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Who is the Worst Basketball Player?

Publish Date: 08.07.2024
Fact checked by: Jackson T. Pierce

The NBA is one of the most competitive and hard-to-reach leagues on Earth. The talent at the top is unmatched, and everyone will do whatever they can to earn a roster spot. That’s why even incredibly skilled players can falter or not live up to their potential.

There have been many bad NBA players over the years, but only a few had careers so disastrous that they can be labeled as the worst. Typically, that refers to those who had incredibly high expectations coming into the league, and who fell completely flat.

It’s not about mediocre players or ones who just skated by, it’s about athletes who set their team back for years as a result of their bad play.

kwame-brown

1. Kwame Brown

There have been many high-end draft picks or big name players who didn’t live up to their potential, but few fell short of expectations harder than Kwame Brown. The powerful forward came into the league as the first overall pick back in 2001.

At that time, many touted him as the next big star. He had a lot of skill, strength, and agility that seemed to make him a nightmare matchup all over the court. Unfortunately, Brown wasn’t just mediocre. He was one of the worst players in NBA history.

While he did have a long career, he makes this list simply because he never did anything of note. In his twelve years in the league, Brown only averaged more than 10 points per game once and averaged less than 5 for five seasons.

That, compiled with his career 3.5 rebounds and 0.8 assists per game, shows just how lackluster he was despite his incredibly high potential.

2. Adam Morrison

Few players have ever had as much hype coming out of college as Adam Morrison. The lethal shooting guard was one of the best three shooters to ever play in the NCAA, and that skill took him from nobody to national phenomenon overnight.

Despite that, he just couldn’t keep up with the NBA. Not only did Morrison come before the three shooting era, but he also suffered a debilitating knee injury after his rookie season that derailed what might have been a promising career.

His first healthy year with the Charlotte Bobcards he averaged 11.8 points a game and proved himself a decent scorer. After getting hurt, he averaged less than five points a game for the next three seasons before being waived by the Lakers and fading out of the league.

Morrison had a lot of potential but, as with many of the all-time worst players, he couldn’t quite match the hype. The injury set him back, but his low play after it and inability to stay healthy are always why he’ll be remembered.

3. Darko Milicic

Most of the worst basketball players are considered bad only because of their play. Darko Milicic is different because, not only did he not live up to his potential, he had absolutely massive shoes to fill. That’s because the forward went third overall in one of the best draft classes in history.

The Pistons selected Milicic second overall, one selection behind LeBron James and a few spots ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade. That showed how much the team believed in Milicic, and how much they thought he would improve their franchise.

Unfortunately, he did neither. Milicic goes down as one of the worst players in NBA history because he simply wasn’t an elite NBA talent. He middled around the league for a decade, but never averaged over 8 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists a game.

While he did show that he could hang on the court for a few minutes here and there, he was nowhere as good as his draft spot suggested he could be.

4. Hasheem Thabeet

Another player considered one of the worst due to his extreme hype, Hasheem Thabeet came into the NBA with lofty expectations. Standing at 7’3’’, the center was quick, had a strong basketball IQ, and knew how to get the ball into the hoop.

After dominating the college scene at Uconn, Thabeet entered the NBA draft. The Grizzlies took him second overall above other future stars like James Harden, Stephen Curry, DeMar DeRozan, and Jrue Holiday.

Unfortunately for Thabeet, he was nowhere close to any of those players. The lanky center couldn’t adjust to the speed of the NBA. He only lasted five years in the league, putting up a dreadful 2.2 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 0.1 assists during that time.

5. Anthony Bennett

Anthony Bennett is largely considered one of the all-time worst basketball players because he came in on one of the highest-highs and left on an extremely low, low.

The UNLV star excelled in college. So much so that the Cleveland Cavaliers took him with the first overall pick in the 2013 draft ahead of players like Victor Oladipo and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Not only did Bennett not match the NBA’s speed, he also couldn’t get into a groove. The large forward averaged just 4.4 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 0.5 assists. He also only managed to play four seasons before being let go. That goes down as one of the worst careers for a first overall pick in history.

Common Themes Among the Worst Players

There’s no one answer when breaking down the question of who is the worst basketball player, nor is there one factor that links them all together. They all share similar traits and weaknesses, but almost all of their journeys were different.

If there is one problem commonly seen among draft busts or worst professional athletes, it’s work ethic. Everyone who gets into a pro sports league has some level of talent or athleticism that helps them stand out from the pack.

As such, most players who don’t live up to their potential simply refuse to work on or build from that inherent talent. They’d often rather coast on their natural abilities or just do the bare minimum rather than push themselves or try to reach success.

That’s why so many of the worst players were drafted in the first place. Teams saw what they could be, and decided to take a chance on them. It’s simply hard to plan for someone having a lot of skill but not willing to turn that skill into on-court performance.

Injuries are something else that often plagues the worst NBA players. While definitely not their fault, players who can’t stay healthy are often seen as busts since they can never play or help their team.

Impact on Teams

Drafting a bust is something no team wants to do. Not only does it set them back on the court, but it has many negative implications for their franchise as well. The biggest being that it loses them ground against other franchises.

Typically, the best draft picks go to the worst performing teams. That evens the playing field and helps create parity within the league. However, if a franchise uses one of their premium picks on a bust, they then give away one of their biggest advantages.

Not only that, but sometimes bad players take a while before falling short of expectations. In such cases they can command big contracts or tie up capital so it’s harder to make other moves, trades, or signings.

Another problem can be team morale. A new or important talent can raise spirits and help players play to the best of their abilities. In contrast, when someone comes in and is extremely bad, it can bring everyone else down and cause them to give up on the team.

Those reasons are why so many teams try to avoid having extremely bad players. Mediocre athletes may not be the best, but even they come with less setbacks than what comes from taking players like the ones listed above.

Lessons Learned

At the end of the day, it’s incredibly difficult to discern who’s going to succeed at the professional level. There are many great players, as well as many that appear great at first glance. The worst of the worst show that hype isn’t everything. Sometimes, it can even be a detriment.

Scouts and teams will always pay attention to the big names. However, it’s important to register red flags and only go after players with the drive to succeed. Big names with low work ethic or injury problems, as the above examples show, may just become detriments in the end.

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