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Average Athletes Who Were Supposed to Be Superstars

Nick DimengoFeatured ColumnistSeptember 5, 2013

Average Athletes Who Were Supposed to Be Superstars

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    I'd imagine that one of the last things a pro athlete ever wants to hear is a coach, journalist or some random person say that they failed to live up to their abilities.

    Most athletes are proud, work hard and sacrifice a ton to even make it to the pros, so when they finally get there and fall flat, it has to suck.

    But it'd hurt a little bit more when that player just so happened to be hyped up early in his career as a superstar, but struggled to meet expectations and become average.

    I'm not talking about draft busts like JaMarcus Russell or Kwame Brown, who failed so miserably that they proved to be even worse than just mediocre.

    No, I'm referring to those who somehow have actually contributed to their teams in some way, even enjoying a long career—just not the one in which most people believed they would.

Justin Rose

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    It's hard to crap on a guy who just won his first major title a few months ago after securing the U.S. Open, but seeing that the biggest win of his career came in his 13th year on tour is why Justin Rose makes my list.

    While Rose has proven to be a steady player and a legit contender in the big tournaments, he was supposed to be Britain's answer to Tiger Woods—the guy who was going to win major after major and overtake the world's No. 1 ranking for a long time.

    But after turning pro in 1998 and missing the cut in his first 21 tournaments, he actually had to go back to qualifying school to even retain his tour card.

    Sure, Rose currently stands at No. 4 in the rankings and is having a phenomenal season, but he's far from a superstar on tour.

Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov

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    You'd think that a team like the Oilers who "earned" the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft three straight seasons would have themselves a bona fide superstar at this point, but it's just not the case yet with the picks of Taylor Hall (2010), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (2011) and Nail Yakupov (2012).

    With all three being capable players and no older than 21, there's obviously time for them to turn into what all Edmonton fans hope they can become. But when a team takes just one guy first overall there's expectation to turn a franchise around, let alone three top picks in consecutive seasons.

    Here's to hoping at least one turns into a consistent Hart Trophy candidate as other superstar players like Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and Patrick Kane have.

Delmon Young

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    Delmon Young may not have necessarily been a prospect with all the hype of a Bryce Harper or Yasiel Puig, but make no mistake, as a former No. 1 overall pick by the Rays in 2003, he was still supposed to be better than he's been.

    After a disappointing five seasons in the Tampa organization—which included a 50-game suspension for tossing his bat at an umpire over a disputed third strike call—Young has bounced around with a few other teams in the past six years, ironically finding himself back in Tampa currently.

    With just a .283 career average and a meager 97 homers, Young has shown that he's nothing more than at least a solid outfielder—while continuing to be a headache with some of his decision-making.

Samuel Eto'o

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    Now, I'm not saying that new Chelsea forward Samuel Eto'o isn't a very good player. But when Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala made him the highest-paid soccer player in the world by handing him $29 million per season in 2011, I would have expected a Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi-type performer.

    Though he did score 25 goals in 53 appearances for the squad, it wasn't exactly against top competition.

    After a cut in payroll, Anzhi recently shipped him off to Chelsea, where he's reunited with former Inter Milan head coach Jose Mourinho, who will hopefully help him regain some of the form he experienced with the Italian club.

Yao Ming

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    Standing at a behemoth 7'6", former No. 1 pick Yao Ming had more than just height on the basketball court, as he showed he had quite the soft touch to mix with his post moves in averaging 19 points and 9.2 rebounds per game in his career.

    But as great as he was—Ming did go to eight All-Star games—he never fully reached the potential many had foreseen when he entered the league in 2002.

    No one can discount the global impact Yao had for the NBA, but he never got past the second round of the playoffs, and for that, I'm not sure he would even say he reached the potential he could have had he both stayed healthy and helped deliver a title to Houston.

Rick DiPietro

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    As the first goalie to ever be selected No. 1 by an NHL team, former Islanders netminder Rick DiPietro had some serious expectations to live up to.

    He didn't do it.

    Being nothing more than ordinary, DiPietro's career stats are those similar to a backup, posting a 2.87 career GAA and a 130-136-8-28 overall record.

    Adding to the pain was the giant, 15-year, $67.5 million extension New York handed him back in '06, only to find themselves buying him out just seven years into the thing.

    A current free agent, it's been a rocky road for the guy.

Stephen Drew

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    As I mentioned with Delmon Young, we've seen plenty of former first-round picks in baseball completely flop when it comes to living up to expectations.

    Add Stephen Drew's name to that list.

    Drafted by the Diamondbacks in 2005 with the 15th pick, Drew was so good that Arizona actually moved then No. 2 prospect and former No. 1 pick Justin Upton to the outfield in order to keep this guy at shortstop.

    With a ton of fanfare thanks to his brothers Tim and J.D.—also first-round picks—Stephen hasn't really broken away from the pack in standing out.

    Nearly seven seasons in the desert, a quick stop in Oakland and now the starting shortstop in Boston, it's safe to say Drew isn't the guy many thought he'd be 10 years ago.

Anna Kournikova

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    It pains me to have to put former tennis player Anna Kournikova on this list, but when you look at the facts, it just had to be done.

    While she's been ranked No. 1 before—on FHM's 'Sexiest Women in the World' list—she failed to be as hot on the court, never going further than the semifinals in a Grand Slam singles event (though she did win two doubles Grand Slams).

    As a teenage phenom, Anna may have broken the hearts out of opponents—and plenty of guys in the process—but she never became anywhere close to what was expected of her, finally calling it quits on the court in 2003.

Reggie Bush

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    After being one of the most overhyped NFL prospects in recent memory when he elected to forgo his senior year at Southern Cal in 2006, Reggie Bush hasn't electrified the NFL as some had thought.

    While he's one of the most dynamic players the league as an explosive commodity in the backfield and spread out wide, his up-and-down production and a few unfortunate injuries have hurt the way people view his career thus far.

    He may be some people's pick as a potential breakout star in fantasy this season, but entering his eighth year, he shouldn't be relegated to that—especially with all the talk he received before even being drafted.

Andrea Bargnani

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    It would have been easy to add a few other recent former No. 1 overall picks on this list as well—Andrew Bogut, Greg Oden, even John Wall—but while those guys came into the league as the perceived best players in their draft classes, none had the hype that the Andrea Bargnani had in 2006.

    Entering the NBA from Italy as a 21-year-old, there were actually some out there who labeled this guy as the next Dirk Nowitzki (a sad, common theme for top Euro players these days).

    As it turns out, Bargnani hasn't even proven to be the next Drazen Petrovic, failing to make an All-Star Game in his seven seasons while with Toronto.

    While he's been able to fill the bucket with some points, he was never able to lead his Raptors to bigger heights, prompting them to trade the forward this offseason to Knicks.

Josh Beckett

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    As the No. 2 overall pick in the 1999 MLB Draft, Josh Beckett had the golden right arm that any team drooled over in hopes that he'd turn into a No. 1 starter like fellow Texas-born pitchers Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens did.

    And although he used that missile of an arm to snatch a World Series with the Marlins in '03 and is 132-100 overall, his career has been nothing more than incomplete to say the least.

    Beckett did earn the '03 World Series MVP and '07 ALCS MVP, but besides those awards and three All-Star Game nods, the guy hasn't dominated hitters as one might have originally thought.

Tim Tebow

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    I don't know if we should feel bad for Tim Tebow, or if he was just lucky to have even been given a chance to start the 16 games he did in the NFL?

    One thing's clear though, after winning two national titles ('07, '09) and a Heisman Trophy ('07) while at Florida, and then questionably being selected No. 25 overall in the 2010 Draft, he proved to be the player many thought he would from the beginning—mediocre.

    Tebow had a few good moments—most notably the six-game win streak he led the Broncos on to take them into the playoffs in 2011—but after being let go by Denver before last season, his time with the Jets and Patriots seemed to draw more cameras than number of passes he actually threw.

Darko Milicic

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    He may be one of the biggest busts in NBA history, but before last season, former No. 2 overall pick Darko Milicic actually had enjoyed a few stints—and a lot of money—from a number of NBA teams willing to waste a roster spot on him.

    Entering the league with a supposed potential higher than guys like Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade—who were all drafted after Darko—the big Serbian failed to live up to the spotlight, averaging just a mere six points and four boards in his 10 seasons.

    With a nickname like the "Human Victory Cigar," it's easy to see why he's just an average baller.

Michelle Wie

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    After qualifying for the U.S. Amateur tournament at the age of 10 in 1999, Michelle Wie's name instantly became one of the biggest in women's golf, with hopes that she could become the female version of Tiger Woods in the game.

    Problem is, her game didn't have as much bite as her brand actually did.

    By the time she was 17, Wie had been playing in men's tournament's with some of the world's best players—which ended embarrassingly for her—though she hadn't even accomplished much on the ladies' tour.

    With just two career LPGA wins, many current and former golfers admit that maybe the talent just isn't there for her.

Freddy Adu

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    Remember when Freddy Adu was supposed to be the single reason people in America were going to start caring about soccer?

    After turning pro at age 14 with D.C. United, to say Adu's career has flopped would be a major understatement.

    Bouncing around with teams like Benfica, AS Monaco, Belenenses, Aris, Caykur Rizespor and Bahia (along with a few stints in MLS) hasn't exactly helped him in changing people's minds either.

    Still just 24 years old, there are some out there who think Adu could still accomplish some of the things that many had hoped he would at such a young age. But until he shows that he's able to actually make the leap from second-tier divisions to the big-time, he'll always be remembered as a failed project.

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