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.
JaMarcus Russell certainly has the résumé to earn the top spot on anyone’s all-time bust countdown. After winning the 2006 Manning Award, Russell went to the Oakland Raiders with the first pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. He clearly didn’t live up to expectations given his 7-18 starting record and career totals of 4,000 yards with 18 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. Regardless, I can’t rank him higher than #3 because no other quarterback taken in that draft had a successful career. For that reason, his failure seems less dramatic to me. In comparison, the top two NFL draft busts offer poor numbers and drama.
The 1986 NBA Draft always will be best remembered for the players who failed to live up to their potential due to problems with drugs. In particular, #2 pick Len Bias died from a drug overdose before ever playing a game in the NBA while #7 pick Roy Tarpley received not one but two lifetime bans after being named 1st Team All-Rookie and Sixth Man of the Year within his first two seasons in the league. As a #3 pick who failed to produce, Chris Washburn has received his fair share of notoriety, but #6 pick William Bedford seems to be a footnote relative to the other drug-related busts from that draft. After averaging 13 points and seven rebounds per game in college, Bedford averaged only four points and two rebounds per game in the NBA. As such, he has earned a Top 10 Bust – Honorable Mention and a separate post dedicated just to him.