The Biggest Wastes of Talent in Sports History

Nick Dimengo@@itsnickdimengoFeatured ColumnistSeptember 28, 2012

The Biggest Wastes of Talent in Sports History

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    This is not a list any athlete wants to find himself on. Players work as hard as they can to make it to the big-time, get those dollar-dollar bills, and retire with a ton of success, wealth and fame. Problem is, rarely does it actually happen.

    We all know about draft busts, but there's a major difference between someone who didn't succeed because he was injured and another because of pure laziness. There's nothing worse in sports than seeing someone with all the talent in the world waste it for whatever reason, but it happens way too frequently.

    So to all future pro athletes out there, if you want to avoid the prestigious honor of becoming a waste of talent, once you get into the show, make sure you stay there. These guys had to learn the hard way that with the riches come the spoils.

Albert Haynesworth

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    When you're the highest-paid defensive player in the history of the National Football League - as Haynesworth so famously was when he signed with the Redskins a couple years ago - you're expected to be a stud.

    As we now know, Big Al was anything but, clashing with coaches over where to play him in certain schemes, and punching his ticket out of DC just 18 months after his big payday. He eventually caught on with the Pats and Bucs, but now finds himself one extremely rich free agent.

Barry Zito

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    It's not as if Barry Zito ever had overpowering stuff, but he was crafty, and one would have thought his move from the power-filled AL to the more modest-scoring NL would be a major advantage when he signed with the Giants back in '07.

    Six years later, and almost $100 million later, San Fran's still looking for the return on its investment.

Dajuan Wagner

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    Remember when Wagner bucketed 100 points in a high school game, went to then-powerhouse Memphis, and was expected to dominate the game of basketball? We actually do—guess it shows our age.

    It never came together though, and he bounced around the Association after some bad luck and poor performances before finding himself teamless by the age of 23.

Freddy Adu

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    Shouldn't this guy at least have a regular role on a pro team by now? He was seriously coined "the next Pele" when he signed his first pro contract at age 14, but, needless to say, hasn't lived up to the hype.

    It's one thing to not make it into the pro ranks, but being dissed by your own national team? That hurts.

Gerard Warren

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    Word to any future front office executives out there—when you're doing all your diligent homework on a potential draftee, please pay close attention to their nicknames. In Warren's case, his is/was "Big Money," which, as we know, is probably just a little off base considering his pro career to this point.

    As the third overall pick, one might think he would have been a centerpiece for a franchise. Four teams in eleven years, and currently a free agent, doesn't really cut it.

Derrick Coleman

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    It's probably a little difficult to accept Coleman on this list. After all, he was the first pick in the 1990 NBA Draft, averaged more than 16 points per game, and even landed an All-Star appearance.

    But with all his talent, he never made his teams any better and all but buried his career with dumb decisions, while finding himself in serious debt after his playing days.

Tony Mandarich

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    As with most guys on this list, Mandarich wasted his talent because of his miserable off-field decisions. We've all seen the Sports Illustrated covers and know he flushed his career down the toilet because of steroid use.

    He's now a motivational speaker, but given his career choices, we're not sure he should be motivating anyone.

Terrence Williams

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    We're absolutely convinced T-Will could average close to triple-double for a season. He's got a sturdy frame to board, handles the rock like a point, has vision to dish it, and can light it up if wants to.

    Where is his motivation to do something like that? We're not really sure...

Alfonso Soriano

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    For Cubs fans, this one hurts. After signing a huge deal with the Northsiders in 2007, he's never been able to live up to the mega dollars.

    Dogging it in left field multiple times, underachieving at the dish and an overall bad attitude has gotten him into the doghouse.

Lawrence Phillips

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    Arrests and inconsistency doomed Phillips from the beginning. After setting numerous rushing records at then-powerhouse Nebraska in college, he started his career with the Rams before bouncing around between a couple of other teams and leagues.

    He was referred to as the best player in his draft class, yet has just over 1,400 career rushing yards to show for it.

Vin Baker

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    Baker was a four-time All-Star, so he did achieve some success. Hell, the dude even got signed to the Jordan Brand's original athlete lineup—which is serious praise.

    But after eating and drinking a bit too much, he became a serious tubby and got a reservation at his own booth out of the league.

Carl Crawford

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    Poor Carl Crawford just hates the big-time. After seeing serious success in small-market Tampa, Crawford signed a mega-deal with the big, bad BoSox before the 2011 season.

    Ever since he's called Fenway home, he's seen zero success, being hesitant in the field, at the plate, and forgetting what made him an All-Star all those years with the Rays.

Michael Beasley

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    Is he possibly the next Derrick Coleman? It's sad to say, but that's the way Beasley's career path seems to be going so far. Being sluggish and constantly out of shape, with off-court problems, isn't a good way to prove to coaches you're one of the best players on your team.

    Dude could easily be a matchup nightmare for defenses, but just lacks the spark to want to be.

Braylon Edwards

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    Upon looking at Braylon, there are a few things that come to mind: big, strong, fast. Sure, there were glimmers of hope—namely his '07 campaign when he caught 80 balls for 1,200-plus yards and 16 touchdowns, earning him a Pro Bowl berth.

    But his poor habit of catching the impossible balls and dropping the simplest tosses earns him a spot on this list.

Pacman Jones

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    When Pacman's not suspended or hurt, he's still one of those explosive players who can hurt other teams.

    But between his numerous arrests, strip club binges and punctuality issues, the former sixth-overall pick can't seem to get it together to dominate the way he probably should.

JR Rider

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    Most people have 10 fingers, but if you're counting the number of arrests Rider has, it seems you'll need about triple that. His mind was focused on basically everything but basketball during his career, running up busts for gambling, weed, assault, and let's not forget about spitting on a fan.

    He's the poster child for what not to do if you want to succeed in the league.

Carlos Zambrano

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    Big Z has a golden right arm, but a terrible attitude problem. For some reason, there's not a single soul on God's green earth who can convince this dude that all he has to do is focus for about eight months a year, toss a baseball, and keep his emotions in check.

    If he could do that, he'd definitely have more than three All-Star appearances, and could challenge for multiple Cy Youngs.

Marvin Williams

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    It's not as if Williams hasn't had chances to succeed. He plays for a team that consistently makes the playoffs—albeit always getting bounced in the first or second round—and was even brought along slowly in his career.

    But the former second overall pick seems content with his role and doesn't tap into the talent that made him such a freak while in college.

Eddy Curry

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    It's hard to believe Curry's been in the league for more than 10 years. Drafted out of high school in 2001, Curry struggled like most young guns in the league before putting it together for a couple years, showing why he was such a high pick to begin with.

    But injuries, motivational issues and a reputation as being bullish haven't helped him get to where he could be. He's now being paid a lot of money to have the best seat in the house on the Heat's bench.

Darius Miles

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    Miles had a plethora of issues that derailed his pro career, including multiple arrests—which included one in which he tried sneaking a loaded gun through airport security—and never living up to his hype as an AAU sensation.

    He could jump out of the gym, but he never translated his raw talent into anything more than whispers of what he could be.

Vince Young

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    VY is a physical freak. That's the best way to describe a dude who's 6'5", runs a 4.4 and can throw a football with speed and accuracy. But Young seems to always put himself above his teammates and can't accept responsibility or criticism that comes with being a starting NFL quarterback.

    That's probably why he isn't a starting quarterback any longer.

Greg Oden

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    Oden just can't seem to catch a break. He's always injured and has yet to play more than 61 games in a season, completely missing the past two seasons. In fact, he's more famous for a certain picture he took of himself in front of a mirror than he is for dominating down low.

    By almost no fault of his own, Oden's a complete waste of talent.

Ryan Leaf

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    Ohh boy! You knew this one was coming, right?

    We can't seriously believe the Colts even pondered whether Leaf or Peyton Manning should be their franchise quarterback at one time. Lacking any maturity or leadership whatsoever, Leaf clashed with teammates, coaches and the po-po.

    He's in jail now after burglarizing a house and stealing prescription drugs.

JaMarcus Russell

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    Why are we guessing you're not shocked to see Russell atop this list?

    Laziness and entitlement are just about the only words to define his NFL career, as he never seemed to carry the responsibility of being the No. 1 overall pick. Dude had a rocket launcher for an arm and could shed tacklers because of his size, but he couldn't do the little things to actually be successful.

    To make matters worse, he got busted with codeine syrup in 2010, all but ending any chance of a comeback with another team.