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The Most Overhyped Athletes in History

Zack PumerantzAnalyst IIIMarch 6, 2012

The Most Overhyped Athletes in History

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    Pure talent, a fearless demeanor and the will to win...the elements needed to become an athletic champion.

    But while many athletes have possessed ability and eccentricity, few have displayed that deep need to succeed, that yearning for greatness.

    Whether they provoked high, yet undeserved expectations from high school to the major leagues with flashy skills or they made a surprising, yet short-lived impact on their pro team that instigated ridiculous memes, these athletes found themselves in the spotlight, often unable to focus on their craft.

    Let's take a look at the most overhyped athletes in history.

    These guys once had greatness on lock.

20. Greg Oden

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    There's nothing that infuriates Portland fans like the uttering of Kevin Durant's name. Or, dare we say, "The Truth."

    Since being chosen with the first pick of the 2007 NBA Draft, seven-foot wall Greg Oden has appeared in a measly 82 games, essentially playing one full season in four years.

    But he's always dressed to impress on that bench, surely keeping it warm for his teammates.

19. Todd Van Poppel

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    With his Texas pedigree, upper 90s fastball and high asking price, Todd Van Poppel was both revered and doubted, seen as the next great hurler.

    The Braves seemingly wanted him with the first overall pick of the 1990 draft, but chose Chipper Jones instead...which worked out quite well.

    A 40-52 career record with a 5.58 ERA quietly headlines a failed career for the former Athletics phenom.

18. Jeremy Lin

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    From scraps to stardom, Knicks sensation Jeremy Lin essentially carried the Big Apple on his back to promise, from disappointment to exciting success.

    The quirky, yet, refreshing point guard garnered comical monikers such as Lin-sanity and Lin-tastic, among many others and continues to earn respect from even those who don't follow basketball.

    Yet he's only started 13 games. Discussing his impact after another 30 or so seems more fitting.

17. Joe Namath

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    One memorable guarantee, an iconic fur coat and an almost arrogant swagger headlined Joe Namath's overrated New York career.

    Sure he could talk the talk, but Broadway Joe was far from elite when gracing the gridiron.

    While he was the sport's first true media star, Namath's 173 touchdown passes, 220 interceptions and 50.1 completion percentage didn't quite seem Hall of Fame worthy.

16. Yao Ming

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    Simply put, if Yao Ming wasn't 7'6", he would be just another good center who shined for several seasons in the NBA before disappearing for good (somehow). 

    Sure he averaged 19.0 points and 9.2 rebounds per game in his short career since being chosen with the first pick of the 2002 draft, but for someone with his stature, that seems a bit less than terrific.

    We were expecting Kevin Love-type stats from the big man, somewhere in the range of 15-20 rebounds and at least 20 points.

    His lanky exterior led to a brittle career derailed by injuries. Not completely his fault, only slightly.

15. Drew Henson

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    Once a promising quarterback prospect at Michigan (behind some guy named Tom Brady) and an even more prolific third baseman, Drew Henson never lived up to the hype on any level.

    He was drafted by the Yankees in the third round, but never made an impact in the majors and then decided to pursue a quarterbacking career, but sat behind an aged Vinny Testaverde in Dallas.

    Unlike most fans, Henson somehow doesn't see his diverse career as a failure. Good for you bro.

14. David Beckham

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    Model first, footballer second...David Beckham is perhaps the biggest star in soccer, but not quite for his skills.

    Sure he's got a brilliant cross and creatively bends free kicks with ease, but Beckham is essentially solid, yet unspectacular in every other facet of the game, if not below average.

    The pretty-boy baller seems most beloved for his famous wife, nice face and £125 million in wealth.

13. Apolo Ohno

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    He may be the most decorated winter Olympian ever as an eight-time medalist (two gold), but a Sports Illustrated cover spot?

    Seems like Apolo Ohno's colorful name and endless list of sponsorships sparked the immense exposure.

12. Vince Carter

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    Yet another phenom compared to Michael Jordan, Vince Carter was seen as the next high-flying sensation to rock the NBA hardwood.

    He may have averaged 21.8 points during his tumultuous, yet shiny career, but most of Vince Carter's points came off vicious dunks (not that we mind at all).

    While we do yearn for his explosive posterizations, Vin-sanity never fulfilled the promise most envisioned.

    Just another stellar athlete displaying a flashy nature.

11. Nolan Ryan

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    Surely the greatest strikeout artist of all time, Nolan Ryan wasn't quite as efficient as he was colorful on the mound.

    Match his 5,714 strikeouts and 324 wins with 2,795 walks and 292 career losses, and Ryan was just another highlight reel.

    A unique and talented hurler indeed, but the greatest ever? Not quite.

10. JaMarcus Russell

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    2007 was clearly the year of the bust, as man-children Greg Oden and JaMarcus Russell cost their teams more than several million dollars and plenty of broken hearts.

    A gargantuan stud coming out of LSU, Russell failed to master the quarterback position during his time in the pros, leading to a 65.2 rating and a record of 18-23.

    Perhaps the biggest waste of space in NFL history, Russell left football as solely a cough syrup connoisseur.

9. Rick DiPietro

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    The only move worse than drafting Rick DiPietro first overall in 2000 was signing him to a 15-year contract after it was clear his future was murky.

    Considering Henrik Lundqvist was taken in the seventh round, it's safe to say the Islanders could've waited just a bit longer with guys like Dany Heatley and Marian Gaborik coming off the board second and third respectively.

    Getting decked by goalie Brent Johnson was a slight metaphor for DiPietro's brittle failure.

8. Tony Mandarich

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    Once seen as "the best offensive line prospect ever," steroid-using Tony Mandarich never fulfilled the immense potential he once displayed during his time at Michigan State.

    Picked No. 2 in 1989 by the Pack, behind Troy Aikman and ahead of Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas and Deion Sanders respectively, Mandarich eventually started only 47 games in his career and irked the league with his arrogance.

    Aside from a brief comeback with the Colts from '96-'98, Mandarich has been surprisingly missing in action.

7. Sebastian Telfair

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    New York hype is a dangerous animal, the supposed cause of many declines if we dare say.

    While his name has seemingly drifted from the minds of basketball fans in recent years, let's not forget Sebastian Telfair's once promising reputation.

    The Abraham Lincoln High School point guard was not only the second highest scorer in New York state history, but he was once on the same level as LeBron James in terms of predicted ceiling.

    This Kodak moment was seemingly a fork in the road for these two phenoms.

6. Ryan Leaf

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    The Colts' organization had a tough choice to make in 1998; it was a decision that would guide the next decade.

    They decided on Tennessee star-child Peyton Manning and let close-behind talent Ryan Leaf go to the Chargers.

    After finishing his career with 14 touchdowns, 36 interceptions and a 50.0 quarterback rating in less than four seasons, Leaf became the poster boy for draft busts.

    And Manning? Well, yeah, you know the rest.

5. Darko Milicic

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    Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade...the respective picks following Darko Milicic's No. 2 selection in the 2003 Draft.

    He was seen as the next "Dirk," a sweet-shooting seven-footer who could rebound, play defense, make dinner and fight Rocky Balboa (cough...Ivan Drago).

    It's not very often that we can say Joe Dumars missed a boatload of talent, although, ironically the Pistons won the NBA Championship the following season.

4. Patrik Stefan

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    The first overall choice in the 1999 draft by the deprived Thrashers, Czech phenom Patrik Stefan was expected to carry his team and bring excitement back to the beleaguered Atlanta fanbase.

    With 177 points in six seasons for the Thrashers, Stefan seems headed for an illustrious spot in the Hall of Busts (if it's ever created).

    One play headlines his viciously disappointing career.

3. Tim Tebow

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    Every shot with him praying magnified, every Kodak moment with a female studied and every mediocre spiral revered...the anomaly that is Timothy Tebow.

    Surely among the greatest college quarterbacks (players) of all time, the former Heisman Trophy-winning Gator was a god in Gainesville, a divine being who could do no wrong.

    After a magical 2011-2012 season in which he took the Broncos to the playoffs amid unspectacular, yet amazingly clutch play, Tebow-mania was in full force.

    Now he could be the next Bachelor?

2. Freddy Adu

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    Essentially thrust into the soccer spotlight while still in the womb, Freddy Adu is among the biggest phenom busts ever.

    Considering he made his Major League Soccer debut at the extremely tender age of 14, Freddy Adu was clearly expected to dominate early. Few were willing to wait.

    Now seemingly a crafty veteran at the elderly age of 22, Adu has yet to blossom into the legendary footballer many expected.

    At least he's the youngest scorer in MLS history and still has plenty of time.

1. Reggie Bush

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    A highlight reel legend, sure. A gifted athlete, of course. A tough football player, not quite.

    Coming out of USC, few were more touted than Reggie Bush, a scat runner with jaw-dropping cutback ability and world-class speed.

    But in the pros, speed is relative.

    After finishing his first 1,000+ yard campaign last season with the 'Fins, Bush seems to have learned the tricks of the trade.

    If it wasn't for the Kardashian enterprise, we might not even remember his name.

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