Having a long-lasting career in any sport takes a lot of hard work, determination, and sometimes a little bit of luck. When it comes to basketball, speed, skill, and consistency are always the top choices in a player. But anything from injuries to off-court issues can cut short a promising career.
In some cases, players have stellar rookie seasons but never meet expectations afterward. Other players are ones who had okay careers that started with them bursting out with a sensational season, never to do it again. While we all remember the all-star selections and championship rings, these players had a bit of success, but ultimately left us wondering ”what if?”
Bryant Reeves Battled Injures And Weight Control Issues
After a strong collegiate career with Oklahoma State, Reeves became the Vancouver Grizzlies first ever draft choice. The sixth overall selection of the 1995 NBA Draft had an impressive start to his career in his first three seasons. He would average 16.3 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.08 blocked shots per game.
However, after 1998, the center battled injuries as well as weight-control issues. During a preseason game in 2001, Reeves experience back pain and he had to be taken off the court with the help of two stretchers. He retired midway through the 2001-02 season.
Dana Barros Managed A Magical Season After Being Traded To Philly
After Boston College, the Sonics drafted the guard 16th overall in 1989. In four seasons with Seattle, he didn’t see much playing time until he was traded to Philadelphia. Barros averaged 20.6 points, and 7.5 assists in 1995 would make him both an All-Star and being rewarded with Most Improved Player of the Year.
He would sign with the Celtics, his hometown team but didn’t meet expectations as his playing time decreased. Eventually, he ended up in Dallas before retiring for good in 2004.
Don MacLean Was The ‘Most Improved Player’ Then He Faded Away
As a college player, he is the all-time scoring leader of both the Pac-12 Conference and UCLA. MacLean was immediately traded to Washington after the Detroit Pistons drafted him in 1992. In 1994, the Bullets had a team that could shoot well, all thanks to the production of their power forward.
The Most Improved Player would be traded to the Denver Nuggets as his numbers faded. While playing in Phoenix, he gained infamy after a five game suspension. Now, he’s a color analyst on the UCLA Basketball Radio Network.
Larry Hughes Was A Stealing Machine… For One Season
Hughes played one season of college basketball with Saint Louis University. From 1998-2000, the guard had stints with Philadelphia, Golden State, Washington, and Cleveland. The 2005 NBA Steals leader would help a young LeBron James and the Cavaliers make their first Finals appearance in 2007.
Afterward, he couldn’t find a place to call home after playing with Chicago, New York, Charlotte, and Orlando. Hughes would retire from professional basketball at the conclusion of the 2012 season.
Derek Anderson Was Plagued By Injuries
In 1996, Anderson helped the University of Kentucky win the March Madness tournament. The Cleveland Cavaliers selected him 13th overall in 1997, but only played two seasons before being traded to the Los Angeles Clippers.
He averaged 16.9 points, 3.4 assists, and .438 field goal percentage. As his career went along, the shooting guard was plagued by injuries. He would start in 82 games only once as Anderson would be apart of the Miami Heat team who won the NBA Championship in 2006.
Richard Dumas Faced A Substance Abuse Problem
The small forward out of Oklahoma State was a second-round pick for the Suns in 1991. He was suspended by the league for violating its substance abuse policy, playing in Israel for Hapoel Holon. His rookie campaign would commence in 1992, averaging 15.8 points and 4.6 rebounds as the Suns reached the Finals.
However, another sabbatical would hurt Dumas as he was doing little more than 5 points as an average. He would later play for the 76ers and then head to Europe before retiring in 2003.
Josh Howard Moved On To Coaching After Failing To Catch His Stride
Coming into the NBA, the Wake Forest alum was the ACC Player of the Year. The Dallas Mavericks would take a chance on Howard, who showed excellent potential right from the start. But, Howard didn’t have a breakthrough until 2007.
That’s when he averaged 19.9 points, seven rebounds, good enough to be named to his first and only All-Star appearance. In 2010, Howard would be traded to Washington and later Utah and Minnesota. In July 2016, he was named the head coach for Piedmont International University’s basketball team.
Darius Miles Feuded With Coaches And Suffered An Injury
Miles is one of the few players who skipped college for the pro level. The Los Angeles Clippers took him third overall in 2000. He would be named a First Team NBA All-Rookie 2001, a first for a prep-to-pro player. While his play suffered after he got traded to Cleveland, it was his time in Portland that became more-notable.
Miles infamously got into battles with then-coach Maurice Cheeks. Furthermore, he would miss two full seasons due to surgery on his right knee. Miles finished his career with the Memphis Grizzlies in 2009.
Jonny Flynn Suffered A Hip Injury
At Syracuse, Flynn took home the Big East Rookie of the Year in 2008. He was the sixth overall pick of the 2009 NBA Draft, one pick ahead of future MVP Steph Curry. The 2009 Big East MVP was out to prove himself in his rookie season, averaging 13.5 points and 4.4 assists per game.
Unfortunately, Flynn underwent hip surgery in 2010 and never reached the same skillset as before. He would play in Houston and Portland, but his NBA career lasted four seasons.
Jerome James Became Inconsistent After Signing A $30 Million Contract
From 1995-1988, James played college basketball at Florida A&M. After the Kings drafted him in 1998, a lockout occurred as the second-round pick played for the Harlem Globetrotters. After one season with Sacramento, he would play in Europe.
In 2001, James would return to the NBA and signed with the Seattle Supersonics. He was pretty consistent with the Sonics in the 2005 playoffs. Afterward, New York Knicks signed James to a five-year $30 million contract. But, his inconsistency if one of the questionable signings by Knicks general manager Isiah Thomas.
Jamaal Magloire Made The All-Star Team But Couldn’t Match His Breakout Season
The Canadian was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets in 2000. During the 2003-2004 season, Maglorie stepped up as the team’s star. While averaging 13.6 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, the Kentucky alum was selected to his first and only All-Star Game.
Following a brief stint with Milwaukee, the Toronto native soon found himself in Portland. But, he put up worse numbers during his time in New Jersey, Dallas, and Miami. After retiring in 2012, he was an assistant coach for the Toronto Raptors from 2013-2016.
Antoine Carr Played In Italy Then Made A One-Season Mark During His NBA Return
"Big Dawg" came off a strong senior season at Wichita State. But, after being drafted by the Detroit Pistons in 1983, Carr played the following season with Simac Milano in Italy. He would return to the NBA in 1984 as a member of the Atlanta Hawks for the following six seasons.
He would be traded to the Sacramento Kings in 1989, averaging 20 points a game while scoring 1,551 points in that season. Despite the Kings trading him to San Antonio after two seasons, Carr never came close to that success.
Bobby Simmons Was A ‘Move Improved Player’ But It Didn’t Last
Seattle selected Simmons as a second-pick in 2001. But, he was traded to the Washington Wizards, never playing for the Sonics. The tenure in Washington was short lived as Simmons would find a new home with the Clippers in 2003.
During the 2004-05 season, the small forward had a breakout campaign where he averaged a career-high 16.4 points per game. He would be rewarded with the Most Improved Player of the Year Award. However, Simmons has struggled to reach the same level of play after stops in Milwaukee, New Jersey, and San Antonio.
Tyreke Evans Hasn’t Recaptured His Rookie Season Magic
The guard was the fourth overall pick of the 2009 NBA Draft and after a one-and-done season with Memphis, the Kings lucked out as Evans would be named the Rookie of the Year in 2010. After five seasons with Sacramento, he was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans.
But, his points-per-game average wouldn’t where it was in his rookie season. Evans would soon find himself back with the Kings in 2017 for one season. After playing in Memphis, he’s now with the Indiana Pacers.
Aaron Brooks Suffered A Leg Injury And Played Overseas Before Returning To The NBA
After four seasons with Oregon, Brooks was drafted by the Houston Rockets in 2007. The 26th overall pick wouldn’t see playing time until his third season with the Rockets, averaging 19.9 points per game in 2010.
For his efforts, the point guard was named the Most Improved Player of the Year. Just as Brooks was rising, a bad leg injury cut his playing time down and he was traded to the Phoenix Suns. He would play in China during the 2011 lockout but returned to the NBA for five seasons.
Larry Sanders Suffered A Non-Basketball Related Injury
A power forward for VCU, Sanders was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2010. After two seasons coming off the bench, he would become a a starter and took off. His consistency and .506 shooting percentage would be enough to sign a four-year extension.
But, in 2013, he suffered a non-basketball injury as he cracked his orbital bone. After receiving two suspensions on two different instances, the Bucks bought out his contract in 2015.
Jeremy Lin Couldn’t Maintain His ‘Linsansity’ Momentum
Linsanity seems like it occurred a long time ago. Jeremy Lin was the talk of the league in 2012. He was an instant hit with the New York, averaging 18.5 points and 7.6 assists. The Rockets shelled out $25 million to sign him, figuring he would lead them to glory.
Instead, within a full season, Lin just couldn’t match the same numbers and he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers after two seasons. He has since bounced around to Charlotte as well as Brooklyn and Atlanta.
Mike James Could Never Maintain Consistency For Various Teams
James has had quite the journey during his career. As a free agent, he would sign with the Miami Heat during the 2001-2002 season. By the time he reached Toronto, it looked as though he finally got over the hump. In 2005-06, he enjoyed a great season by averaging 20 points, 6 assists and 3.3. rebounds.
In spite of this, there were warning signs with accusations of him not being a team player and one-dimensional. The 2004 NBA Champion would bounce around six different teams before retiring in 2015.
Devin Harris Was Plagued By Shoulder And Ankle Injuries
Harris’ sophomore year was his breakout year. The Wisconsin star established himself as one of the top players in the nation. His college play was a big reason the Dallas Mavericks drafted him fifth overall in 2004.
He would be traded to the New Jersey Devils in 2008, being named an All-Star in his first season with his new team. But, he would soon be plagued with shoulder and ankle injuries, missing portions of the season. After stints in Utah, and Atlanta, Harris had a second stint with the Mavericks.
Don May Pulled Off Some Amazing Play Then Faltered
After three seasons with Dayton, May was a third-round draft pick of the New York Knicks. While he was part of the Knicks team that won the NBA title in 1970, his actual court time was pretty limited.
After the Buffalo Braves drafted him in the expansion draft, May took off. In two seasons, he averaged 20 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists. He would play with Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Kansas City before retiring in 1975.