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.
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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.
Coleman was a source of controversy throughout much of his time in the NBA (he once called Karl Malone an "Uncle Tom") and was involved in the famous Pacers/Pistons fan fight. In 2010, Coleman filed for bankruptcy as he owed over $2 million to various creditors. He lives in New Jersey and is still trying to pay off his debts.
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.
Eventually, he ended up as the head coach of Binghamton in 2009 following the termination of the school’s previous head coach due to a scandal. Macon was fired in 2012 due to three years of bad records.
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.
Following his final NBA season in 1998, Hurley decided to start buying and racing thoroughbred horses, but eventually found his way back to basketball when the 76ers hired him as a talent scout in 2003. He still owns race horses and is the head coach of Arizona State. Who know how well his horses have done
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.
From there, Bradley got heavily involved in the West Ridge Academy where he serves multiple administrative roles. He tried to run for the Utah House of Representatives in 2010, but just lost to the Democratic contender.
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.
From there, Wright spent six seasons on the international scene playing everywhere from Hong Kong to Spain. Currently, he coaches at a HOOP-CAMPS branch in Europe.
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.
Smith played on some B-League teams after that and eventually went back to school for his bachelor’s degree. Sadly, Smith’s injuries would catch up with him and prevent him from playing basketball ever again. He was last seen coaching at the Premier Basketball Academy of Arizona.
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.
O’Bannon did spend six seasons playing in the Euro League and the ABA, and eventually found ended up becoming a marketing director for an auto dealership. He was also the figurehead in the long-term lawsuit against the NCAA for antitrust law violations.
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.
Since then, Smith has served as a part-time advisor to the Phoenix Suns but was denied a full-time position. He has also released a couple of rap albums under the name of Joe Beast.
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.
In 2005, Respert admitted that he had been battling stomach cancer throughout much of his professional career. He has been undergoing treatment for years and currently serves as the assistant coach for the Memphis Grizzlies.
6 Bryant Reeves
Basketball legend states that Bryant Reeves earned the nickname of Big Country following his reaction to his first flight across the United States. That name could have just as easily come from his physical presence, though, as the 7 foot tall Reeves managed to dominate nearly every college player during his years as an Oklahoma State University player. He was selected with the Vancouver Grizzlies first ever draft pick and quickly earned a reputation for being an inconsistent big man. Despite a couple of good seasons, health problems eventually caught up with Reeves in 1998, and he was never able to recover. Despite being fondly remembered as one of the toughest players in NBA history, Reeves had to end his career in 2001. Now, he operates a cattle ranch with his wife and kids.
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.
Marshall did end up having a pretty respectable coaching career, however, as he started off as the assistant coach of the Maine Red Claws and eventually ended up becoming the head coach of Central Connecticut State earlier this year.
4 Todd Fuller
Todd Fuller will always be remembered as the guy who was picked ahead of Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash in the 1996 NBA Draft. Before you start thinking the Golden State Warriors were crazy for making that selection, however, remember that Fuller was an unbelievable center for North Carolina State who could seemingly do it all. It took about five seasons of professional play before NBA teams realized that Fuller just wasn’t going to be able to repeat his success at the next level. Fuller did pretty well for himself in the Euro League following his departure from the NBA and has developed a reputation as a man that loves to travel the world. He has joined volunteer missions designed to help teach island kids basketball and frequently participated in humanitarian efforts. He’s currently a high school math teacher.
3 Jonathan Bender
Labeling Jonathan Bender as a disappointment has always been something of a controversy. Bender elected to skip playing in college despite his verbal commitment to Mississippi State, which gave some NBA teams a reason to pause before drafting him. The Toronto Raptors were not among those teams, and they took Bender with the 5th pick in the 1999 NBA Draft. Despite a hot start, Bender soon settled into a fairly unremarkable role as a generic big man. He would redeem himself late in his career as a member of the Pacers, but never quite lived up to the hype. After a brief return to the league in 2009 when he played 25 games for the New York Knicks, Bender finally decided to call it quits. Since then, he invented and marketed a training device (The JB Intensive Trainer) and started a nonprofit organization in New Orleans.
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.
When no NBA Teams picked him up in 2002, he decided to take his talents to Europe and Israel. Things didn’t go much better for Avery over there, as he still failed to find his form once again. His last stint as a basketball player was in 2011 as a member of a Polish team. Now, he is retired and living in Georgia.
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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