DimeMag

5 NBA Players Who Became Castaways

In light of seeing all of these former NBA stars getting into trouble, I’ve been thinking about a whole lot, about untapped potential (hence my repeated posts on Penny & G-Hill & ‘Mac) and about why some guys make it and others don’t. It’s more than talent. Much more.

It’s always so hard to judge someone from afar. You grow up believing most of the stories you hear, thinking “oh this dude’s a bad guy…this guy is cool, but sometimes he doesn’t care…this guy can’t play.” But eventually, you find out that most of the stuff you hear is untrue.

One thing that frustrates me to no end are the amount of people – even “basketball analysts” – who say these high-scoring numbers guys are putting up this summer aren’t impressive because they’re playing against bums. Kevin Durant isn’t going to hit up Rucker and play against bums. Brandon Jennings isn’t going to Baltimore to play bums. If the comp isn’t there, then they won’t play. Period. There are thousands of unreal players who aren’t in the NBA or never made it there for one reason or another.

It’s the same with NBA Draft flameouts. Some of them really can’t play. But others couldn’t find the right team, lost their confidence, became consumed by money or any other one of a hundred different reasons.

There are players who never pan out. Go beyond the natural choices, the guys who would’ve been all-world if not for this or that. What about all the players who never made it, never made it to a second contract when some thought they would be All-Stars? What about the guys who were talented, and showed it at times, but never put it all together? The unlucky ones. Players who didn’t make it like Shawn Respert, who battled cancer and never told anyone about it or Marcus Fizer, whose knee injuries robbed the undersized big man of the only advantage he had.There were a few players over the years who seemed like they had some game, but never found a home. But maybe they had us all fooled all along.

The question: whether they were real players or just bums?

***

Courtney Alexander– At some point early in his career, MJ called him a future All-Star. He was an explosive scorer who had everything you needed for a swingman, and had a couple of huge games during his first few years when people were out because of injuries. Unfortunately, he too had problems with a major knee injury. Everyone raved about him leading up to the draft; maybe it was a case of the unknown. Alexander did go to Fresno State, and before he was drafted, I had never even seen him play. Some say it was the injuries who killed him. Others, that he was just a small-time player who couldn’t make it big.
JURY: For real or not?

Ed O’Bannon- A monster at the college level. Just a beast. He led UCLA to a title and put up 20 & 8 (with two steals and a block a night). But almost immediately after being drafted, he struggled. As a rookie, he played nearly 20 minutes a night, but from that point on, O’Bannon made a quick exit. At one point, the college star even admitted that his game suffered because he had no confidence. Could he really not play or was it just a bad fit?
JURY: For real or not?

Kedrick Brown- He was the owner of the greatest dunk I’ve ever seen live. Back when I lived up in Boston, they had a NBA summer league there before moving on to greener pastures. It was either free or REALLY cheap as I recall, and the crowds were so sparse that you could often sit courtside if you got a game that no one was interested in.

I saw Kwame Brown play his first game in a Wizards uniform there, and I also remember DerMarr Johnson destroying everyone for a few nights as a Hawk (this was back when Johnson was still living off a trail of hype that had him pegged as the next Magic).

But what I remember most is Brown jumping off two feet from probably a foot inside the free throw line and dunking so hard on Samuel Dalembert that I thought he had broke the rim. Up in Boston, he was an unknown with athleticism, and that translated into unreal expectations. For his career, he scored 509 points.
JURY: For real or not?

John Wallace– Wallace dominated the Big East for four consecutive years (well, his freshman year was great) and was the man on one of my favorite NCAA teams ever. ‘Cuse in 1996 was good, but Wallace hit SO many big shots that they ended up going all the way to the NCAA Championship. Wallace was a new age PF: someone who could play the three but could guard the fours. At least, that’s what he was billed as. In the NBA, he hung around for a few years but was the poor man’s version of the essential NBA poor man, the 10th man (or the quintessential “Player who was better in a movie than he was in real life” player). He just looked like an NBA player, but yet couldn’t make it as one.
JURY: For real or not?

Terence Morris- This guy was once considered a possible No. 1 overall pick in the 1999 NBA Draft. Seriously. Then he stayed two more years and we never really heard from him again. Back before Maryland fell off as a program, Morris was an inside-out player who had unrivaled potential. That was the word with him. “Potential.” He was never bad, but never stood out either, and sort of drifted through his final two college seasons and first three NBA seasons before going over to Europe. Morris was definitely a good player; He was an anchor on numerous championship teams. But he never came back to the NBA, and left us with one of the oddest six-year stretches of any player ever: from possible top pick to last man on an NBA bench to contributor for overseas title teams.
JURY: For real or not?

Which guys couldn’t play and which were actually just unlucky?

Follow Sean on Twitter at @SEANesweeney.

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