could be argued that Mozgov belongs even higher on this list, and the only reason he is not in the top three is because he still has three years left to earn some of that money, even though it is highly unlikely much will change over the next few years in Los Angeles.
2 Joakim Noah - 2016
Contract: 4 Years/$72 Million
After having a great career with the Chicago Bulls, which included two All-Star appearances as well as a Defensive Player of the Year Award, Noah decided to sign with the New York Knicks in 2016. Who could blame him, he was coming off of back to back seasons which were riddled with injury, and yet the Knicks were still willing to give him four years and $72 million. It is amazing how many times we have seen the Knicks on this list isn't it?
Noah again finished this season on the sidelines, having played in only 46 games for the Knicks this year. It appears he will not last all four seasons in NY, but the Knicks will certainly be paying him for them all. It is actually kind of sad to see the Mecca of basketball go through so many painful mistakes and misguided free agent signings. However, with a meddling owner like James Dolan, and a stubborn General Manager like Phil Jackson, it is actually no surprise at all to see the franchise struggle as they do.
1 Kobe Bryant - 2014
Contract: 2 Years/$48.5 Million
There is no debating the greatness that Kobe Bryant was. He ranks among the top 15-20 players to ever play the game of basketball. However, in 2014 Bryant was no longer a top player in the league, his body had began to give in to father time, and his skills were clearly not the same as the had been years before. The Lakers, however, being loyal to their man offered Kobe the highest salary in the game, meaning at 35 years old, Kobe Bryant was the highest paid player in the NBA.
In his final two seasons Kobe averaged career lows in points, shooting percentage, and minutes played (outside of his first two seasons, which were primarily spent on the bench.) The worst part of the Kobe contract was that it ate up most of the extra money the team had, which could have otherwise been used to sign quality pieces to make the team better. This is best illustrated by showing that the Lakers finished dead last, and second to last in the Western Conference during these two seasons.
Since retiring Kobe has been a busy man. On top of many philanthropic endeavors, as well as dabbling into the music world again, Kobe has, along with his business partner Jeff Stibel, launched Bryant-Stibel, a venture capital firm focused on different businesses including media, data, gaming, and technology, with $100 million in funding.
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