While it's the same sport, college basketball is different than NBA basketball. The feel of the game and lifestyle around it is different between the two, as we as fans have seen some very talented college players not be able to perform once they finally get paid to play the game they love. Whether it be the big lights of the NBA or any other reason, it does take a skill to transfer talent on the college court to the professional court. That's what makes the NBA Draft so interesting because teams need to project if their prospect will be able to succeed in the likes of the NBA, as we have seen many guys prosper in college but not be able to make a significant impact once they are drafted into the league.
In this article, we will be looking at the top 15 greatest college players who completely failed in the NBA. These guys could have been much more than they turned out to be, as they were the creme of the crop during their college days, however they couldn't seem to get the ball rolling during their insignificant time in the NBA.
As always, feel free to leave any comments you have on this article in the comment section below, for we would love to hear your thoughts.
Here are the top 15 great college players who failed in the NBA.
15 Sam Bowie
If you’re a basketball fan, you probably have heard of Sam Bowie. If you don’t know who he is, well in the legendary 1984 NBA Draft, he was drafted with the second pick to the Portland Trail Blazers. The pick back then wasn't seen as anything obscure, as Bowie was great in college as he showed his talent during his time with Kentucky. Okay big deal, he was drafted with the second pick and didn’t turn out to be a superstar.
In reality, he wasn’t that bad in the NBA, but he will be forever be remembered because of who was picked after him. Who was picked after him? None other than the greatest basketball player of all time in Michael Jordan. Bowie wasn’t terrible in the NBA, but considering the Trail Blazers could have selected Michael Jordan, Bowie was a complete bust of a player.
14 Pervis Ellison
Pervis Ellison made a nice name for himself immediately at Louisville. A four-year starter, Ellison led the Cardinals to their second national championship and became the second freshman ever to be the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Tournament. Drafted first overall in 1989 to the Sacramento Kings, Pervis Ellison never lived up to the hype of being the number one pick. His stats were not terrible, as he averaged 9.5 points and 6.7 rebounds in his 11 seasons in the NBA.
He was picked in front of NBA legends Tim Hardaway and Glen Rice, so it’s hard not to consider this guy a bust. Pervis Ellison is a perfect example of an excellent college player not being able to perform in the NBA.
13 Dennis Hopson
Hopson led the Buckeyes in points and rebounds (and was second in assists) per game in his senior year. He left Ohio State as its all-time scoring leader, earning All-American and Big Ten Player of the Year honors. Dennis Hopson was projected to be a dominant scorer inside, and the Nets took the small forward from the Ohio State University with the third pick in the 1987 NBA Draft. Unable to hang with the big boys down low, Hopson never was able to be productive for the Nets. He only spent three years with the Nets, as he was out of the league completely after five years due to his lack of productivity on the court. This was definitely a disappointment for the Nets. Hopson’s basketball career continued for a while following his NBA departure.
12 Michael Olowokandi
Michael Olowokandi led the University of Pacific to two straight NCAA Tournaments as he averaged 22 points per game and 11 rebounds over the course of his college career. Michael Olowokandi was drafted with the first overall pick in 1998 by the Los Angeles Clippers. Poised to be one of the most dominant NBA players ever, he never lived up to his potential seen by many. He averaged 8.3 points and 6.8 rebounds during his decade-long NBA career. Drafted before some of the biggest names in NBA history such as Dirk Nowitzki, Vince Carter, and Paul Pierce, Olowokandi was a total bust. Olowokandi was great in college, however didn't have what it took to be successful in the league.
The Clippers passed on Dirk Nowitski with this pick, who could have easily turned their franchise around.
11 Chris Washburn
In only one year at North Carolina State, Chris Washburn managed to prove himself with a 17.6 point, 6.7 rebound average and lead the Wolfpack to the Elite Eight. Washburn was drafted in 1986 with the third overall pick to the Golden State Warriors. He only played three seasons in the NBA averaging 3.1 points and 2.4 rebounds for his career averages. He was banned from the NBA for life in 1989, because he failed three drug tests in three years.
He was drafted in front of players such as Mark Price and Dennis Rodman. Chris just looked bored throughout his NBA career, and it's a shame substance abuse ruined what could have been a nice career for Chris Washburn.
He goes down as one of the many Warriors' draft mistakes.
10 LaRue Martin
In only three seasons, Martin became Loyola University's all-time rebound leader and averaged 18.7 points and 17.6 rebounds per game in his sophomore season. LaRue Martin is considered to be one of the worst first overall draft picks of all-time. Drafted by the Trail Blazers in 1972, in front of Hall of Fame players Julius Erving and Bob McAdoo, Martin was a total bust. He averaged a measly 5.3 points and 4.6 rebounds in his short four season career for the Blazers.
He retired one year before the Trail Blazers won the NBA Championship. LaRue Martin received a B.A. in sociology with a minor in education from Loyola. He worked for Nike, and joined UPS in the mid-1980s. He has worked as their Community Services Manager since August 2005. At least he had some success after his sub-par NBA career.
9 Adam Morrison
Adam Morrison led Gonzaga to some of the school's greatest success. In the 2005-06 season, Morrison shared the Naismith Player of the Year honors with J.J. Redick and led the nation in scoring with 28.1 points per game. Adam Morrison had a great college career at Gonzaga University, in fact he played so well in college, he was drafted third overall by the Charlotte Bobcats in 2006.
We all know that NBA basketball is not the same as college basketball, and Morrison is a perfect example of that. He wasn’t able to be a productive player in the NBA averaging 7.5 points and 2.1 rebounds in his short six season career where he played for a multitude of teams around the league. He's now happily retired.
8 Greg Oden
Oden put up 15 and 10 in his only season for Ohio State, taking them all the way to the National Championship, despite mostly playing with his hand tapped off due to preseason wrist surgery. If you get picked before Kevin Durant with the first overall draft pick, you’re really supposed to be something special. Greg Oden was anything but special in the NBA during his injury ridden, three-year career. Oden was drafted in 2007 to the Portland Trail Blazers and is regarded as one of the worst busts in NBA history, considering he never managed to play more than 62 games in a single season. He averaged 8.0 points and 6.2 rebounds in his short 105 game career. Without injuries, Greg Oden could have been one of the most dominant NBA centers of all-time.
7 Jimmer Fredette
Jimmer Fredette was the 2011 Wooden Award winner and was the talk of the basketball world during his final season at BYU. He was a great scorer who continuously hit bomb three-pointers on his opponents from deep behind the arc. "Jimmer-Mania" was a nightly SportsCenter staple, with his off-the-dribble shooting following in the footsteps of Stephen Curry years earlier. With a healthy 28.9 points per game, Fredette led the NCAA in scoring and won the hearts of millions of fans before entering the draft.
Unfortunately for Jimmer, expectations grew when the Kings gave up valuable assets to the Bucks, and drafted him with the 10th pick in 2011. When a team trades up to get you, you'd better be worth it for them. He wasn't. Fredette now plays for the Shanghai Sharks of the CBA.
6 Hasheem Thabeet
Hasheem Thabeet is the tallest player to ever put on a University of Connecticut jersey, as he had an immense physical stature. Thabeet led the Big East in blocked shots during all three seasons in Storrs, CT – wowing observers and leading U Conn to a Final Four in 2009, despite the raw nature of his game. He was a national phenom and the sky was truly the limit for the big man from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Drafted with the second pick in the 2009 NBA Draft to the Memphis Grizzlies, Thabeet was selected before NBA stars Stephen Curry, James Harden, and DeMar DeRozan. Thabeet has been on six NBA teams, and has never lived up to the hype of being the second pick of the draft. In his NBA career, he has only managed to average 2.2 points, and that is the highlight of all his stats.
5 Shawn Bradley
Being a Philadelphia 76ers fan, I would have loved to see Bradley turn out the way everyone thought he would. This 7’6" center from BYU was supposed to be one of the most dominant centers in the NBA. He was drafted second by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1993 NBA Draft, but Bradley never turned into the star the Sixers envisioned him to be. The Sixers haven’t always had the best of luck with centers, and Bradley was no exception with this problem. He only averaged 8.1 points per game and 6.3 rebounds in his 14 seasons in the NBA. Shawn Bradley now works at West Ridge Academy, a private school in West Jordan, Utah. He is the vice principal, counselor, and you guessed it, the basketball coach.
4 Michael Beasley
Michael Beasley had easily one of the most dominant freshman seasons in college history. At the University of Kansas, Beasley averaged 26.2 points per game and 12.4 rebounds per game as he ended up being one of the finalists for Player of the Year. It looked as though Michael Beasley was the correct selection by the Heat with the second pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, but now, the Heat definitely would have gone with someone else if they knew what type of career Beasley would have.
Problems off of the court hurt Beasley during his career, which really didn’t allow him to blossom into a star. Moving from team to team, Beasley is now with the Milwaukee Bucks, as he tries to salvage what’s left of his NBA career there. The Heat could have had Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, Roy Hibbert or DeAndre Jordan. Can you imagine if Westbrook was in Miami at the time of LeBron’s arrival?
3 Jonny Flynn
Jonny Flynn had an excellent college career at Syracuse, which is why the Timberwolves drafted him with a top 10 draft pick in 2009. He averaged about 17 points per game and 7 assists throughout his sophomore season at Syracuse, as he racked up multiple college awards before declaring for the draft. Jonny Flynn was one of several players selected before Steph Curry in the 2009 draft as the Timberwolves became one of six teams to make that mistake.
Flynn played just four NBA seasons and after a promising first year where he averaged 13.2 points per game, his numbers dipped to 5.3, 3.4 and 5.2 for points, rebounds and assists respectively. Since leaving the NBA, Flynn has played for the Melbourne Tigers in Australia and the Orlandina Basket in Italy. He lasted just two games in Italy before getting injured and was cut.
2 Marvin Williams
Williams was once of the best players in college in 2004, as he could score from anywhere on the court and rebounded nicely. Picked with the second pick in the 2005 NBA Draft, the Atlanta Hawks went with the wing scorer from North Carolina in Marvin Williams. Expectations were high for Williams, but he never turned out to be the player the Hawks thought he would be. The Hawks are kicking themselves over this one, as they could have went with Chris Paul instead of Williams. He has since found some new life with the Charlotte Hornets, but Williams definitely has never put up any numbers during his career that resembled the likes of a number two pick.
Perhaps someone like Chris Paul could have transformed the Hawks of recent memory from pretenders to contenders, because Marvin Williams definitely didn’t do much to help the Hawks win games during his tenure there.
1 Anthony Bennett
The reason Bennett was drafted with the first pick in the 2013 NBA Draft by the Cavaliers was because he did actually show some serious talent at UNLV. He averaged about 16 points per game and 8 rebounds per game during his one year in college. The Cavaliers selected Bennett with the number one overall pick, and he has yet to prove he deserved being picked first. The Cavaliers were a miserable team during LeBron’s absence between 2010 and 2014, and picking Bennett sure didn’t help matters.
It’s quite remarkable how quickly Bennett became universally known as a draft bust. Bennett was most recently on the Brooklyn Nets and even the league's worst team decided he wasn't good enough, as they waived him earlier this month. Bennett is now overseas playing in Turkey for Fenerbahçe. I think it’s safe to say we won’t be seeing any Anthony Bennett highlight tapes coming out again.