Top 15 NBA Stars You Wouldn’t Recognize Today

The glam and the glory that comes with professional sports is staggering. These people are raking in millions, if not tens or hundreds of millions of dollars per contract. The average person would think that money like this could last a lifetime and would change life dramatically compared to the roughly $30,000-$50,000/year salary a good majority of Americans take home. Money like this gives people opportunities that are almost impossible of dreaming without having lived it. The average NBA career is almost five years which provides more than enough time to set these players up for their future.

In addition to the money, most of these athletes are in top physical condition through their playing days. Getting in an exercise routine and working out is almost second nature. They would not be able to make it up and down the court if they weren’t, nor would they make a roster or even be worth the risk of a league minimum salary.

Lastly, everyone ages and transforms, except for maybe Jennifer Lopez. WOW. A different story for a different day. This list is to break down NBA Stars that aren’t the same people that we remember from their glory days lighting up highlight reels. These guys here have lost everything, they have aged poorly, or they have lost weight or more commonly, gained weight. These once star players in their current form, are UNRECOGNIZABLE.

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15 Shawn Kemp

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Does anyone remember NBA Jam? 2v2 Basketball with the biggest and baddest ballers on the planet for Nintendo 64… That game had it all with distance jumpers, finger rolls, oops, solo jams, and best of all, when your player catches FIRE! The Seattle SuperSonics had the Glove (Gary Payton) and Shawn Kemp, who was known to slam and bring the house down when he did. Kemp was 6’10” and 230 pounds. He was the original Blake Griffin, a straight power dunker. Perfect for NBA Jam.

Those were the days for the six time all-star and double double machine. In a different era, I think he would have a ring. But like many others, he played during the Jordan era and it was a shame. Now, Kemp’s once Greek God build has become a bit of a curse. Shawn was big and fit but without the help of NBA training and exercise, Kemp has gotten bigger resembling a puffy version of what he once was. A dominant force in his prime, Kemp now looks as if he could dominate the buffet.. He did do a promotional video for spirit airlines recently, but he was in a Big Bird suit. We miss the Reign Man.

14 Antoine Walker

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For a guy like Antoine Walker, making this list was almost certain. The former NCAA and NBA Champion has always been a guy who has been “big-boned” for lack of a better term. His 6’9 frame with his scoring abilities made Walker a dangerous offensive asset for over 12 seasons in the NBA. However, he couldn’t jump, he wasn’t quick, and his body was unique in the way that he was in shape but almost didn’t look it. He is the recipe for this list.

Shortly after basketball, Walker blew $108 million of his career earnings and now councils young athletes on how to avoid a financial meltdown like his own. Doing some good with his hard learned life lessons is nothing to sneeze at. But, if you were to see Walker on the street, you wouldn’t think that is a guy who averaged almost 18 PPG over his NBA career. He is big and overweight with a head shaped like a peanut. Looking at him is similar to retirement Shaq. At the very least, Walker has the gut to match.

13 Yao Ming

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The recent Hall of Fame Inductee had to make the list at some point. The 7’6 Asian trailblazing hooper was a thin 310 pounds during his playing career, all of which was spent in the city of Houston. Although I hate to admit it, a 19 PPG, 9 RPG, and 2 BLKPG average over a career is impressive. These numbers are a little misleading to me as he only played 9 years, but it was basically 7 with injuries that lasted entire seasons.

Anyway, Yao’s injuries eventually led to an early retirement as the man is 37 and has been out of the league for over five years. The once thin 310 is now a thick 300 and fill in the blank.. It is almost like once some of these guys retire, it is eat, no exercise and blow cash. For Yao, it has only been the weight gain as far as I know. My image of Yao will always be soft and getting posterized by many in the league, especially Shaquille O’Neal. Let’s also not forget how he was completely embarrassed when the 5‘9 Nate Robinson swatted him like a parent teaching a kid a lesson.

12 Patrick Ewing

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If you’ve seen an image of Patrick Ewing since his NBA retirement in 2002, the Hall of Famer has a different look. No more flat-top, no more hair on his head in general for the 11 time All-Star. Known for his thunderous dunks and top tier defensive instincts, Ewing has now taken on the role of an assistant coach on several NBA teams following his retirement. The new suit and the lack of hair throw me for a loop.

His 7 foot tall body looks unfamiliar with the new attire, and even worse, he has to cram that big body onto a bench chair in between about four other coaches on staff. He hasn’t gotten any smaller since he has hung the shoes up, and the lack of flat-top exposes Ewing’s gigantic forehead. I now know why he has rocked the flat-top for so long, the man’s head could have put him on top of the list for the movie “Coneheads” with minimal make-up needed to be cast.

11 Arvydas Sabonis

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Arvydas Sabonis, Liev Schreiber, or Ray Liotta? You tell me… Sabonis has almost transformed his face after retirement into an odd spawn of the three individuals listed above. He has also put on some weight, which seems to be a consistent trend to make this list. Before all of this came about, Arvydas is a unique success story. He was originally drafted in 1986 by Portland, but didn’t come to the NBA until nine years later. He established himself as one of the best European players of all time, and then came to the NBA in 1995.

It was around this time that Shaquille O’Neal was making himself into the Hall of Famer that he is today. Sabonis at 7’3 and 290 pounds was one of the only people who could match the size of O’Neal. The post battles they shared, which were battles in every sense of the word, put Sabonis on the map in terms of American recognition. He was never able to win the big game, but he made sure to beat up Shaq among other big men in the league whenever given the chance. However, don’t let the size fool you. Arvydas was smooth, could finish the rock, and was a skilled offensive player averaging a career of 12 PPG in the NBA. He has passed these skills down to his son Damantas, who currently plays in his rookie season for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Good genes I guess.

10 Spud Webb

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Jerome Webb, more commonly known as “Spud,” turned himself into a household name in the mid-80s. You could break down Spud’s success into two categories; his height and  his ability to throw down! Spud was the proud winner of the 1986 Slam Dunk Competition, against a few NBA high flyers including his Atlanta teammate, Dominque Wilkins.

It is said that Spud basically duped everyone around him before the contest. He had told them he could dunk but didn’t practice anything, nor would his ability to show flash in the air compete with that of Wilkins. Wilkins was shocked as was the rest of the NBA when Spud went up for the first jam and never looked back. Dropping flamboyant dunk after dunk and finishing with two dunks of a maximum possible 50 points each, he took home the hardware. Now, Spud offers his services as a basketball coach but he looks more like a high school wrestler than an Ex-NBA Dunk Champ. His playing weight was 130 pounds and he was chiseled. Now, Webb’s neck seems to have almost disappeared and his figure is like a Russian nesting doll.

9 Charles Oakley

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In the 80s and 90’, you had to be tough to play in the NBA. Whether you were 5’4 like Muggsy Bogues or 7’0 like Robert Parish, you had to hold a level of toughness. Charles Oakley was a guy you wanted on your team during this era. The 6’8 Oakley was the bully on whatever team he played for. He was a recognized rookie with the Bulls through his defense and rebounding abilities, but he basically served at Michael Jordan’s “bodyguard” during his time there as well. If you hit Jordan, he was going to hit you.

This attitude followed Oakley when he was traded to the Knicks in 1988 where he ended up playing the majority of his career, and he was used as a building block to bring the Knicks back into a playoff contending team. Now, over 12 years after his retirement, this once bad dude has gone grey in the hair, lost the flat top, and flashes a suit instead of his physically demeaning stature. He just looks like a nice guy which is strange to say about the bully of the 90s.

8 Adrian Dantley

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What is a guy to do after he leads the NBA in scoring twice at over 30 PPG and earns NBA Rookie of the Year honors as an undersized forward? To some, maybe retire and go on living on some beach or island and taking it easy. Some guys like Magic Johnson make big time investments and business ventures, keeping themselves in the spotlight. Adrian Dantley’s version of retirement is a little bit different.

Dantley is nearing the age of 62 and the man who retired as the NBA’s 9th leading scorer, needs activities to keep him busy. Dantley was on staff as an assistant coach with the Denver Nuggets for eight years but that run came to an end. Now, he looks to get out of the house by refereeing high school basketball games and working as a school crossing guard. When asked about the new gigs, Dantley responded by letting people know that retired NBA players don’t get benefits.

7 Vin Baker

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I have to tip my cap to the quality of person that Vin Baker must be. The guy was down and out and has made consistent efforts to transform that and get himself on the right path. Vin Baker had a lot of success in his time in the NBA but he left even more untapped potential on the table. A career 15 PPG weapon, Baker was more like a 22 PPG guy, but when he would have a bad game, he would drink.. and drink.. and drink.. It got worse as his career went on, posting big numbers in his early years but they dwindled at the start of the millennium.

Once Vin drank himself into a state of uncontrollable weight gain, thus losing his ability to make quality basketball plays, he was out of the league and blew all of his $100 million earned up to that point. Now our boy Vin has been trying to fix it all. He was reported to be working as a barista at Starbucks and working as part of their management program trying to climb the corporate ladder. He is supposedly clean from his substance abuse and attempting to use his troubles to show others what not to do and how to appreciate everything in life.

6 Rik Smits

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The Flying Dutchman has to go down as one of the greatest nicknames to be given out in the NBA. The honorary captain of this name is the 7’4 Rik Smits. Smits spent 12 NBA seasons all with the Indiana Pacers. He averaged 14 PPG and 6 RPG while shooting 50% from the field is a dream for a coach, especially when you can pair him with one of the best shooting guards to play the game in Reggie Miller. Unfortunately for both of these talents, they played in the East in the Jordan era, and that sums that up quick.

Smits is a unique dude. First of all, he is tall. Making guys like Shaquille O’Neal and Dikembe Mutombo look up to you isn’t something that is seen on a regular basis. Next, he rocked his signature mullet full of luscious gold locks for most of his NBA career. And lastly, he has an obsession with dirt bikes. He would be seen collecting/racing/repairing off road vehicles during his career and now, present day. At 52, he is still tall and loves his extreme sports, but there is much less hair, and the aging has begun. If Smits weren’t taller than a skyscraper, picking him out as a smooth NBA player would be quite difficult.

5 Cedric Ceballos

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The name Cedric Ceballos is much more known than you would expect for one time All-Star. The reason being, Ceballos could score. He averaged 15 PPG for his career and twice led the Lakers in scoring with over 21 PPG in the mid-90s. He was a solid forward who could score and rebound, but he would have been a good 2nd man, not your lead role. For his time in L.A., he was that that lead to a certain extent.

The reason he makes it on this list is because at one time Ceballos was lean and bald, rocking only chin hair during much of his playing days and resembling that of Nick Van Exel. Now, Ceballos is a bit older, not so lean and looks more like a Kenan Thompson stunt double than anything else. He may have changed looks wise, but my bashing can only go so far. Ceballos punched in an 11 year NBA career and his date for the 2012 ESPYs was nothing short of gorgeous.

4 Ben Wallace

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The mid-2000s Pistons team was fun to watch growing up. They were a lot like the Spurs, but they were less straight edged. They played as a unit under Larry Brown, taking them to two Finals in two years and winning one of them, among other playoff appearances. At the heart of the team was their four-time defensive player of the year, Ben Wallace.

The undersized center wasn’t going to be your primary scorer or offensive mastermind, but his massive size and leaping abilities made him scary. Listed at 6’9 but claiming 6’7, his blocks were so powerful it would look as if the ball was deflated when given back to the ref for the inbounds pass. If not, he’d put it four rows deep in the stands without hesitation. He had a gift to shut opponents down and they knew the paint was his area. The Pistons retired Wallace’s number in January of 2016, very well deserved. Looking at Wallace during the ceremony was like looking at Hakeem Olujawon’s doppleganger. Ben looked similar, but without his signature afro and headband. He was a different person. The hair is salt-and-pepper and a closely cropped look throws off the image of the championship winning defensive nightmare that is burnt into our memory. Either way, not a bad career for an undrafted kid from Virginia Union no matter how tall he stands.

3 Andrew Bynum

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One of the last remaining true big men, Andrew Bynum was young and successful early. Blessed to land on a team with Kobe Bryant, Bynum won two NBA titles within his first five years in the league. He was a solid piece to compliment Kobe and Pau Gasol, whether it be on defense, scoring or hitting the boards. The powerful talent was supposed to be a centerpiece for the Lakers to rebuild with when Kobe was on his way out, as Bynum was still only 23 when he won his second title.

The plan didn’t follow the track that it was supposed to. Bynum was continually plagued by knee injuries and his team disrupting attitude came into focus. By the end of the 2014 season and taking a roster spot of three other teams within two years, Bynum was out of the league. The 29-year-old had tremendous size and talent, but seemed to lack the tenacity, drive and endurance to put himself in an all-time great conversation. Most NBA players are coming into their most productive years at the age of 29 while Bynum was seen in the stands at the 2016 Finals in Cleveland, with a bleach blonde afro looking more like “Sisqo” than an NBA All-Star/Champion.

2 Donyell Marshall

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The journeyman and quite capable role playing Donyell Marshall sits at number 2. Utilizing the skills that he was born with, Marshall made the most out of his NBA opportunity. Donyell wasn’t very quick, he wasn’t known for his bounce, and he wasn’t a big defensive stopper, but he knew where to be and he had a reliable jumpshot. This made Marshall into a 15 year player averaging over 11 points and 6 boards throughout his career. Before this new age of small ball, Donyell flourished when teammates could drive and dish to him for an open 3 point field goal. With this style of play, Marshall shared the league record for most 3 point field goals made in a game at 12, until Steph Curry dropped 13 of them in a game at the beginning of 2016. Marshall’s mark stood for the greater part of 11 years.

Since the NBA, he has found success as a basketball coach, most recently being named head coach at Central Connecticut University. Huge kudos to a guy who lacked athleticism but made up for it in game IQ. With that being said, what the heck happened? By looking at Donyell, you would have no idea that he played in the league for 15 years. His face is swollen and his right eye is nearly shut to go along with a good helping of additional weight since the NBA. Best wishes to Marshall, hopefully everything from a health standpoint is up to par.

1 Steve Francis

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Turning 40 years of age in 2017, Steve Francis sums up what is means to be virtually unrecognizable. The one-time Rookie of the Year Award Winner has disappeared and in his place stands the skeleton of Stevie Franchise. Life after basketball hasn’t exactly been sunshine and rainbows for our 3 time All-Star.

Drafted 2nd overall in 1999, Francis was loaded with freak athletic talent and an offensive gift. Only standing 6’3”, he could rise with the best of them and score at will averaging nearly 19 PPG over the course of his nine year career. Not only could he score, but he averaged 6 rebounds per game and 6 assists as he could dish the rock with the top tier often providing a great deal of flash. Now, roughly nine years removed from the NBA, our man The Franchise looks like he’s moved onto other “rocks”.

Since the NBA, he has tried to make moves to the Chinese league, however that was short-lived and he ended up making minor earnings from appearance fees around the country. Last we have heard, he was arrested for DWI late in 2016 and was also being looked at for a burglary charge. Tough fall for the video game like talents of Francis.


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