25 NBA Players Who Wasted the Most Talent
As a basketball fan, one of the biggest slaps in the face I can receive from a player is if they waste their talent. All too often, there are one or two players who have a boatload of skills that they can use to change the game but instead, they let their egos get in the way of what is best for them and their team.
One notable instance of this happening is the saga of Allen Iverson, a top collegiate player who had an NBA career full of accomplishments but whose attitude kept him from ever reaching that top level.
In other instances, players waste their talents simply by making bad decisions. Case in point, Gilbert Arenas and his gun drama.
That being said, here are the 25 NBA players who wasted the most talent.
No. 25: Allen Iverson
On paper, it does not seem as though Allen Iverson wasted any talent whatsoever. He was an 11-time All-Star, won an MVP award, and was the league scoring champion four times. In 14 seasons, the former Georgetown Hoya averaged 26.7 points and 6.2 assists.
Yet, while he might have been a star on the hardwood, Iverson was anything but that in the locker room. Off the court, he was a clubhouse cancer.
In Philadelphia, he clashed with head coach Larry Brown on multiple occasions and went on a well-publicized rant after Brown criticized him for missing practice many times. After more clashes with the front office, including being late to the Sixers Fan Appreciation Night, he was traded to the Denver Nuggets.
He was productive in a season and a half with Denver before being traded to the Detroit Pistons, where his decline began. Injuries relegated Iverson to the bench.
After signing a one-year deal with the Memphis Grizzlies, Iverson basically quit on the team after three games stating, "I would rather retire than be a bench player." He later attempted a comeback with the Sixers that same year, and looked a shell of his former self.
That all being said, how did Iverson waste his talent? Well, despite his stats, the man's work ethic left something to be desired. Had he been committed to practicing and putting the team before himself, perhaps he would have won a few championship rings and become a true legend.
Right now, he just looks like a ballhog who could shoot well.
No. 24: Shawn Kemp
Like Iverson, Shawn Kemp was not a bad player by any means. In a 14-year career, the 6'10" power forward made six All-Star teams and played in one NBA Finals, where his Seattle Supersonics lost to Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls. Despite the outcome, Kemp averaged 23.3 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks in the series.
Yet, Kemp was not without issues. After the Cleveland Cavaliers traded him to the Portland Trail Blazers in 2000, his minutes per game dipped from 30 to 15. Why? Well, besides having problems with his weight, Kemp was also abusing alcohol and cocaine. He only appeared in 68 games that year, his season cut short due to him entering rehab.
The sad part is that at the time, Kemp was just 31 years old and in Cleveland was still playing like a top power forward. His weight and drug problems have taken a toll on him, as any attempts to make a comeback in the NBA have failed. Most recently, he briefly played in Italy in 2009.
Had he kept his life on track, who knows how much more he could have done on the court?
No. 23: Rashard Lewis
This time last year, I was not a Rashard Lewis-hater. Sure, he's injury-prone and it's frustrating when he doesn't play, but it's not anything fans can control.
However, after the Orlando Magic traded him to the Washington Wizards last year, it was as though Lewis became a different player.
Here was an opportunity for him to get out of Dwight Howard's shadow and go to a team where he could be a leader to a talented young core. Instead, Lewis phoned it in and missed the last couple months of the season.
In 32 games with the Wizards, Lewis averaged just 11.4 points. It was as though he rarely ever demanded the ball. In a time where he should have stepped up, he simply hung out in the background.
There could still be time for Lewis, as there is the slight possibility that last season was a fluke, but the fact that he showed such little passion last season seems very telling.
No. 22: Antoine Walker
Antoine Walker was one of the top forwards in the game at one point. He averaged 20+ points in five of his 12 seasons and was a decent rebounder as well.
However, Walker's career declined rapidly in a three-year span. He struggled with his weight on occasion and was out of the league by 2008.
On top of that, Walker's post-NBA career has been marred by gambling problems. In 2009, it was reported that he had written about $800,000 in bad checks.
He has tried to get back into the NBA multiple times, most recently with the Idaho Stampede of the D-League. It's truly sad, considering how Walker was once one of the better players in basketball.
No. 21: Jason Williams
Jason Williams easily could have been one of the top point guards in the NBA. But, if I may borrow a line from Jerry Maguire, the man played with his head and not his heart.
While he was productive in 12 seasons, drug suspensions and a tendency to run his mouth off both at fans and the press resulted in Williams garnering the "what-if" label.
Who knows how productive he could have been if he kept his mouth shut and played a conventional game instead of his "street" style?
Williams was not necessarily a bad player, but his attitude caused him to underachieve so much that fans can only wonder if he could have been much better in his time.
No. 20: Steve Francis
The start of Steve Francis wasting his talent began the night he was drafted by the Vancouver Grizzlies with the second overall pick in the 1999 draft. In a bad PR move, the former Maryland Terp publicly stated that he did not want to play for the Grizzlies, drawing ire from the fans and the organization.
Francis ultimately got his wish and was traded to the Houston Rockets, where he became a productive shooting guard who could also pass well. Yet, once Jeff Van Gundy took over as head coach, Francis threw a hissy fit and refused to adapt to Van Gundy's more conservative style of play.
He was traded to the Orlando Magic and soon became disgruntled there before being traded to the New York Knicks. The man underachieved down the stretch and is now out of the NBA, presumably because nobody wants to deal with his bad attitude on top of his bad knees.
Had Francis kept his attitude in check and just played the game, he easily could have been one of the game's top guards.
No. 19: Gilbert Arenas
Gilbert Arenas is not a wasted talent in the fact that he is lazy or clashes with his coaches, but in the fact that he has just made some bad decisions lately.
Two seasons ago, Arenas was in a heated argument with then-teammate Javaris Crittenton over some gambling debts. Instead of taking a deep breath and settling it like gentlemen, both men drew guns on each other in the team locker room.
The NBA was informed of the incident and suspended Arenas for the remainder of the season. In 32 games played that season, the former Arizona Wildcat was averaging 22.6 points and 7.2 assists. It was a devastating loss to the Washington Wizards, who finished horribly down the stretch.
Last season, wanting to distance themselves from the incident as well as shed some salary, Arenas was traded to the Orlando Magic for Rashard Lewis. He was relegated to a bench role on his new team and averaged just eight points per game for the remainder of the season.
There is still time for Arenas to do something with his talent, but it's no secret that wherever he goes, that incident with Crittenton will loom large.
No. 18: Ricky Davis
Ricky Davis was a talented guard drafted out of Iowa in 1998 and over a six-year stretch was a decent scorer in the NBA. Yet, Davis's arrogance kept him from being so much more.
While with the Cleveland Cavaliers, he clashed with coach Paul Silas over his showboating ways. In one famous instance, when he was just one rebound away from a triple-double, Davis threw up an intentionally bad shot at his own basket so that he could get the rebound. Sure enough, the NBA took that rebound away and the Cavaliers fined him as well.
Davis then bounced around the league until 2010, when his production had declined so badly that no team wanted him. He has since played in Turkey, China and France.
Had he let himself be coached, his talent would not have been wasted so badly.
No. 17: Sean May
Sean May was a talented power forward who averaged 17.5 points and 10.7 boards in his junior season at UNC. The Charlotte Bobcats took him with the No. 13 pick in the 2005 draft and almost immediately, May was a bust.
While he had good size at 6'9", May did not do a very good job of keeping in shape. He was frequently injured, and conditioning problems led him to struggle in coming back from injury.
All he had to do was be more disciplined in taking care of himself, and he could have been a top big man. Instead, May is now playing in Istanbul.
No. 16: Stephon Marbury
Stephon Marbury is not a bad player on paper, with career averages of 19.3 points and 7.6 assists per game. Yet, the man is a wasted talent in the fact that wherever he went, he simply refused to be coached. This was best exhibited in his time with the New York Knicks.
In 2005, Knicks management hired Larry Brown to be the head coach. Given the players on the roster, Knicks fans expected steady improvement as the team adjusted to Brown's defensive style.
Instead, the team horribly underachieved much in part to Marbury being a clubhouse cancer. He publicly clashed with Brown, who was fired after one season.
Two seasons later, Marbury fell out with coach Isiah Thomas and essentially quit on the team. The following year, he was bought out.
Still not convinced? Look at it this way. In Marbury's last year with the New Jersey Nets, the team won just 26 games.The following year, after Marbury had been traded to the Phoenix Suns for Jason Kidd in the offseason, the Nets made the NBA Finals.
No. 15: Latrell Sprewell
In a semi-productive career that lasted 13 years, Latrell Sprewell quickly developed a reputation as a hothead. After being drafted by the Golden State Warriors, Sprewell was talented on the court but also had issues with some of his teammates, getting into fights with Jerome Kersey and Byron Houston.
The blackest mark of his career came in 1997, when he snapped during practice and choked coach P.J. Carlesimo. He was suspended for 68 games before being traded to the New York Knicks.
While productive in New York, Sprewell gained a reputation for taking some bad shots and given his high price tag, he was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2003.
He spent two productive years there and was offered a three-year deal worth $21 million after the 2005 season. Sprewell turned it down with the famous words, "I have a family to feed."
Simply put, Sprewell could have been so much more. He was in the prime of his career and let his own selfishness get in the way of him playing. Since those fateful words, he has not played in the NBA.
No 14: Oliver Miller
Oliver Miller began his NBA career at 6'9" and a husky 280 pounds. By the end, he was well over 300 pounds.
Miller was talented, averaging 12.9 points and 7.4 rebounds in his best season, but his work ethic was questionable. On multiple occasions, he was late to practice and walked in with a McDonald's bag.
If he cared at all about his fitness, Miller easily could have been one of the league's better power forwards.
No. 13: Kwame Brown
Kwame Brown was once a highly-touted high school prospect, so much that the Washington Wizards took him with the first overall pick in the 2001 draft. Since then, Brown has become one of the biggest draft busts in NBA history.
Wherever he has gone, his attitude has been a problem. Long story short, from the start of his career, he has exhibited an unwillingness to learn or be coached.
As a result, he has averaged just 6.8 points and 5.9 rebounds for his career. That is unacceptable for someone 6'11" and 270 pounds.
Perhaps Brown would have been better had he gone to college first, but his immaturity has kept him from ever being a dominant NBA center. Considering the hype surrounding him from Day 1, it is truly a shame that such a talent went to waste.
No. 12: Bonzi Wells
Considering he was the No. 11 pick by the Portland Trail Blazers in the 1998 draft, Bonzi Wells didn't exactly play like someone of that caliber.
He had some productive years in Portland, but his attitude kept him from becoming one of the NBA's elite. A member of the "Jail Blazers," Wells had a couple of run-ins with the law as well as multiple clashes with his coach.
He was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies in 2003 and essentially became a quiet bench player the remainder of his career. The once electrifying dunker had the wind taken out of his sails. He was out of the NBA by 2008 and was last heard to be playing in Puerto Rico.
Had he kept his attitude in check, he could have become a star.
No. 11: Keon Clark
While not a top center by any means, Keon Clark easily could have been a top inside presence in the NBA. His rebounding and shot-blocking ability at UNLV were good enough that he was drafted 13th overall in 1998.
Yet, Clark's talent was not wasted due to a bad attitude or laziness, nor by bad decisions. Rather, throughout his career, Clark was plagued by the deadly demon known as alcoholism.
After being arrested for marijuana possession in 2007, Clark admitted that he never played a game sober and had been drinking heavily since high school.
It was truly sad to see a promising career wasted away by such a horrible problem.
No. 10: Terrence Williams
After showing some promise off the bench in his rookie season for the New Jersey Nets, Terrence Williams did a complete 180 last season.
He upset the coaching staff by being late to practice multiple times and experiencing a showboating attitude. It got so bad that he was sent to the D-league before being traded to the Houston Rockets.
In Houston, Williams was a non-factor and while it may be a bit early to say he is a wasted talent, he is already on that road given his bad attitude. Unless he checks himself, he will find himself out of the league very soon.
No. 9: Vin Baker
Easily one of the top power forwards at the start of his career, Vin Baker's decline was just sad to watch. He had great size at 6'11" and 232 pounds, so seeing alcoholism destroy his career killed all of his fans.
The four-time All-Star first admitted his drinking problem following the 1999 lockout, when he had ballooned to over 300 pounds. When with the Boston Celtics a few years later, coach Jim O'Brien smelled alcohol on his breath and suspended him before he was released.
Baker saw time with four more teams over the next three seasons, but he could never regain the dominance in the low post he had at the start of his career. His talent was snuffed out in its prime.
No. 8: Eddie Griffin
After a talented freshman season at Seton Hall where he averaged 17.8 points, 10.7 rebounds and 4.4 blocks, Eddie Griffin entered the draft and was drafted seventh overall in 2001. While he became a solid defender, he was never the dominant presence that he was in college.
Griffin suffered from alcoholism and that kept him from ever being the player he could have been, despite multiple efforts on his part to right the ship.
Tragically, Griffin passed away in a car accident in 2007. He was just 25 years old.
No. 7: Isaiah Rider
From the start of his career, Isaiah Rider's attitude kept him from being a great NBA talent. He was caught smoking marijuana multiple times, showed insubordination towards team management and was just an all around hothead.
The man more or less played his way out of every city whose team he was on, and by the time he was out of the league in 2002 at just 30 years old, it was clear that no team wanted to gamble on him.
No. 6: Eddy Curry
When the Chicago Bulls took Curry with the No. 4 pick in 2002, his 6'11", 280-pound frame, along with his dominant inside presence, earned him the nickname "Baby Shaq." Instead, Curry was one of the biggest busts in NBA history.
Throughout his career, Curry struggled with various injuries and a heart condition. Throw in that he never did a great job of taking care of himself or trying to improve his game, and he becomes a player who truly could have been great had he matured quicker.
No. 5: Jay Williams
Jay Williams was drafted second overall by the Chicago Bulls in the 2002 draft. He was a stellar point guard at Duke, so many expected him to be the same on the professional level.
Sadly, Williams' career was over after just one season. In the summer of 2003, he was in a horrible motorcycle accident. In the wreck, Williams severed a nerve in his leg, fractured his hip and tore multiple knee ligaments.
He was not a bad kid or a head case by any means. Just a young go-getter who got on the motorcycle and had some bad luck. In just one bad decision, his career was over and his talent wasted away.
No. 4: Javaris Crittenton
At Georgia Tech, Javaris Crittenton showed signs of being a top point guard in the NBA someday. Instead, Crittenton found himself on the wrong side of trouble on multiple occasions.
We already know what happened between Crittenton and Gilbert Arenas, but the man is in much deeper trouble now. He has been charged with the murder of a 22-year-old Atlanta woman. He was arrested on Aug. 29 and is currently awaiting the next step in his defense.
This is truly a shame for someone who easily had the talent to be an effective point man.
No. 3: Chris Washburn
Drafted third overall by the Golden State Warriors in 1986, Chris Washburn's work ethic is best exhibited by the expression on his face in the picture.
He showed a lackadaisical effort both in college and the pros and his cocaine addiction led the 6'11" center to be banned from the league for life in 1989.
Had he been a productive player, it would be easier to have sympathy for the man. Yet, due to his attitude problem, it is hard to feel sorry for someone who wasted his talent so badly.
No. 2: Derrick Coleman
The first overall pick in the 1990 NBA draft, Derrick Coleman started wasting his talent from the get-go.
He was a solid contributor for the New Jersey Nets (who drafted him) and won Rookie of the Year, but he always seemed to give up once he felt he had met his stats for the game. In 1995, looking to move in a new direction, the Nets traded him to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Coleman was a solid role player for the remainder of his career, but he was better known for the following: weight gain, laziness, and tendency to get injured. He was a good player, but not a team player.
His ego should have been checked at the door from the start. Otherwise, he could have been one of the game's best big men.
No. 1: Len Bias
Len Bias and his wasted talent are an interesting case. Why? Well, despite being selected by the Boston Celtics with the No. 2 pick in the 1986 draft, Bias never actually appeared in an NBA game.
Just two days after being drafted, Bias was found dead of a cocaine overdose. To date, it could possibly be the greatest tragedy in basketball history.
The man was a star at Maryland and was on the verge of becoming a star in the pros, only to have one bad decision take it all away from him.
Don't get me wrong, Bias was not a bad kid at all. He was a model teammate at Maryland and people had nothing but good things to say about him.
That being said, the NBA career that was snatched away from him becomes all the more tragic.