When it comes to a sport like football, it can be hard to accept that you aren’t going to be a star in the NFL. However, there really isn’t any alternative, as heading to Canada or other parts of the world aren’t going to bring much money. That used to be the case in basketball, as well, though it seems that there is a big change going on. As basketball becomes more of a global game, there are leagues popping up all over the world and growing in popularity.
Over the past decade or so, basketball players that get drafted into the NBA are finding themselves with options of becoming larger fish in smaller ponds. Those that never achieved the superstardom that they wanted while in the United States have the option of playing in many different countries with professional basketball leagues now.
So what players fit the bill of NBA Draft flops that ended up turning their careers around overseas? We only selected players that never made an All Star Game while in the NBA (so no Stephon Marbury), and only players that were drafted in the first round, meaning that expectations were high at one point. Here are the top 15 basketball players that failed in the NBA, but found success overseas.
15 Ekpe Udoh
There was a lot of hype surrounding Ekpe Udoh (Pictured Right) when he was coming out of Baylor and had led the Big 12 in blocks. The Warriors made Udoh the sixth overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, but he never really fit in with the resurgent Golden State team. After less than two seasons, Udoh was shipped to Milwaukee, and played most recently with the Clippers in the 2014-15 season. Overall, Udoh would average just 4.0 points and 3.2 rebounds in his NBA career.
For the 2015-16 season, Udoh would join Fenerbahce in Turkey, and has improved his stats dramatically. While he has had minimal time in the league, Udoh has seen his scoring jump to more than 12 points per game with more than five rebounds and two blocks on average. He has also won several individual accolades while in Turkey.
14 Hakim Warrick
Hakim Warrick was a beast at Syracuse that helped his team win the 2003 National Championship. He would then eventually be drafted in 2005 by Memphis with the 19th overall selection, and struggled his rookie season. After putting up some solid seasons following that campaign, Warrick’s scoring averaged dropped back down to single digits starting in the 2009-10 season.
After losing playing time, Warrick went overseas for the 2013-14 season to play in China. He has also followed that up with trips to Turkey, Australia and now Greece. Warrick won the NBL’s Best Sixth Man Award in 2016 during a season where he averaged more than 14 points per game. In 2017, Warrick signed with Leones de Ponce in Puerto Rico to join fellow American Eric Dawson.
13 Sergio Rodriguez
There have been many foreign players that have been drafted into the NBA, with a wide range of success. One that didn’t quite make it big in the United States was Sergio Rodriguez, a Spaniard that was drafted 27th overall by Phoenix in 2006. Rodriguez played for four seasons, never averaging more than 6.6 points and 3.3 assists per game. In 2010, he headed back to Spain to play with Real Madrid.
Rodriguez found a lot of success in his home country, earning the EuroLeague MVP Award in 2014, winning a title in 2015 and being named to three All-ACB teams. Apparently, he was able to catch the attention of the NBA once again as he was brought back by the 76ers in the summer of 2016. Though he is technically having his best season so far, it’s safe to say he was better with Real Madrid.
12 Shelden Williams
The All-American from Duke was known for his stout defense while in college, winning two Defensive Player of the Year Awards. For that reason, Shelden Williams (Pictured Taking Selfie) was drafted fifth overall by Atlanta in 2006. Williams would end up playing in the NBA for six seasons, finding his way onto the roster of seven different teams. During that time, Williams averaged just 4.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.
Williams left the United States in 2012 to join Elan Chalon in France, and then joined the Tianjin Gold Lions the next year. Williams more than doubled his scoring while in the EuroLeague, averaging more than 11 points and seven rebounds per game. He didn’t quite have the accolades that Rodriguez had overseas, but the stats certainly improves for Williams away from the NBA.
11 Josh Childress
Stanford doesn’t get many big NBA prospects, but that wasn’t the case in 2004 when the Cardinal had Josh Childress. Childress was a standout that was taken with the sixth overall pick by the Hawks that year, and he had a solid rookie campaign with 10.1 points and 6.0 rebounds per game. However, those numbers would never improve drastically over the next four years, and Childress took his game overseas.
Childress landed in Greece to play for Olympiacos Piraeus, where he was an All-EuroLeague player that won the Greek Cup. Childress returned to the United States after two years, but his numbers and playing time dropped even farther. He then left again to join the Sydney Kings, where he was a 2015 All-NBL First Team selection. Now, Childress is playing in Japan for SAN-EN NeoPhoenix.
10 Hilton Armstrong
Hilton Armstrong was one of the members of the 2004 UConn Huskies team that won the National Championship, and he would enter the NBA Draft two years later. There, he was selected 12th overall by New Orleans. Hilton struggled while in the NBA, never averaging more than 4.8 points or 2.8 rebounds per game in a season. After bouncing around several teams, Armstrong went overseas in 2011.
Armstrong has played with a few different teams while overseas, and had a nice showing in the Eurocup with ASVEL Basket in France with more than 10 points per game. Armstrong has returned to America a couple of times to join the D-League and the Golden State Warriors, though he is back overseas now with the Chiba Jets in Japan.
9 Mouhamed Sene
A seven footer from Senegal, there was a lot of potential for Mouhamed Sene to achieve big things in the NBA. The SuperSonics took the prospect with the 10th overall selection in 2006, though he played in just 46 games with the franchise (including their move to Oklahoma City). Sene would end his NBA career in the 2008-09 season with one game as a Knick, ending with a total of 2.2 points and 1.6 rebounds per game.
Since then, Sene has played for several different teams both abroad and in the United States, though his best year came in 2010 when he was named an All-Star in the LNB Pro A league. Sene also won a bronze medal at the FIBA African Championship with Senegal, and last played for the D-League’s Austin Spurs in 2016.
8 Jason Thompson
In 2008, the Sacramento Kings made Jason Thompson the 12th overall selection out of Rider. The former MAAC Player of the Year was solid in his first two seasons with double-digit scoring, though his stats would actually diminish as he was supposed to enter his prime. After several seasons in the NBA and three different teams, Thompson ended his NBA career with 8.9 points and 6.6 rebounds per game.
Thompson headed to China this past year to play for the Shandong Golden Stars, and has been a standout since then. In the 2016-17 season, Thompson is averaging nearly 19 points per game while hauling in nearly 14 rebounds per game. He is also one of the best blockers, leading his team with 1.2 blocks per game.
7 Rafael Araujo
Rafael Araujo is a Brazilian native that made his way to Utah for college, attending BYU. In 2004, the Raptors selected Araujo with the eighth overall pick, though he would spend just three seasons in the league (including one with Utah). In those three seasons, Araujo would average just 2.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 0.3 assists per game. He decided that it was time to head overseas, and played professionally from 2007 to 2014.
Araujo made many different stops outside of the United States, including Spartak Saint Petersburg, Flamengo, France and Pinheiros. The highlights of Araujo’s overseas career came from a backboard shattering dunk in 2011, as well as an NBB Championship in 2009 when he was playing with Flamengo in his native Brazil.
6 Josh Boone
Josh Boone is another member of the 2004 UConn Huskies National Championship team to make our list. Boone was the 23rd overall selection by the Nets in 2006, and he would average just 4.2 points per game in his rookie season. It looked like Boone improved tremendously in his second year, but then his numbers took a steep drop for his third and fourth seasons, which would be his final ones in the league.
Boone left the NBA in 2010 and has been playing overseas and in the D-League ever since. Boone has found success in many of his stops, including the Bahraini Premier League where he won a title. In 2016, Boone led the entire VTB United League in rebounds while he was Khimki. Now, Boone is in Hong Kong, playing with the Eastern Long Lions.
5 Jordan Farmar
Jordan Farmar had some varying success while playing in the NBA, though his time of being considered an average player was very short. Farmar was the 26th overall pick out of UCLA by the Lakers in 2006, and won two rings while with the team. Farmar played for a total of five teams and nearly 10 seasons in the league, averaging 7.7 points and 2.9 assists per game over that time.
Farmar made a few stops overseas in his career, including two with Maccabi Tel Aviv. In his first stint, Farmar averaged better than 14 points per game, and then signed a contract with Anadolu Efes in 2012 where he averaged 13.8 points per game. Farmar would eventually return to the NBA before heading back overseas one more time.
4 Yi Jianlian
After the excitement surrounding Yao Ming, there was a lot of hype for Yi Jianlian, another seven footer from China. Yi was selected with the sixth overall pick by the Bucks in 2007 after having played for the Guangdong Southern Tigers. After five seasons and four teams while in the NBA, Yi averaged just 7.9 points and 4.9 rebounds per game, never really living up to the hype.
In 2011, Yi would rejoin his former Chinese squad for a brief period, and then returned in 2012. Yi has played with Guangdong ever since, and has had a lot of success to this day. Overall, Yi has been named an All-Star in the CBA nine times, while also winning four titles and MVP Awards (and another two Finals MVP Awards).
3 Jan Vesely
The sixth overall pick seems to be cursed when it comes to this list, and our next player is no exception. Jan Vesely is a seven footer from the Czech Republic that was selected in that spot back in 2011 by the Wizards. Vesely spent just three years in the NBA, including a short stint with the Nuggets. Overall, Vesely averaged 3.6 points and 3.5 rebounds per game, heading overseas in 2014.
Since then, Vesely has played with Fenerbahce in Turkey, where he has been a standout. In 2016, Vesely led his team to the Turkish Cup and Turkish League Championship, earning All-EuroLeague First Team honors in the process. Vesely has also been selected as an All-Star in the past two years, and looks to have a long career ahead of him in Turkey.
2 Patrick O’Bryant
Another seven footer that never found his stride in the NBA, Patrick O’Bryant was once the ninth overall pick out of Bradley by the Golden State Warriors. O’Bryant would also spend time with the Celtics and Raptors over four NBA seasons, averaging just 2.1 points and 1.4 rebounds per game. Since leaving the NBA in 2010, O’Bryant has played for seven different teams outside of the United States, including three stints with Taiwan Beer (yes, that’s a real team).
O’Bryant had a solid season in 2012 while with Indios de Mayaguez in Puerto Rico as he was named the Defensive Player of the Year as the team won the league title. O’Bryant had another solid season in 2016 with Taiwan as the team won the championship and O’Bryant won the Finals MVP Award.
1 Jimmer Fredette
There was a lot of debate on whether or not BYU product Jimmer Fredette would find success in the NBA. Fredette was the 10th overall selection by Sacramento in 2011, and he played for a total of four teams in five NBA seasons. Overall, Fredette would average 6.0 points, 1.4 assists and 1.0 rebounds per game. Seeing the writing on the wall, Fredette decided to go overseas to become a star.
Now, Fredette is arguably the best player in all of China as a member of the Shanghai Sharks. In 2017, he was a CBA All-Star and International MVP as he became a scoring machine. Fredette’s biggest game came when he scored 51 points in November 2016, and he averaged nearly 38 points per game in the 2016-17 season. It seems that Fredette has finally found the right spot for his talents.