To make this list you have to be really, really good. Think of the number of guys that try to make it to the NBA. Literally millions of people played high school basketball. And that is whittled down to the hundreds of thousands that play some level (D-3 to D-1) of college basketball. So only our countries most elite athletes have the honor to make to the NBA. And obviously over the last 15 years the talent pool has gotten exponentially deeper with the foreign invasion of talent from Europe, Africa, and Asia.
So all of these players are really good. They made more money than you or I will ever dream of. And in the grand scheme of life they have been very blessed. What this list is really about are the guys that always left teammates, coaches, and fans wanting more. You never got the impression that the game of basketball was the most important thing to them. Obviously they worked hard or they wouldn’t have made it as far as they did, but were they willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to fulfill all of their vast potential? I think not.
To the list:
1. Derrick Coleman
This dude was the truth. Tim Duncan, rightfully so, is widely regarded as the best power forward of all time. I believe that if DC fully immersed himself in to the sport of basketball that he instead of Duncan would be. Charles Barkley called him the most talented player he ever had to guard. Some guys love the game, and some guys love to party. While you can do both, I am not sure you can love them both simultaneously. Every person I know that knows Derrick cannot say enough nice things about him. About how down to earth he is, and how he is always helping people. And at the end of the day that is more important than MVP trophies or rebounding statistics. But I am sure part of him looks back on his career with some resentment.
If you listed all the attributes you wanted in a power forward DC had them all. He could get 10 rebounds in his sleep. Face up jumper got you. Drop step check. 3-point range, no problem. He could even lead the brake at 6’10. And oh yeah finish in traffic:
2. Tim Thomas
This guy was the prototype “new” small forward. He was 6’9, could post up smaller 3’s, and play some power forward depending on the match up. He was athletic as hell with a feathery touch. The fact he was never an all star is a bad enough. But the fact that he was never even a consistent starter is a travesty. For all the proof you need that this guy really never applied himself, he doubled all of his career statistics when he was in the final year of his contract. In fact The Bulls ultimately bought him out of his last big contract, and players like him are why the owners are about to lock the players out after this season is over. Tim Thomas is the poster child for why there shouldn’t be long term guaranteed contracts.
3. Vince Carter
How does VC every time he looks at Kobe and D Wade and not throw up in his mouth? There is not one solitary reason that he is not on their level. Name me one thing those two CAN do better than him? Exactly. The difference is simply in their mental make up. Kobe and D Wade want to be great players. They have to be great players. They will themselves to be great players. Kobe has never rested on any of his accomplishments. Ever. Vince hasn’t been the same since he missed that jumper against Philly in game 7 of the Eastern Conference semi finals, the same day he attended his college graduation in Chapel Hill. Yes he has put up wonderful statistics and teased us all with explosive performances, but he has never become the player we all thought he would. Often injured, and always dramatic, VC will go down as quite possibly the greatest dunker of all time. But he will also be remembered for what he wasn’t.
4. Baron Davis
There is literally nothing on the basketball court that Baron cannot do and do well. And there is literally nothing off of the court he won’t eat, and eat in multiple servings. There is not one single reason this guy is not a perennial all star and one of the top 2 or 3 point guards in the world. Baron simply does not want to be great. He is content with being good, and on a given night really good, and making a lot of money. His return to LA, to play for the Clippers was an utter disaster. He now is in NBA witness protection program better known as Cleveland.
6. Kenny Anderson
Went from New York city prodigy to reoccurring character on Basketball “Wives.” Talk about a rough landing. Notice the quotations on wives because from my understanding (no I do not watch that trash) but very few of the “ladies” on the show were ever married to the athlete that they now leach, I mean live off of.
Kenny was one of the first really, really nationally hyped basketball recruits I can remember. He was on ESPN, the front of magazines and was as hyped a recruit at Georgia Tech as any other in the country. And he lived up to the hype teamed with Brian Oliver, and Dennis Scott he lead the Yellow Jackets to the final four. He was a lottery pick with the Nets and was good for while, ironically (or maybe not so) with Derrick Coleman.
7. Stephon Marbury
See Steve Francis. Just add in public meltdowns and a mysterious man rubbing Vaseline on him and you have Coney Island’s own Stephon Marbury. The warning signs came early with the New York prep superstar, when he wanted to get traded out of Minnesota even though he was playing with his supposed best friend from the AAU circuit Kevin Garnett. The fact that he would want to break up a union that looked so promising was all the evidence we needed to know rocky times were ahead. And boy were they ever:
8. Rasheed Wallace:
Beloved by his teammates and berated by opposing fans, the man they call Roscoe had a wonderful NBA career. He has a championship ring, countless accolades and cars, but if they’re ever was a guy who wasted so much energy on the refs, it was Rasheed. He would go quarters with out breaking a sweat only to scream and berate the officials on a call. It never made sense to me how a guy could lazily jog back on defense and then lose his wig at an offensive 3 second call.
When the Pistons traded for Sheed in the 2003-2004 season I couldn’t have been happier. He fit the Pistons better than any player on the roster outside of Ben Wallace. We Pistons fans embrace the outlaw, the us against the world mentality. And that season they surprisingly went on to win the NBA championship. And Sheed was the real reason why. He legitimized the team, and gave them a confidence they didn’t have before his arrival. And then he did the coolest thing of all and made the team championship belts, that he wore the entire next season and into the playoffs as they returned to the NBA finals. And then it happened.
June 19th 2005. Game 5 at the Palace: Pistons vs. the Spurs, NBA finals series tied 2-2. I am nervously watching the game from a suite, literally right above half court. The action takes place to my left. The Pistons are up 2 out of a timeout it is the Spurs ball at just over half court. Sheed is guarding Robert Horry as he inbounds the ball. Horry FYI, has been on fire in the 4th quarter and overtime. Horry inbounds the ball to Ginobili in the corner. Sheed inexplicably leaves his man (clutch ass Horry) to double team Ginobili when Prince didn’t even need any help. At that point I begin walking out of the suite. I swear to you I didn’t even see the shot go in. All I heard was the utter disgust in the crowd. I started to walk home. The Palace is in Auburn Hills. I lived in West Bloomfield at the time. While they are both in Oakland county it is a 20-minute drive with no traffic so you can imagine it would have been a long jaunt home. That night I realized that I take sports way to seriously. It was worse than Chris Webber’s timeout, and worse than the Hail Mary by that bastard Kordell Steward at the Big House. I was there. I was watching it unfold in person. It felt like a Randy Johnson fastball to the nads. Worst live sporting event experience ever. I love Sheed and I hate Sheed. And that pretty much sums up his career. One incredible moment of euphoria, and one “Are you F’n kidding me” staring off into nothingness moment of despair.
9. Penny Hardaway:
He was Lebron James with Chris rocks build. He was a triple-double threat every night. Injuries more than anything robbed him of pending superstardom. Yeah he had a fallout with Shaq, but doesn’t everybody? There was a time when Penny and Grant Hill were seen as the torchbearers for the NBA going forward. Long before Lebron, Kobe, and Durant were even thought of. Instead he went from team to team, trying relive what once was. Just think if he stayed healthy and Shaq never left Orlando. The entire landscape of the NBA in the 90’s would have been different.
10. Stanley Roberts
People forget that in college at LSU Stanley Roberts was better than Shaq. While not the freak of nature Shaq was, he had a drop step and a soft touch at 17. When I googled Stanley Roberts, my computer instantly took me to the hostess website. No lie (lazy eye). In an era that saw so few dominant centers, Stanley even if he never reached his full potential still should have been a multiple time All Star. Instead he is somewhere on the porch halfway through a cooler of Miller High Life telling all the young kids how he used to be better than Shaq. Sad thing is, he isn’t lying.
If you have ever played basketball with a really good football player, then you know how JR Rider hooped. He was as physical a two guard in the league when he wanted to be. He could back down any shooting guard he wanted to. Ask Kobe, or Eddie Jones about that. The issue with him, much like Rasheed was, he only played to his advantage when he felt like it. He would launch stupid fade away jumpers early in the shot clock, or just stand behind the 3- point line. Only when he felt challenged against elite players would he post up.
Has any one ever switched their name mid career, for non-religious reasons ever panned out? Who the hell goes from JR to Isaiah? Not John Roberts, or James Ricardo, but JR to Isaiah? WTF?
While JR Smith still has to time to get better, you have to wonder if ever will “get it.” He has already passed the tattoo threshold. I think every great athlete can have no more than 7 visible tattoos. And JR is currently sitting at 13. I think he will always be a gunner, who when he is on is borderline unstoppable, and when he is off will give his coach an aneurysm. He is feast or famine because he refuses to improve his game. Like attacking the basket, playing defense or being more of a playmaker for his teammates. Eventually he will burn some bridges and head to South America to play along side Antoine Walker.
Memo to self, don’t name my kid JR.
12. Shawn Kemp:
“Those damn kids” –Scooby Doo voice. The lockout ruined Shawn’s career forever. Yes he still went on to play 5 more seasons, but he was never the reign man, more like gain man, as in pounds. Lots of them.
The real biggest loser. This guy ate his way out of the NBA. Oliver Miller literally cost himself in upwards of $50 million due to the fact that he couldn’t mix in a salad and a diet coke.