Sports do a great job of providing one hit wonders. Any athlete can have a single great game, a month of great games, a whole season, or maybe they shine only in the post-season. For whatever reason, guys who are perennial bench-warmers and journeymen sometimes find the right formula to suddenly put something great together.
But modern day sports is a “win now” game, and whether you’re throwing a pig-skin down the field or shooting a ball in a hoop, you need to be consistently good or you’re going to end up out of your league before you have a chance to be a one hit wonder.
The NBA more so than any other league is a great example of this. The league is built on star power, personalities, off the court brands, and player ego. How famous you are is almost as important, if not more important, than how much you actually win or how good you are. In that kind of environment, it can be hard to make a name for yourself and even harder to maintain that fame.
There have been plenty of one hit wonders who at least live on in “one hit wonders” lists or “biggest draft busts” list, but whatever about the guys that time forgot? What about the NBAers who were for a brief time considered really damn good, but faded away in the blink of an eye without a trace? What happens when the only thing someone is good at is taken away from them, when their fame and fortune is stripped away and they remain a forgotten phantom in a sport that’s growing in popularity the world over?
Let’s take a look at the Top 15 NBAers who Faded in a Hurry and try to answer some of these questions.
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15 Andrew Goudelock
Andrew Goudelock, the pride of the College of Charleston, was given the name “Mini Mamba” by the Mamba himself, Kobe Bryant. Bryant isn’t one to just give out nicknames, let alone his own, to teammates, so that should be enough indication of how good Goudelock was with the Lakers.
Scoring just 4.4 PPG in his rookie season in ‘11-‘12, Goudelock was sent to the D-League. But he was called up for the playoffs the following season and lit it up, including a huge 20 point game.
However, despite the Lakers troubles and lack of talent since then, Goudelock was cut and has since made his way to Europe. He now plays for a powerhouse Turkish team, Fenerbahce Ulke, where he’s broken several records and was named League MVP and the championship one year. Yet miraculously, he’s still back not in the NBA.
14 Derek Anderson
Derek Anderson is one of only a handful of basketballers who won an NCAA and NBA championship. He was the 13th pick in the ’97 NBA Draft, so it’s not like he was a bench warming at Kentucky who got lucky.
In his third year in the NBA, his first and only with the Clippers, he was one of the stars of the team and league with 16.9 PPG, and the following season with the Spurs he started all 82 games and averaged 15.5 PPG. However, after that, he suddenly faded from the spotlight, becoming a mediocre player and eventually a backup.
He won a ring with the Heat in 2006 riding the bench and was out of the league after 2008. Nowadays, he’s still trying to sell his autobiography, Stamina, and apparently has started writing film scripts.
13 Mark Madsen
Mark Madsen is perhaps best known for his weird dances after the Lakers won their Championships in 2001 and 2002. He was a hard working guy, selected 29th overall in the 2000 Draft. He worked hard and made the team, but only played in a handful of games his rookie career, only averaging 2 PPG. In 2003, he started just 22 games and averaged 3.2 PPG.
This is the same team that wouldn’t keep Goudelock after dropping 20 in a playoff game.
Madsen celebrated the wins by doing what any white guy in the NBA would do: dance badly on national television. After dancing his way out of LA after the 2003 season, Mark “Mad Dog” Madsen found a home in Minnesota warming the bench and he was forgotten in a matter of days.
12 Jerome James
James was drafted in the second round by the Kings in 1998, but due to the lockout that year, he played for the Harlem Globetrotters instead. The following season he made his debut, where he played 16 games and averaged 1.5 PPG. He was promptly let go in the offseason and played in Montenegro before signing with the SuperSonics.
His four years in Seattle were mediocre at best and he spent most of the time warming the bench. But in his final season with the team, he started all 82 games and the team made the playoffs. It was during these playoffs in 2005 that James lit it up. He averaged 12.5 PPG and 6.8 RPG beating the Kings and nearly taking out the Spurs.
During the offseason, James signed a huge $30 million deal with the Knicks, where he started just 20 games in four years and never averaged more than 3 points a season. James’s signing has gone down as one of the biggest mistakes in NBA history.
11 Eldridge Recasner
Eldridge Recasner was a nobody in the NBA and the world of basketball. He was undrafted out of Washington in 1990 and drifted around in the Continental Basketball Association and Europe for six years before getting a shot at the NBA.
He got his shot in the NBA, kind of, when he signed a 10 day contract with the Denver Nuggets and played in just three games. The following year, he signed with the two-time defending champs, the Houston Rockets, and actually beat out Sam Cassel and Kenny Smith for the starting point guard position. In one of his early starts, he scored 15 points against the Pistons, draining five of six three point shots in the fourth.
It didn’t last long though and Recanser started only 27 games before getting benched. It was his only year in Houston and he became a journeymen after that, never staying at one place for more than three years.
10 Andrew Bynum
When Andrew Bynum came into the league in 2005, all anybody saw was upside and potential. Sure he was already a good player, but the focus had been on how good he could be in the future. Since he was drafted by the historic Lakers, and because he had Kobe Bryant to lead him, there was no way Bynum could fail to realize that potential.
But he did fail, hard. He didn’t have the proper work ethic and he was never anything more than failed potential, until his final year in LA, where he averaged 18.7 PPG in the ‘11-‘12 season. Finally it looked like he broke through and made it, until injuries derailed his career.
He left the Lakers after that season and went to Philadelphia, but he never played a single game for them because he refused proper treatment for his injured knees, and they were getting worse. After traveling around for a few years with the Cavs and Pacers, Bynum now finds himself out of a job entirely.
9 Richard Dumas
Not many people remember Richard Dumas, but when he entered the NBA in 1992, he was all upside. His rookie year showed he had potential and it looked like he was going to be a star. In 1993, he played a big part in bringing the Suns to the championship game, and he forced a game six by scoring 25 points, outperforming Charles Barkley’s terrible night.
Then Dumas was suspended the entire ’93-’94 season for drug use, and would go on to play just two more miserable years in the NBA before getting kicked out of the league for good. As part of the condition for coming back, Dumas had to undergo daily drug-testing. Despite this, the Suns gave him a massive contract extension worth $9 million over five years. But he couldn’t take the constant test and ran away on vacation one day without telling anyone in the Suns organization.
After a brief stint with the 76ers, he traveled around in Europe for several years, never staying in any one place for too long and always getting in trouble with the law.
8 Marvin Webster
Marvin Webster was one of those lunch pail kind of guys who managed to become a fan favorite despite not doing much for his team. He earned the nickname “The Human Eraser” for his ability to block shots, but makes this list because of his one-time offensive prowess.
Webster took the 1978 Seattle Supersonics to the NBA Finals and almost single-handedly beat the Washington Bullets. In Game 1 he scored 17 points and then scored 27 in Game 7. He averaged over 16 points throughout the playoffs and snagged 13.1 rebounds per game.
He seemingly came out of nowhere, as a third year, lukewarm defensive player putting up ridiculous stats. He left Seattle after his only season there, signing a huge deal with the Knicks, where he averaged 6 points per game and at least continued to be a decent blocker.
His career was ended by hepatitis and he died in 2009 due to coronary artery disease, the year after the Sonics left Seattle for Oklahoma City.
7 Harold Miner
The original “Baby Jordan” was never great, but he carried himself with a certain flair. He also won the 1993 and 1995 Slam Dunk Contests which vaulted him to a kind of stardom in certain NBA circles. That’s the extent of his career in a nutshell, really.
He only played four seasons, three with the Heat and one with the Cavaliers, and he was little more than a decent scorer. He was able to find a place for himself as one of the all-time best dunkers in NBA history, but no one remembers him as a player.
These days, Miner doesn’t really do much. He’s still living off the $20 million he made dunking in the NBA, and is not in the witness protection program or working at Jack in the Box as some rumors suggest.
6 Pervis Ellison
Depending on whom you ask, Pervis Ellison is one of the worst draft picks in NBA history. Compared to who he was picked ahead of (Glen Rice, Shawn Kemp and Tim Hardaway), it’s hard to argue.
He was chosen #1 overall by the Kings out of Louisville after winning a national title and being named Most Outstanding Player in his freshman year. He earned himself the nickname “Never Nervous Pervis,” which isn’t a great nickname but is better than the alternatives. By the time he was out of the NBA, that name became “Out of Service Pervis,” due to his injuries.
He won Most Improved Player of the Year award in 1992, but it would be his only good season. He became a journeyman and drifted around the NBA for 12 years before retiring in 2000. Nowadays, he coaches basketball at the Life Center Academy in New Jersey.
5 Tyus Edney
Tyus Edney was drafted in 1995 in the second round out of UCLA. There, he lead his team to the playoffs and his late game heroics made him a legend in college basketball. Sadly, his skills didn’t translate to the NBA.
He spent only two years with the Kings. His rookie year was his best when he started 60 games and averaged 10.8 PPG and 6.1 assists. However, he was replaced in his second season and barely played. He left Sacramento in 1997 and drifted around Europe, occasionally making pit stops with the Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers.
According to former UCLA teammate Ed O'Bannon, Edney was wildly popular in Europe, comparing him to Michael Jordan. He might have left the NBA early, but at least he still had a chance to play, something many others on this list don’t get to say.
4 Yao Ming
Yao Ming burst out of Shanghai like a man processed, determined to push basketball in his country by himself if need be. In the early 2000s, the NBA wasn’t much of a global game and it certainly didn’t have as many roots in China. But from 1999 to 2002, one kid in China playing basketball caught the eyes of his country and the NBA.
The Rockets selected Yao first overall in 2002, making Ming the first international player taken number one without ever playing college basketball in the US. He made the Rockets better right away and turned the NBA into the hottest sports league in China. All from a guy no one heard about in the US until he was drafted.
However, the brightest flame always burns the quickest and after a few years, Ming succumbed to injuries. His last three seasons were plagued by knee and foot injuries, and he only played in five games his last year in 2010.
His technically eight year career might sound like a lot, but considering his level of talent and the sheer amount of injuries over that career, Ming should have played longer and won a lot more games. These days, Ming lives a quiet life in the rural outskirts of Shanghai and is all but forgotten here in the states.
3 Matt Maloney
Matt Maloney was never a star and he was never going to be after going undrafted in 1995 out of Vanderbilt. He spent two years in the CBA before making it to the Houston Rockets, a team loaded with future Hall of Famers like Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Clyde Drexler.
Incredibly, the small town, undrafted kid eventually became a starter his first year with the team, starting all 82 games in 1996/97, and the team went all the way to the Western Conference Finals. There were even a few games in which he led the team, including one game where he scored 27.
After starting the entire 1998 season, Maloney was replaced and he became a backup for a year before drifting around the NBA for three more years. It’s amazing to think someone can break an all-star lineup as an undrafted rookie in the NBA, lead his team in scoring in the playoffs, and then be out of the league a few years later. That’s the NBA for you.
2 Troy Hudson
Before Jeremy Lin, “T-Hud” was known as the biggest one hit wonder in NBA history. In the 2002-2003 season, the undrafted journeymen playing for the Timberwolves (his fourth team in six years) was having a great season. Averaging more than 14 PPG and 5.7 APG, Hudson was having a career year. He even managed to take to the team to the playoffs, averaging 23.5 PPG in the first round versus the Lakers. Remember, this was when the Lakers were really good.
Hudson had always been a good backup, but he came out of nowhere and earned a starting role in 2002 for the Timberwolves. After the season, he went right back to the bench like it never happened, starting just one game the following year.
He spent a few years on the bench in Minnesota before finishing his career in Golden State, and never even got close to the numbers he put up in ’02-’03. He came out of retirement in 2012 to play in the D-League, but re-retired again a few months later due to injuries.
1 Jeremy Lin
Yes, yes, he’s still in the NBA, technically. You could easily argue he’s not, since it's not like he’s doing much.
Breaking out onto the scene with the New York Knicks in 2012, “Linsanity” swept the nation. Lin was lighting the league up midway through the season, dropping 30 and sometimes 40 points a night like it wasn’t no thing. He truly came out of nowhere, because he had been on the team all season and played several games before that. But all of a sudden, in just 25 starts, he became the best player on a terrible team and an MVP candidate.
Doing what any sane person would do, he left the Knicks as quickly as he could and joined the Rockets, who are turning up a lot in this article it seems. Lin’s two years in Houston were okay, but he wasn’t nearly as good as he was in New York. He eventually found his way to the Lakers, where he fell off the map completely, starting just 30 games and averaging only 11 PPG.
He was traded to the Hornets this offseason (which surely won’t help him) and one day while trying to get into the facility, he was stopped by security because they didn’t recognize him. He had to convince them he was a player and that he belonged there. That sums up Lin’s meteoric fall pretty well.
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