Many of the players in the NBA work their entire life so that they can pursue their dream of playing basketball at the professional level. As a result, many players who retired from the league are able to spend a majority of their lives living off of the interest of the money that they earned during their playing days. Some players, however, burn through their money so fast that they have to pick up normal jobs shortly after hanging up the sneakers.
Of course, some players who make the minimum salary are going to be able to stretch their savings as far as LeBron James, but even the worst player in the league is making at least half a million per season. Normally this low salary is reserved for rookies, but that number is jacked up exponentially when those rookies are drafted in the first round. So when a player is drafted as one of the first 30 picks in the NBA draft, and they don’t live up to the expectations set by their paycheck, they are often looked upon as a bust in the eyes of many fans. And I can only imagine that there is nothing worse than being featured on a magazine cover in 2017 only to be working as a janitor in 2020. Hey, that’s not a shot at janitors either, but I’m sure every janitor in the world wish they had NBA money.
Today we are going to look at 15 draft busts who were forced to get normal jobs after retiring from the NBA. As always feel free to let us know your thoughts in the comments section.
15. LaRue Martin – UPS Executive
Let’s get the big one out the way first. LaRue Martin was drafted with the number one pick by the Portland Trail Blazers in 1972. It’s been nearly five decades, and Martin is still considered by many to be the worst draft bust of all-time. During his four years in the league, the former All-American averaged a minuscule 4.6 rebounds per game, despite standing nearly seven feet tall. Portland passed over eventual Hall of Famer Bob McAdoo to pick up the center, a decision that the organization has lived with ever since. Since he retired, Martin picked up a job as a driver for UPS in Oregon. Martin thrived in an environment with no real pressure and quickly moved up the ranks of the company eventually being promoted to an executive handling community affairs.
14. David Harrison – McDonald’s
In 2004 the Indiana Pacers drafted David Harrison from the University of Colorado with the 29th pick in the NBA Draft. Now being that he was such a late round pick, it’s hard to call him a true bust but on the other hand, a first round pick is a first round pick. Harrison started off shaky after participating in the “Malice at the Palace” scuffle that took place between the Detroit Pistons and Pacers in 2004. Despite being seven feet tall, the palace fight would be Harrison’s greatest highlight, as the former All-American in college barely marked the stat sheet during his four years in Indiana.
Harrison’s contract was not renewed by the Pacers, and since no other teams came knocking, he was forced to get a real job. Harrison began working at McDonald’s after running out of money but has since left the fast food chain to begin work on his mobile app company.
13. Luther Wright – DJ
Many NBA players are able to thrive in their personal lives despite growing up in horrid conditions, while others can never quite adapt to the lifestyle. After being selected by the Utah Jazz with the 18th pick in the 1993 NBA Draft, Luther Wright began a downward spiral in his life. Towards the end of his rookie (and only) season in the NBA, Wright was found at a highway rest stop banging trash cans and causing property damage. Wright was admitted to a mental hospital and was eventually released from the Jazz, with an agreement to have his contract paid out in $153,000 checks over the next 25 years. With that flexibility, Wright is able to do what he wants now, and his passion has led him to music. Though his days are spent as a network coordinator for Cafe Sole, Wright spends his nights spinning records as a DJ.
12. Steve Stipanovich – Purchase Manager
During the 1983 NBA Draft, 13 players were selected before eventual Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler. The first overall pick – Ralph Sampson – gets a pass in the instance, but the number two pick Steve Stipanovich can easily be considered a bust given his career. Stipanovich had a decent rookie year, averaging 12 points and 6.9 rebounds per game which were good enough to warrant an All-Rookie team selection. Stipanovich numbers hovered around his rookie numbers but he was forced to retire due to a knee condition in 1988. There is no doubt that Stipanovich would not be considered a draft bust if his body would have held up, but sadly that is a reality we don’t know.
11. Kelvin Ransey – Pastor
When the Chicago Bulls needed a point guard in 1980, it seemed like a no-brainer to pick up Kelvin Ransey with the fourth overall pick. Ransey put the league on notice after starting all four years at Ohio State, but couldn’t put up the same kind of consistency for the Bulls. As a result, Ransey only spent six years in the league before retiring in 1986 to pursue spreading the message of faith.
When the former All-American returned to his hometown of Toledo, Ohio, Ransey became an ordained pastor. Although he still continues to preach the word today, the player-turned-pastor attempted a comeback in 1990 before officially retiring from the sport of basketball.
10. Dan Dickau – Barber Shop Owner
An often forgotten first round pick, Dan Dickau was grabbed 28th overall by the Sacramento Kings in the 2002 NBA Draft. Dickau wasn’t able to translate his All-American skill set to the league, however, and as a result is remembered as journeyman more than anything else. Dickau spent six years in the league and was traded eight times – two of which took place on draft days – before calling it quits in 2008.
After he retired, Dickau gave coaching a shot for the Trail Blazers, but only served as a player development assistant for one season. In 2013 Dickau opened a barbershop in Spokane called ‘The Barbers’, where he runs the day-to-day operations. It’s not a bad idea; after all, whether the economy is good or bad, hair always grows.
9. Bryant Reeves – Cattle Farmer
There were very few collegiate players who were as intimidating as Bryan “Big Country” Reeves was following his 1995 Final Four appearance. Reeves’ hard work paid off when he was the first ever draft pick of the Memphis (then Vancouver) Grizzlies in 1996. During his first few years with the franchise, Country was able to live up to the hype of being a sixth overall pick by averaging more than 14 points per game in his first three seasons. After signing his contract extension, however, Reeves began gaining weight which led to his stats dropping significantly.
After suffering a debilitating injury during a preseason game, Reeves was forced to retire after only six years in the league. Since leaving the game, Country has lived up to his nickname, purchasing and running a 300-acre cattle farm in Gans, Oklahoma.
8. Jonathan Bender – Inventor
The 1999 NBA Draft produced some great players who had all of the potentials in the world. The number five pick for the Toronto Raptors – Jonathan Bender – instantly caught the eye of fans after being traded to the Indiana Pacers. Bender became the first ever high school draftee to score double digits in the first game of his career. When he was healthy, Bender was one of the most exciting players in the NBA, even competing in the Slam Dunk Contest during the 2001 All-Star break. Unfortunately, Bender’s knees couldn’t handle the pressure of the NBA grind and he played less and fewer games by the time he retired in 2010.
Frustrated at his own injuries, Bender invented the JB Intensive Trainer, which is a rehabilitation device that strengthens knee muscles with no impact on joints. The device has been on shelves since 2013.
7. Shawn Bradley – Politician
Known to most kids from the ‘90s as the really tall guy from Space Jam, Shawn Bradley never lived up to the powerhouse that he should have been. Bradley stunned recruiters when he burst onto the scene in 1989, as 7’6” players didn’t really come around too often. WAC Freshman of the Year eventually settled on playing for BYU, and for the next three years, a debate raged on whether or not Bradley would be successful in the NBA. Detractors claimed that his height, frame and lack of experience would lead to him being a bust; they were right. Bradley was drafted by the 76ers with the second overall pick in the 1993 draft. At the time Bradley signed the biggest contract in Philadelphia sports history, cashing in on an insane $44 million payday. In the end, Bradley just didn’t have the body weight to compete with other giants like Shaquille O’Neal and was more of a spectacle then he was a threat.
6. Chris Washburn – Support Specialist
Chris Washburn is a guy who for the better part of his life made mistakes that haunted him later down the road. While in college on a full scholarship, Washburn was convicted of theft and received five years worth of probation which lasted into his NBA career. When he was drafted third by the Golden State Warriors in 1986, expectations were high for the center but the results never came close. Washburn’s poor play may have to do with the fact that he enjoyed using drugs recreationally, with the center eventually receiving a lifetime ban for failing three consecutive drug tests.
5. Pervis Ellison – Head Coach
Most times when a professional athlete is bestowed with a nickname it is rooted in good fun, usually utilizing wordplay to exploit the name of the player. When Pervis Ellison received the nickname “Out of Service Pervis”, it certainly was no joke. Ellison was highly touted as the next big thing in basketball when he was drafted first overall by the Sacramento Kings in 1989. Unfortunately, like his nickname suggested, Ellison couldn’t remain healthy and as of a result, couldn’t put up the numbers that should be put up by a number one pick. After an 11 year career in the NBA, Ellison called it quits, playing only nine games during his final season with the Seattle SuperSonics.
4. Ed O’Bannon – Car salesman
Former ninth overall pick for the New Jersey Nets Ed O’Bannon is one of the few first round picks to spend more time in college than in the NBA. After entering the league in 1995, O’Bannon spent three forgettable years on the hardwood before leaving the country to play overseas. The former NCAA Champion enjoyed a six-year career playing international ball before returning to the states in 2005. O’Bannon made headlines in 2011 when he filed a lawsuit against the NCAA in regards to the organization using the likeness of players without compensating the students.
3. Sam Bowie – Horse Trainer
Being the most famous NBA bust of all-time can’t be an easy thing to live with, especially when you were picked before the greatest basketball player who ever lived. Had Bowie gone a couple of picks later, it’s unlikely we’re even talking about him today. But Sam Bowie has managed to deal with living in the shadow of Michael Jordan pretty well all things considered. Sure Bowie wasn’t as great as the other players in the 1984 draft class, but he did manage to average over ten points a game for the Blazers.
Since calling it quits, Bowie has taken to being an entrepreneur, starting his own horse training business. He’s been mildly successful with his horses, having won a few races which netted him six figures.
2. Greg Oden – Student
What more can you ask of a number one pick than playing in the NBA Finals for a franchise? Well, maybe in the case of Greg Oden it’s a little bit of a fib to say that he had anything to do with his one NBA Title. After being drafted in 2007 by the Portland Trail Blazers, Oden proved to be as useful as a chocolate teapot for the franchise. Oden was always injured and never played an entire season in the NBA. It wasn’t until he was signed by the LeBron James-led Miami Heat in 2013 that he finally provided some help to a team. The center’s brief stint in Miami would be his last stop in the NBA and has since played overseas, and attempted a comeback with little success.
1. Adam Morrison – Assistant Coach
Adam Morrison is nothing less than a legend at Gonzaga, having won the Division I Scoring Title for the university in 2006. Although Morrison didn’t exactly look like a star physically, many were predicting him to do great things in the NBA when he declared for the draft in 2006. The White Mamba didn’t exactly light the world on fire after being drafted third overall by the Charlotte Bobcats.
It may be unfair to judge Morrison too harshly, as his high selection along with the added pressure of working for Michael Jordan may have been too much for any player to handle. Morrison finished his NBA career never playing a full season due to injury, and never matching his numbers as a rookie. Today Morrison has hung up his sneakers in favor of a whistle, coaching at his former high school in Spokane.
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