NBA Power Rankings: The 18 Least Athletic Players in League History
Basketball may be the only sport in America where you can be a star based on athleticism alone. It's easy to make up for shortcomings on the court with athleticism, as you don't have to be a great shooter to be a great basketball player, as long as you can get to the rim and jump like a wild man.
However, it's not the same on the other side of the argument.
To be good in the NBA without some substantial athleticism is as difficult as being Eddy Curry's personal chef.
It's possible to be a mediocre athlete and play in the NBA, but you have to have some other discernible skill, like immaculate court vision, the ability to shoot the ball, or being tall (if that is a skill).
Looking way back in the annals of NBA history, the 1950s were full of plodding white guys who sucked down cigarettes at halftime, but the game was different back then.
It was played below the rim, and as long as you could run up and down the court and drain a set shot, you would be fine (and being able to fight like Rocky Marciano didn't hurt).
However, as the years went along, and players started to do things like dunk (gasp!), and the ABA came to challenge the NBA, lack of athleticism by an NBA player was all the more noticeable.
It's nearly impossible to tell the difference in athleticism between Vern Mikkelsen and Harry Gallatin without being alive then and going to a number of games (which I wasn't and didn't) or having a good amount of video of (which there isn't).
So, the players on this list are all from the "modern" era of the NBA, starting with the creation of the three-point line in 1979.
In fact, most of the players are from the past decade or so, as with the increased number of teams has come the decrease in overall talent level, and an increase of terrible athletes in the NBA.
18. Zach Randolph
To me, Zach Randolph is the answer to the argument "would player X from the 1960s make it today?"
Randolph is a bad athlete altogether—he can't jump, he isn't fast and he isn't explosive, but he is a great player.
The dude is 6'9" and he may have dunked a total of three times in his career.
He uses his big body to get positioning for the rebound, he is a smart basketball player and he has a great touch with the basketball.
Randolph is by far the best bad athlete in the game today, and he should be an inspiration to kids who don't have the freakish body that a lot of basketball players today have.
17. Jared Dudley
Jared Dudley is a mechanically sound player with a great knowledge of the game, but he is playing a position that, in today's NBA, is dominated by athletic beings.
As a small forward in the NBA, you almost have to be a great athlete to compete, and if you aren't then you're in big trouble.
Dudley at least knows his own limitations, shown in the clip above as he is going up for a jump ball against Andrew Bynum and instead of jumping with him, he runs directly to where Bynum is tipping the ball, which is a smart move, although it's also illegal.
16. Sasha Vujacic
What is there to say about Sasha Vujacic, also known as "The Machine"?
Vujacic was a fan favorite when he was in Los Angeles, but he was probably the most hated fan favorite in the history of the game, as fans would seem to turn on him as soon as something started going wrong.
He is a very smart player and is a hustler, but he is way too skinny and has to stand on Brook Lopez's shoulders to dunk these days.
But hey, the guy is engaged to Maria Sharapova, so being a non-athlete in an athlete's sport has worked out pretty well for the guy.
15. Brad Miller
The clip above has very little to do with Brad Miller's athleticism (although it should say something about his athleticism that he was that tired after just 28 minutes of play), but it is just one of the funniest things I remember happening in the NBA this year.
Brad Miller has always been a center of questionable athletic ability, but it has just gotten worse as the years have gone along and he has gotten older, slower, fatter and weaker.
But hey, he still has that nice jump shot to fall back on...right?
14. Zydrunas Ilgauskas
My favorite Cavalier of all time looks like his feet are encased in cement at this point in his career, but I'd like to see you run up and down the court after 93 foot surgeries (slight exaggeration).
Big Z has a vertical of about six inches at this point in his career, and the worst part is that he may have maxed out at a nine-inch vertical since his foot surgeries.
I remember endlessly yelling at my television for him to stop with the wide-open lay-ups and just dunk it home, but why waste a good jump on bad knees and worse feet when you can just tippie-toe close to the rim and lay it in?
13. Jarron Collins
Jarron Collins played a whopping 28 games this years, which goes to show that you can only ride your way through the NBA on height alone for a decade or so.
NBA teams will always fall for a tall player, regardless of actual skill, which Collins has very little of.
He looks like he should be mildly athletic, as he has a nice wingspan and is built pretty well, but the guy just can't get off the ground or run the court very well.
12. Jason Collins
Springing from the same womb as Jarron comes Jason Collins, and it seems athletic ability runs in the family.
The only reason Jason Collins is still in the NBA is because he is a sound fundamental defender.
He has nearly no offensive game to speak of, and if he didn't have long arms there is no way he would be able to dunk.
Collins is a rare breed in the NBA these days, as he is a tall guy, but not too tall (under 7'2") with an athletic looking body and a long wingspan with almost no athletic ability.
I guess it shows that you can't judge a book by it's cover.
11. Manute Bol
Manute Bol was many things in his life. He was a great shot blocker (I mean, he was 7'7", so he blocked his fair share of shots), he was a humanitarian and he was a good role model for kids. But he was never a good athlete.
Bol looked like a spider who had half of its legs pulled off, and he was about as fast as one too.
One thing you can say about Bol that you absolutely cannot say about most big men is how nice his footwork was. He was able to block so many shots because he moved smoothly and precisely. The man never wasted a step on defense.
10. Will Perdue
The most memorable story about Will Perdue from his days in the NBA is Michael Jordan punching him in a practice because he was trying harder in practice than he ever did in the game.
Perdue had very little athletic ability, which was a trend continued in Chicago by Luc Longley after Perdue was traded to the Spurs.
The big man may have lacked the ability to jump, run and play for long periods of time, but he has four more NBA championship rings than me, so I'll take my hat off to him.
9. Jason Kapono
Jason Kapono is the stereotypical white guy in the NBA, only to the extreme.
Kapono can't jump, he is slow, weak and doesn't try on defense, but dammit he can shoot a three.
There is no other reason he played for any NBA team other than his ability to hit an open shot whenever he takes it, and because of that, he has perpetuated the stereotype that all white guys can do in the NBA is shoot threes.
They can do more...I swear!
8. Brian Cook
Any time you have a jump-shooting seven-footer, odds are he isn't a very athletic guy. I present Brian Cook as evidence.
Cook has spent his time in the NBA without the ball, wandering around the court on the offensive end hoping that he ends up getting open so he can catch and shoot, otherwise he isn't scoring.
He has a terrible vertical, complimented by the uncanny ability to get winded quickly and his utter lack of explosiveness. Combine these qualities and you have one non-athlete on your hands.
7. Ed Nealy
Ed Nealy is another non-athlete that got a ring just because he played with Michael Jordan.
Nealy was fat, slow, he couldn't run up and down the floor without getting winded and he couldn't jump over a crack in the sidewalk without it tripping him up, but he managed to squeeze an 11-year career out of being a tough guy.
6. Chuck Nevitt
Wow, there are more legs in that picture than in a jumbo bucket of fried chicken at KFC.
Chuck Nevitt was drafted by the Rockets in 1982, the next year they took Ralph Sampson and the following they took Hakeem Olajuwan.
He never stood a chance, but wait, he did get a breakthrough a few years later.
Think about the Showtime Lakers for a second. With Magic streaking around the court, Kareem draining pretty hook shots and...Chuck Nevitt's mustache riding the bench?
Nevitt, standing 7'5", couldn't jump more than a foot off the ground and scored only 251 points in 10 years, but he won a title with the 1985 Lakers.
5. Gheorge Mureson
Gheorghe Muresan was in the league for two reasons. He was huge and the league needed a player to frustrate writers who have to spell his name night in and night out (this role was later filled by Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Wally Szczerbiak).
Muresan would have a successful career in terms of blocking shots, as he is one of the all-time greats, but athletically he wasn't very sound at all.
His footwork was marginally good, but he couldn't run up the court more than twice without looking like he was ready to keel over, and he was number 77 because he had a vertical of 77 millimeters.
4. Brian Scalabrine
This man is important in the NBA only because he is so good at giving out high fives and working hard in practice.
The current human victory cigar of the Chicago Bulls has seen his way through a successful NBA career because he has landed on great teams, starting off with the Nets of the early 2000s, moving on to the Celtics in the past few years, giving him a ring in the process, and finally landing with the Bulls this year.
Scalabrine is really what every good team needs. He is a great clubhouse addition who works hard in practice and cherishes every moment he is in the game, showing the rest of the team how they should appreciate where they are.
However, Scal is a big, slow, heavy-footed guy who can't jump as high as a grasshopper, so he belongs on this list.
3. Jerome James
I can't decide if Jerome James is actually as terrible as he seems, or if he just figured out that he could stay in the NBA for a decade and make $44 million for fewer than 5,000 career minutes just for being big.
After he realized this, he got fat and stopped trying (that would be the second after he signed the ridiculous contract with the Knicks).
James became an extremely out of shape, easily winded player who may not actually be able to do more than a fingertip dunk, as I have never seen it myself and can't find a single clip of it happening on the whole internet.
2. Pavel Podkolzin
He played only six games in the NBA for 28 whole minutes, but that is just how memorable his lack of athletic ability was.
I actually remember watching him come in at the end of a blowout (that should go without saying) with the Mavericks beating down the Cavs back in 2004 or 2005.
Padkolzine got the ball down low with nobody around him and went up for what I thought would be a dunk. He started to go up with the ball, but before he could even get off the ground he was stripped.
What stuck out for me from that one short play was how high he [didn't] get off the ground. There was seriously no more than a pinky-length between the ground and the bottom of his foot.
Podkolzin has a listed vertical of 22 inches. For a comparison, Brian Scalabrine's is 30 inches. I'll just leave it at that.
1. Shawn Bradley
What is there to be said about Shawn Bradley that hasn't been said in one video of him getting dunked on.
Bradley was an effective player for a few years in his younger days before his body started to break down like the body of every ultra-big did within a few years of their entrance into the NBA, but his athleticism (or lack thereof) is something to behold.
He had almost no hops, he was fast in the same way a turtle is fast, he had almost no control over what his body is doing when he has the ball and he had very little stamina.
It was so bad that at one point my brother and I would wager on how long it took the enormous Mormon to fall down, and usually when he did he fell down by tripping over his own feet, so not only was he terribly nonathletic, but he was also a huge klutz.
He was so embarrassingly bad that he was entertaining, and kids today should feel robbed if they never got to see this man play, because he was something to behold.