Due to the tragic death of #2 overall pick Len Bias from a cocaine overdose, the 1986 NBA Draft always will be remembered more for what might have been versus what was. Adding to that sentiment, #3 pick Chris Washburn, #6 pick William Bedford, and #7 pick Roy Tarpley all had their NBA careers negatively affected by drugs and alcohol. Whereas Washburn and Bedford were bust-worthy because they never produced respectable numbers (e.g. fewer than five points and three rebounds per game), Tarpley averaged a double-double over his 280-game career. With production of 13 points and 10 rebounds per game, Tarpley wasn’t a traditional bust. Instead, he was a “drug bust” who failed to live up to his tremendous potential after receiving not one but two lifetime suspensions.
If you were interested enough to search for and find this site, you already know about the failure of Darko Milicic as an NBA player. However, you may be less familiar with the media hype that transformed the unproved Serbian player into the 2nd overall pick of the 2003 NBA Draft. With respect to all of the participants involved in creating or perpetuating the hype, perhaps the most egregious was ESPN Draft Analyst Chad Ford. As an aside, it was recently reported that someone revised Ford’s historical mock draft rankings on ESPN’s website. Unlike the North Korean hackers who effectively caused the resignation of Sony Pictures Co-Chair Amy Pascal, this hacker was kind to Ford and only made him seem better at his job. ESPN seems to believe Ford, who denied being personally involved, so I will too because what incentive does the network have to cover up such a scandal? Whether or not he should be believed, Ford has earned an Honorable Mention in my countdown of Top 10 Busts simply for his role in the Milicic debacle.
As discussed in a previous post, Sam Bowie is often highlighted as the biggest bust in NBA history simply because he was drafted ahead of Michael Jordan. While it’s clear that the Trail Blazers made a really bad decision regarding their 2nd overall pick in the 1984 Draft (especially given that Portland also passed up on Hall of Famer Charles Barkley), Bowie was not an all-time bust. In particular, he averaged approximately 11 points and eight rebounds per game during his career. On behalf of all players who achieved at least a minimum threshold of production during their careers and in honor of the most inappropriately maligned player in NBA history, I have created the Sam Bowie Exemption.