It’s the secret fear of just about every young athlete that they might end up being a disappointment. While even making it to the NBA is an impressive accomplishment, everyone who enters the association knows that their legacy is ultimately going to be defined by what they do while they are there. It’s why some of college basketball’s all-time greatest players are remembered as busts, while players who nobody had never heard of before they made a name for themselves in the NBA are thought to be the greatest basketball players of all-time. It’s a rough deal.
Above all, these disappointing players are remembered as disappointing draft picks. That’s the last time many fans remember them being stars and the moment they go back to when they wonder what could have been. What happened to these players after draft night is pretty well-documented, but what sometimes gets lost is the story of what happened to them after they stepped away from the biggest court in the world. Fans may remember these players as disappointments, but is that really what they ultimately turned out to be? That’s the question you’ll have to answer as you take a look at what the top 15 worst NBA Draft picks of the ‘90s are up to now.
15 Derrick Coleman
With the first overall pick of the 1990 NBA Draft, the New Jersey Nets selected Syracuse’s Derrick Coleman. The results were mixed. Coleman was an All-Star in 1994 and is one of only three players in NBA history to get 20 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, five steals, and five blocks in the same game, but most of his career was filled with mediocre games and general disappointment.
14 Marc Macon
Marc Macon was a highly prized shooting guard going into the 1991 NBA Draft, and the Denver Nuggets thought they got him for a steal with the eighth overall pick. They only kept Macon for two seasons, however, before shipping him off to Detroit. Regardless of where he played, Macon was just unable to get it done as a scorer. He averaged just under seven points a game in his career and missed entire seasons due to injuries. He bounced around some non-NBA teams for a few years before settling in as a coach at Temple in 2003.
13 Bobby Hurley
Bobby Hurley was a beloved member of the Duke basketball team from 1989-1993. As a point guard, he helped that squad get to the Final Four a shocking three times and was a member of their 1991-92 national championship teams. He still is the all-time NCAA assists leader and one of the greatest college basketball players ever. That success did not translate to the NBA where Hurley continuously came up short in five seasons of play.
12 Shawn Bradley
The 7-foot-6 Shawn Bradley is one of the tallest men to ever compete in the NBA. Before making it there, however, Bradley made a name for himself as a standout star at BYU where he regularly put up triple-doubles and was a machine when it came to blocking. In era of big men NBA players, he was thought to be a sure thing. Unfortunately, Bradley was never able to carry his scoring and rebound numbers to the pros, even though his block totals remained excellent. Still, he was able to finally contribute to a winning team as a member of the Dallas Mavericks. He retired in 2005.
11 Sharone Wright
Sharone Wright’s name has slipped through the cracks of NBA history as of late, but in 1994, the kid was a big deal. He was an incredible power forward for Clemson during his four years collegiate career and was thought so highly of that the 76ers eagerly took him with the 6th overall pick in the 1994 NBA Draft. He spent four years in Philadelphia but, despite a pretty good rookie season, he just couldn’t consistently generate the kind of numbers that are expected of a top-10 pick. Eventually, Wright was picked up by Toronto, but a car accident he suffered would hinder his career.
10 Doug Smith
If you want to follow the career of Doug Smith, you’ve got to do some digging. In fact, Doug Smith has fallen off the radar so much in recent years that you would almost have no idea that he is one of the greatest players in University of Missouri history and even had his number retired there. The Dallas Mavericks took him with the number six pick in the 1991 draft, and he spent four seasons with the team before he was eventually let go due to underperformance. His subsequent season with the Celtics didn’t go much better, and Smith was out of the NBA entirely after the 1996 season.
9 Ed O'Bannon
Ed O’ Bannon was the starting power forward for the UCLA Bruins when they won their national championship in 1995. He achieved legendary status at the school thanks to performances such as his 30 point/17 rebound performance in the 1995 championship game. Incredibly, he would only spend two seasons in the NBA after being drafted by the Nets in 1995. Poor performance was certainly a factor in that, but the rumor was that O’Bannon just lost his passion for the game after a west coast team failed to draft him. Add some injuries to that, and you’ve got a player that was just never going to make it.
8 Joe Smith
Besides being the name an uninspired writer might give to a character in a moment of desperation, Joe Smith was also the name of a somewhat uninspiring basketball player taken with the number one pick in the 1995 NBA Draft. The Golden State Warriors thought that high school star Joe Smith was just born to play basketball. Maybe that was true, but Joe was never able to mature his skills enough to be a star in the NBA. Smith’s career took a real drop when he was caught in a salary cap scandal, and he was forced to bounce around NBA teams until 2011.
7 Shawn Respert
Shawn Respert is the best point guard the Michigan State Spartans ever had. In four seasons of collegiate play, he remained the team’s top-scorer and ended up being the second highest scorer in Big Ten history. He’s also the man who started the tradition of Michigan State players kissing the center court logo following their final home game. Respert was drafted by the Trail Blazers in 1995, but would only play 172 games in the NBA over the course of four seasons. Due to some incredibly disappointing scoring numbers, he was unable to find NBA work and eventually transitioned to the Euro League.
6 Bryant Reeves
5 Donyell Marshall
The career of Donyell Marshall is one of highs and lows. On the high side, you have his unbelievable 2005 performance as a member of the Cavaliers in which he hit 12 3-point shots in a single game. This puts him in a three-way tie for the single-game record with Steph Curry and Kobe Bryant. On the low side of things, you have pretty much the rest of his professional career. Marshall ended up being a pretty good bench player but was never the star his 4th overall pick status suggested he might become.
4 Todd Fuller
3 Jonathan Bender
2 William Avery
What is it about Duke stars not being able to carry their skills over to the NBA? William Avery tore up the courts in 1998 and 1999 while a point guard on the Blue Devils and, at one point, helped the team to win 32 straight games. He broke a sacred Duke tradition by leaving before he graduated, which may help to explain why he never looked like the same player in the NBA. In 142 games with the Timberwolves, he averaged 2.7 points and 1.4 assists.
1 Michael Olowokandi
Michael Olowokandi managed to work his way into a basketball career after convincing the University of the Pacific that he could use his seven feet of height to do great things on the court despite the fact that he lacked traditional playing experience. His time at the university seemed to prove him right as he put up some incredibly impressive numbers and even managed to graduate with a degree in economics. As the first overall pick in the 1998 NBA Draft, however, Olowokandi’s incredible story came to an end. Even before his knee injuries started to pile up, Olowokandi just couldn’t keep up with his fellow NBA players. He’s stayed off the radar since leaving the NBA in 2007 but has become a favorite target of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in recent years who has insisted that the kid’s attitude made him uncoachable.
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