For as long as I can remember, my dream was always to play in the NBA. And as a young kid growing up in America, I was indoctrinated with the idea that I could be whatever I wanted to be when I grew up. I just had to work hard and keep dreaming. This dream is really what makes America so great. It’s what makes us the best country in the world. This idea that I could be whatever I wanted to be permeated from the media, in Hollywood, on American Idol, and even from athletes. Kevin Garnett said it best after he won his first championship, “Anything is possible!”
Indeed, it is…if you are 7 feet tall, run like a gazelle, and shoot better than most college shooting guards.
For the rest of the world, we do the best that we can with what we have, and that may mean doing something that we never dreamed we ever would. While my teammates in high school were seemingly defying gravity year after year and shooting way north of 6 feet tall, I was stuck at a paltry 6-1.
Six foot one is like being seven foot one for most Asian Americans, but in the basketball world, a 6-1 shooting guard in the NBA is more rare than a unicorn frolicking in Times Square. I love basketball and I would give up almost anything to be a NBA player, but even my 10,000 hours on the basketball court was not going to be enough. I was barely good enough to even play high school ball.
So, when you see someone with superior height, long arms, and natural athleticism included in the 1% that actually makes the NBA, you root for them. You want them to get what you didn’t get. You want them to make the most of however long their careers last. And statistically speaking, the average NBA career is only 4.8 years long.
Unfortunately, the chosen few that are lucky enough to make it to the NBA, do not always make the most out of their golden opportunity. Instead they take their gold and turn it into dust. The following players took their blessed careers and cursed it with their off the court problems and on the court histrionics.
15 Javaris Crittenton (2007-2009)
On January 27th, 2010, Crittenton and Arenas were suspended for the year for violating the NBA’s policy on firearms. Apparently, Arenas and Crittenton brought guns to the locker room and foolishly pulled them out on one another. The reason? Gambling. One of them owed the other a significant amount of money and because they could not settle the amount, they tried to settle the dispute like cowboys. He was released after the suspension and never made it back into the NBA.
14 Stephen Jackson (2000-2014)
Stephen Jackson’s story early on was one of the success stories in the NBA. Jackson jumped around the world before finally landing a gig with the New Jersey Nets in 2000. A year later, he was on the San Antonio Spurs and became a world champion. However, his participation at the Malice at the Palace and his ego eventually led to him playing for seven different teams over the next ten years. Even his old team, the San Antonio Spurs, waived him right before the playoffs. After that, he played nine games for the Los Angeles Clippers and he never played again.
13 Antoine Walker (1996-2008)
By all accounts, Antoine Walker had a decent career. He is still known for having the best shimmy ever. But Walker’s career was cut short at the young age of 31. In 2009, Walker’s off the court problems began to surface more and more. He was cited for a DUI and was $800,000 deep in gambling debts. And just one year later, Walker lost all of his money and filed for bankruptcy with an excess of $12.7 million in debt. Walker tried to make a return to the league through the D-League, but it was too late by then. Today, Walker is a motivational speaker who tells others not to fall into the same trap that he once did – a tragic, but redemptive story.
12 Lamar Odom (1999-2013)
In many ways, Lamar Odom was the left-handed LeBron James. He could do it all. He could play point guard and he could play center. He was a legitimate nightmare for people to guard. However, the nightmare that Odom regularly caused others eventually turned on himself. His father’s substance abuse problems are well documented, but Odom also suffered from substance abuse himself. This eventually led to Odom’s marriage with Khloe Kardashian falling apart, which was exasperated that much more because their marriage was on full display on a reality tv show.
11 Metta World Peace (1999-2014)
Metta World Peace played 15 years in the NBA. By no means was that a failure. He was even an All-Star in 2004 and won a Championship in 2010. However, it’s not what Metta World Peace did, but what he didn’t do. Metta could have had a Hall of Fame career had his emotional intelligence levels been higher at a younger age. His participation in the Malice at the Palace brawl in 2003 and his other off the court theatrics, however, sealed his fate from the Hall. It’s a big blemish on what otherwise would’ve been a very good career.
10 Allen Iverson (1996-2010)
Is there any one player more polarizing than Allen Iverson? Iverson is still the most beloved athlete in Philadelphia. He left his heart and soul on the court every time he played. The only problem is that he didn’t leave it on the practice floor. For Iverson, basketball came way too easy to him, so it eventually became something he was entitled to instead of something that he deserved. Eventually, Iverson was charged with every possible thing that you could imagine, from abducting his own children who were under the custody of his former wife, to his cancerous relationship with his head coach Larry Brown, to his drinking and gambling problems.
9 DeShawn Stevenson (2000-2013)
When Stevenson was a rookie, he was accused and convicted of sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl when he was 20-years-old. Later on in Stevenson’s career, he was also arrested for public intoxication. Stephenson was a serviceable player in the NBA, but his off the court problems really led him to be a headache for the teams that he played for. His best season came in 2003/04, when he averaged 11.4 points per game to go along with 3.7 rebounds per game. Not enough to be worth the headaches.
8 Michael Beasley (2008-2014)
The former number two pick from 2008 is already out of the league and playing in China. Who would have thought that Beasley’s NBA career would only last 6 years when he was drafted? No one denies the talent that Beasley has. That is partly why Beasley even lasted six years in the league. Most teams would have given up on a player like Beasley had he not been so talented. But it has gotten to the point where desperate teams don’t even want to take a gamble on Beasley anymore.
7 Delonte West (2004-2012)
It is hard to say whether or not Delonte is at fault for his off the court rumors or if his bi-polar personality is to blame. No one knows for sure how serious West’s bi-polar issues are, but if they are serious, it is hard to blame someone for having such a complex and paradoxical personality. On the other hand, playing basketball is a public job that requires a high amount of professionalism, which is something that West struggled with early on in his career.
6 Shawn Kemp (1989-2003)
Yes, the Reign Man was a six-time All-Star, but his career took a major nosedive after he was traded from the Seattle Supersonics to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Why was he traded? The Reign Man didn’t like the long-term contract that he signed with the Sonics, so he wanted to re-structure his contract. Unfortunately, the Sonics were not willing to oblige. A couple years later, Kemp was in the midwest, struggling with weight issues and substance abuse.
5 Dennis Rodman (1986-2000)
How does a Hall of Fame player end up on this list? Rodman won five NBA Championships, was NBA Defensive Player of the Year twice, and he’s led the league in rebounding seven times. And yet, his career was stunted by his off the court problems with alcohol, gambling, women, and family troubles. This really prevented Rodman from being even better than he could have been.
4 Latrell Sprewell (1992-2005)
Latrell will always be remembered for how he finished his career, and not how he began his career. But believe it or not, the beginning of his career was even worse than the end. On December 1st, 1997, Trell choked his head coach, P.J. Carlesimo, during practice when he was with the Warriors. He was subsequently suspended for the year and his $23.7 million contract was terminated. And then there was the whole incident where he rejected a multi-year contract because it was not enough to feed his kids. What Trell did not know is that this would be the last contract he would ever be offered.
3 Gilbert Arenas (2001-2012)
When the Hibachi got hot, nobody could cool him down. Gilbert shot 3-pointers like they were free throws, but his lack of maturity off the court was what got him into trouble. In 2010, Arenas stored unlicensed guns in his locker room and pulled them out on his teammate, who we discussed earlier in this list. Arenas was subsequently suspended for the rest of the year and was in and out of the NBA after that event, until he eventually called it quits in 2012.
2 Len Bias (1986)
The number two pick in the 1986 NBA Draft was drafted by the Boston Celtics and was deemed to be the next Michael Jordan. In college, Bias was a lethal weapon offensively and really had no weaknesses to his game. However, less than two days after the draft, Bias died from a drug overdose. Reports say that Bias died from a cardiac arrhythmia from overdosing on cocaine. And sadly, the world would never know how good Bias could have been if he had put on a NBA jersey.
1 Jayson Williams – (1990-1999)
Jayson Williams was initally a first round pick of the Philadelphia 76ers in 1990. Williams was on the up and up as one of the premier centers in the NBA, while he was playing with the New Jersey Nets. And then his life took on a tragic turn. In 2002, Williams was connected with the fatal shooting of his chauffer. This led to Williams spending two years in jail and the end of his NBA career.
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