March Madness Heroes Who Couldn't Cut It in the NBA

Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistMarch 22, 2012

March Madness Heroes Who Couldn't Cut It in the NBA

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    It doesn't get any better than the NBA. Unless you're a player who peaked in college, that is.

    While plenty of bust-type anecdotes exist, there a number of demises that stand out.

    Numerous athletes fail to make the jump from college to the NBA every year. However, it's the collegiate goldmines who turn into NBA fodder that really paint a picture of tragedy.

    From March Madness heroics to NBA infamy, these guys truly wish they could relive their "Glory Days."

Ed O'Bannon

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    In 1995, Ed O'Bannon recovered from a knee injury in time to lead the UCLA Bruins to a national championship.

    The championship was the apex of O'Bannon's illustrious collegiate career, in which he posted an average of 20.4 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.

    Unfortunately for O'Bannon, he didn't even broach that kind of success after making the jump to the NBA. He played two subpar seasons in the league before his knee injury got the best of him.

    O'Bannon is legend in UCLA circles, but less than a memory anywhere else.

Pervis Ellison

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    Pervis Ellison led Louisville to a national championship in 1986, but had he known that would be his finest hour, he undoubtedly would have ensured it lasted longer.

    Ellison had just two above-average seasons in the NBA before tapering off almost completely. He averaged just 9.5 points and 6.7 rebounds over his 11-year career, numbers not indicative of the player seen during Louisville's championship run.

    Ellison's struggles would have been considered no more than a hellacious roller-coaster ride had it not been for the fact he was selected with the first overall pick the 1989 NBA Draft.

    Word is the Sacramento Kings are still regretting that pick.

Mateen Cleaves

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    Mateen Cleaves led Michigan State to a national championship in 2000, but he amounted to less than nothing in the NBA.

    In six seasons, Cleaves only appeared in more than 32 games once. He posted an abysmal 3.6 points and 1.9 assists per contest for his career and never even broached the caliber of player many expected him to be.

    After an unsuccessful stint with four different teams, Cleaves was forced to say goodbye. 

    Not surprisingly, that's not exactly the storybook ending he, or anyone else who had seen him play in college, had hoped for.

Keith Lee

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    In addition to being the first college basketball player to make four All-American teams, Keith Lee led Memphis State to an improbable Final Four appearance in 1985.

    Lee's success in college had him destined for greatness in the NBA. Or so everyone thought.

    The big man lasted just three seasons in the NBA, posting a hard-to-look-at 6.1 points and 4.7 rebounds per game.

    Many in Memphis will remember Lee for the prowess that led their basketball team to an upset of the No. 1-seeded Oklahoma to reach the Final Four.

    Others, though, will remember him for everything he didn't do after college. 

Steve Alford

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    Before spending four not-so-glorious seasons in the NBA, Steve Alford led the Indiana Hoosiers to a national championship in 1987.

    While Alford put up nearly 19 points per game in college, he failed to put up more than 6.3 points per contest in a single season while in the NBA.

    Upon his NBA debut, Alford's scoring abilities were heralded and his potential was considered to be limitless. By the end of his four-year stint though, it had become clear he was limited in almost all facets of the game.

    Fortunately for Alford, he has found success as a college coach at the University of New Mexico. That being said, it doesn't eclipse the fact that he was unable to find any as an NBA player.

Bo Kimble

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    Bo Kimble could shoot the ball unlike any other. Or so the Clippers thought.

    Kimble averaged 35.3 points per game for Loyola Marymount during the 1989-90 season, leading them to an Elite Eight run that included a victory over defending champion Michigan.

    Most notably, Kimble's college heroics came after the sudden and tragic death of teammate Hank Gathers during a conference tournament game.

    The Clippers were so impressed with his accolades that they took him with the eighth overall pick in the 1990 NBA Draft.

    Kimble lasted just three seasons in the NBA, though. He posted a career average of 5.5 points and 1.5 rebounds per game and failed to exude the offensive prowess that propelled him to prominence in college.

Walter Berry

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    Walter Berry was supposed to be great in the NBA, but he barely toed the line of mediocrity.

    In his first year at St. John's, Walter Berry, along with Chris Mullin, helped lead a stunning run that landed them in the Final Four. The next year, with Mullin in the NBA, Berry led St. John's to the Big East championship and the top seed in the NCAA tournament.

    Berry peaked there, though.

    While the forward was able to score at the professional level, he clashed with coaches and developed a bad reputation for himself. He played for four teams in three seasons before eventually heading overseas.

    Berry had the tools to succeed, but he wasted them and went bust in the end.

Adam Morrison

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    Barring the most improbable of comebacks, it's safe to say Morrison peaked in 2006.

    After leading the nation in scoring with 28.1 points per game and carrying Gonzaga to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament in 2006, Morrison came into the NBA with the expectation that he would flourish.

    He didn't.

    For his career, Morrison averaged 7.5 points and 2.1 rebounds—paltry numbers compared to his collegiate accolades.

    Morrison lasted just three seasons in The Association before ultimately taking his not-so-prolific talents overseas.

    Barring the most improbable of comebacks, it's safe to say Morrison peaked.

Juan Dixon

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    Juan Dixon earned Most Outstanding Player honors at the 2002 NCAA tournament on his way to leading the University of Maryland to its first ever championship.

    What happened next?

    Dixon went on to become a total bust in the NBA. 

    After being drafted 17th overall by the Washington Wizards, Dixon played for seven seasons on five different teams before ultimately beginning a career overseas.

    What seemed like a path to greatness in the month of March rapidly turned into heartbreak.

    And that's the story of Juan Dixon. 

Greg Oden

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    Greg Oden led the Ohio State Buckeyes to the national championship game during the 2006-07 campaign before going on to become one of the biggest busts in NBA history.

    Oden was an easy selection for the Portland Trail Blazers with the first overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, but he hasn't stepped foot on the court since 2010 thanks to a set of bum knees.

    To make matters worse, the Blazers officially gave up on him earlier this season, and it has now become increasingly clear that a miraculous comeback just isn't in his future.

    Consequently, Oden, more than ever, is set to join the ranks of collegiate heroes that simply couldn't cut it at the professional level.