For die hard NBA fans, there is absolutely nothing that makes you want to pull out your hair more than watching an NBA player that throws away their career either due to poor work ethic, a sophomoric attitude, or because of their off the court drama that has nothing to do with basketball careers and resembles more of a high school teenage drama. For us laymen, we have all thought about what we would give up in order to be in the NBA. And trust me, it’s a lot. So, when we see someone that has the God-given talent that most of us do not have, it bothers us.
Most of us are not 6-9, nor can we jump like a gazelle, or run like a marathon runner. Those raw gifts and talents are reserved for a very special segment of the entire world. So, to see a human specimen such as a NBA player, throw away their careers or underachieve in their careers, makes us all shake our heads, and it’s not even so much because we’re disappointed with them, so much as it is a self-centered wondering with what we would have done with that kind of talent.
The NBA has historically been filled with players who have underachieved and thrown away their careers for the most mind-blowing reasons. Just look at Larry Sanders right now on the Milwaukee Bucks. Fresh off of signing a 4-year deal worth $44 million, Sanders has recently thought about leaving the game of basketball entirely, which he is totally entitled to do. But if you are going to be a professional basketball player, you have to earn your paycheck and act professional.
Last year, Sanders was one of the best interior defenders in the NBA. Today, you will find him at the end of the Milwaukee bench. To make matters even worse, Sanders was recently suspended for 10 games for violating the NBA’s drug policies.
What has happened to Larry Sanders is just one of the many examples of players who underachieved, despite having all of the talent in the world. Below is a list of fifteen other players that Sanders could do well to learn from.
15 J.R. Rider
In 1994, J.R. Rider won the slam dunk contest by putting the ball between his legs for a ferocious dunk. These types of dunks make modern people yawn today, but at the time, it was relatively novel. The hope was that winning the dunk contest would propel Rider and his career to Hall of Fame heights. In fact, in only his second year in the league, Rider averaged 20.4 points per game, 3.3 rebounds per game, and 3.3 assists per game, yet his career only lasted nine years. Had the fifth pick in the league, developed his jumper a bit more and stayed in shape a bit better, he would have lasted a lot longer in the NBA.
14 Darius Miles
The 6-9 small forward is still only 33-years-old, but he hasn’t played in the league since 2009. Miles was drafted straight out of high school by the Los Angeles Clippers with the third pick, but only lasted in the league for seven years. During his rookie year, a lot of people pegged him as the next superstar in the league. Unfortunately, that never happened for the super athletic wingman. A part of the problem was injuries, but a bigger part of the problem was that Miles never developed a three-point shot. His best season was in 2005-2006 when he averaged 14.0 points per game, 4.6 rebounds per game, and 1.8 assists per game.
13 Michael Beasley
The second overall pick from the 2008 draft only survived six years in the NBA. The tragic part about Beasley’s career is that the game of basketball came so easy to him. The left-hander even averaged 19.2 points per game, 5.6 rebounds per game, and 2.2 assists per game during his third season in the league. Beasley showed all the signs of emerging as one of the most dominant offensive players in the league, but he just never put it together and went out with a whisper last year, averaging 7.9 points per game and 3.1 rebound per game.
12 Darko Milicic
The number two pick in the 2003 NBA draft was in a very difficult position from the beginning. Sandwiched between LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, Darko was in one of the best drafts of all-time, so the expectations were high for him since he was selected before everyone but LeBron James. The seven footer possessed good size in addition to a soft left hand, so he had all of the great intangibles to be a dominant center. And to his credit, he lasted 10 years in the league, yet because of confidence issues, he only averaged 6.0 points per game and 4.2 rebounds per game.
11 Rasheed Wallace
Why in the world is someone that played 16 years in the league, and was one of the most talented power forwards to ever play in the game, doing on this list? It is because Sheed should not only have been a good player, but he should have been the best power forward of all-time. Sheed is a hybrid of Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan. He can shoot three-pointers and post up on the block. However, because of his volatile attitude and emotional outbursts that cost him technical upon technical, his emotional intelligence levels were not high enough to be the leader that he should have been.
10 Greg Oden
Just thinking about the career of Greg Oden is sad. Selected by the Portland Trailblazers with the number one pick in the 2007 draft (Kevin Durant went second), Oden was dubbed to be the next Shaquille O’Neal. At 7-0 and 273 pounds, Oden had freakish size and athleticism. But knee problems derailed his career and Oden could never shed the injury bug. This led to only three professional seasons for Oden where he played in 61 games, 21 games, and 23 games. The injuries were not Oden’s fault, but nevertheless, the basketball world will never get to know how great he could have been.
9 Derrick Coleman
Charles Barkley once said that Derrick Coleman should have been the best power forward to ever play the game. And a statement like that has some weight to it because Barkley himself was one of the best power forwards to ever play the game. Yet, the number one pick in the 1990 draft never became the type of leader that he needed to be in order to carry a team on his back. His career average was 16.5 points per game, 9.3 rebounds per game, and 2.5 assists per game. If he put up these types of numbers this effortlessly, imagine what his numbers would be like if he had more of a drive to win.
8 Eddie Griffin
The seventh pick in the first round of the 2001 NBA Draft was screaming with potential. In college, he was one of the best shot blockers in the country, yet his 3-point shot enabled him to play small forward in the NBA. Tragically, his career only lasted five years and his best season was during his rookie year when he averaged 8.8 points per game, 5.7 rebounds per game, and 1.8 blocks per game. With his skill set, he could have averaged nearly 20 points per game.
7 Kwame Brown
Selected with the number one pick in the 2001 draft by Michael Jordan himself, there was a lot of pressure put on Kwame, especially because he was the first high school graduate to ever be selected that high. So, it is safe to say that there was a lot of pressure on him from the get-go. Yet, his best season was during his third year, when he averaged 10.9 points per game, 7.4 rebounds per game, and 0.7 blocks per game. He did play 12 seasons in the league, but his numbers never got much better than that.
6 Steve Francis
The second pick in the 1999 draft played nine years in the NBA, but was never able to become the type of point guard that was necessary to flourish in the NBA. During his third season, he averaged a career best 21.6 points per game, 7.0 rebounds per game, and 6.4 assists per game. The main problem with Francis, however, was that he was never able to take his street game out of his professional game. Francis dominated the ball far too often in offensive possessions and he never developed a consistent 3-point shot to make him a threat from the outside.
5 Vin Baker
The eighth pick in the 1993 draft played 13 years in the league and was relatively steady for his first five years. However, in his sixth year, his game began to disintegrate and Baker began to suffer from weight issues. What made Baker so effective, however, was that Baker played like a real big man on the block. He wasn’t shooting 3-pointers, but liked to bang in the paint. Unfortunately, he only liked to bang in the paint when he could score the ball and not necessarily for rebounding which is why he only averaged 10 rebounds twice his entire career.
4 Stephon Marbury
Starbury came out like gangbusters into the NBA. He was the real deal. At 6-2 and 205 pounds, Marbury had size, speed, and explosion. There were virtually no weaknesses to his game. Marbury’s biggest problem was his lack of emotional and mental intelligence. Marbury had some instability off the court, which plagued him his entire career, which is why he bounced around the league and eventually ended up in China.
3 Baron Davis
During his 13 years, Baron Davis tantalized us with his talent. Built like a running back, but with the leaping ability of a high jumper, B-Diddy was the perfect specimen. At 6-3 and 212 pounds, there was nothing that could stop him. In his fifth season, Davis averaged 22.9 points per game, 7.5 assists per game, and 4.3 rebounds per game. Yet, this is something that he could have easily averaged for his entire career had he taken care of his weight issues a little bit better and his shot selection been a bit wiser.
2 Andrew Bynum
The tenth pick by the Los Angeles Lakers was a two-time world champion after his fifth year in the league and the sky was his limit. During the 2011-2012, Bynum averaged 18.7 points per game, 11.8 rebounds per game, and 1.9 blocks per game. Many dubbed Bynum as the best center in the draft for nearly three years. However, due to attitude and knee problems, Bynum was unwanted in Los Angeles, and after his departure from the team, he was never able to get it going again.
1 Lamar Odom
Lamar Odom in many ways was LeBron James before LeBron James. At 6-10, the left hander could legitimately play every position on the floor. He could bring the ball up and he could post on the block. His versatility is what made him so incredibly valuable and what had him drafted fourth overall in the 1999 NBA Draft. But Lamar was plagued by offseason problems for the majority of his 14-year career, which abruptly ended two years ago as a Los Angeles Clipper.