Worst NBA Players of All Time
It's easy to remember the best players in NBA history. Basketball fans can reel off those names with no problem. But bad NBA players get buried deep into our subconscious.
Some players are so bad they create their own subgenre of being awful at basketball, because they became millionaires in the process.
These are the worst NBA players of all time. The very worst of the worst.
30. Danny Ferry
Born: Oct. 17, 1966 (Hyattsville, Maryland)
NBA career: 13 seasons (1990-2003)
Teams: Cleveland Cavaliers (1990-2000), San Antonio Spurs (2000-03)
Bottom Line: Danny Ferry
Few players have been as annoying and frustrating to watch as former Duke star Danny Ferry. He was a truly underachieving talent, and we all would've been better off if he had never stepped foot on an NBA court.
We actually almost got our wish when Ferry turned his back on the NBA after he was selected No. 2 overall by the Los Angeles Clippers in the 1989 NBA draft. Ferry refused to play for the Clippers, where he would've been a perfect fit, and instead went to play professionally in Italy for one season before returning to the U.S., where he played for the Cavaliers for a decade.
Ferry won an NBA title in his final season with the San Antonio Spurs, when he averaged a whopping 1.9 points, which wasn't much above his career average.
29. Bryant Reeves
Born: June 8, 1973 (Fort Smith, Arkansas)
College: Oklahoma State
NBA career: 6 seasons (1995-2001)
Teams: Vancouver Grizzlies
Bottom Line: Bryant Reeves
Bryant Reeves became a national sensation in 1995 while leading Oklahoma State to the Final Four, when the 7-foot center nicknamed "Big Country" averaged 21.5 points.
Reeves' performance was enough of an enticement for NBA franchises he was selected No. 6 overall by the Vancouver Grizzlies. In his first three seasons, he was as good as any young center in the NBA.
The Grizzlies were enamored with Reeves' talents and his potential and signed him to a whopping six-year, $61.8 million contract following his second season. Reeves' weight ballooned after signing the megadeal, and injuries followed. His numbers were cut in half following that, and he was out of the league within three seasons.
Reeves' ability didn't make him one of the worst players in NBA history. His laziness took care of that.
28. Sam Bowie
Born: March 17, 1961 (Lebanon, Pennsylvania)
NBA career: 11 seasons (1984-95)
Teams: Portland Trail Blazers (1984-89), New Jersey Nets (1989-93), Los Angeles Lakers (1993-95)
Bottom Line: Sam Bowie
It was going to be nearly impossible for Sam Bowie to ever overcome being selected by the Portland Trail Blazers one spot ahead of Michael Jordan in the NBA draft, but Bowie's lack of production and injuries sealed the deal.
Bowie's career averages of 10.8 points and 7.5 rebounds don't really tell the whole story of his career. After playing 76 games as a rookie in 1984-85, Bowie played just 63 games over the next four seasons, including missing all of the 1987-88 season.
27. Chuck Hayes
Born: June 11, 1983 (San Leandro, California)
NBA career: 9 seasons (2006-15)
Teams: Houston Rockets (2006-11, 2015), Sacramento Kings (2011-13), Toronto Raptors (2013-15)
Bottom Line: Chuck Hayes
We've tried not to put too many undrafted players on this list out of sheer respect for the difficulty of making an NBA roster after not being picked. We can make an exception with Chuck Hayes.
Hayes makes the list almost solely on the basis of having perhaps the ugliest shooting form of any human who has ever picked up a basketball. It was a nausea-inducing, herky-jerky fling of the ball toward the basket that made our eyes bleed.
Few players in NBA history have made as much out of as little, and we have Hayes' 2011 contract with the Sacramento Kings as the best evidence. A four-year, $22.3 million monstrosity.
26. Robert Traylor
Born: Feb. 1, 1977 (Detroit, Michigan)
Died: May 11, 2011 (age 34, Isla Verde, Puerto Rico)
NBA career: 7 seasons (1998-2005)
Teams: Milwaukee Bucks (1998-2000), Cleveland Cavaliers (2000-01, 2004-05), Charlotte/New Orleans Hornets (2001-04)
Bottom Line: Robert Traylor
The Dallas Mavericks selected Robert Traylor at No. 6 overall in the 1998 NBA draft and quickly shipped him off for a draft package that included the No. 9 pick from the Milwaukee Bucks that year — future NBA MVP and Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki, another power forward.
Traylor might have actually had a chance to be good in the NBA but couldn't control his weight, reportedly ballooning to almost 350 pounds before he was out of the league after seven seasons.
Traylor died of a massive heart attack in 2011 in Puerto Rico, where he was playing professional basketball.
25. Pete Chilcutt
Born: Sept. 14, 1968 (Sumter, South Carolina)
College: North Carolina
NBA career: 9 seasons (1991-2000)
Teams: Sacramento Kings (1991-94), Detroit Pistons (1994), Houston Rockets (1994-96), Vancouver Grizzlies (1996-99), Utah Jazz (1999-2000), Los Angeles Clippers (2000), Cleveland Cavaliers (2000)
Bottom Line: Pete Chilcutt
You could find Pete Chilcutt celebrating in the Houston Rockets locker room after the team won the 1995 NBA championship. Where you could not find Chilcutt for the majority of his almost 600 regular-season games was actually playing basketball.
But in the 1995 postseason, somehow, Chilcutt was golden for the Rockets. He actually started 15 games in the playoffs and played in 20. The next year, he only played in one postseason game.
The rest of his career, which included 4.6 points per game, was spent in an NBA wasteland of Sacramento, Cleveland, Vancouver and a stint with the Los Angeles Clippers.
24. Brian Cardinal
Born: May 2, 1977 (Tolono, Illinois)
NBA career: 12 seasons (2000-12)
Teams: Detroit Pistons (2000-02), Washington Wizards (2002), Golden State Warriors (2003-04), Memphis Grizzlies (2004-08), Minnesota Timberwolves (2008-10), Dallas Mavericks (2010-12)
Bottom Line: Brian Cardinal
Say what you will about Brian Cardinal (and trust us, we're about to), he has what most players only dream about, which is an NBA championship.
While Cardinal won it all in the penultimate season of his career, with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011, we still have the rest of his career. Cardinal somehow lasted 12 seasons in the NBA despite averaging just 4.6 points — a number that was cut in half to 2.3 points during 18 career playoff games.
Like so many players on this list, Cardinal cashed in during his NBA career, picking up approximately $40 million in career earnings.
23. Desagna Diop
Born: Jan. 30, 1983 (Dakar, Senegal)
NBA career: 12 seasons (2001-13)
Teams: Cleveland Cavaliers (2001-05), Dallas Mavericks (2005-08, 2008-09), New Jersey Nets (2008), Charlotte Bobcats (2009-13)
Bottom Line: Desagna Diop
Desagna Diop is living proof that should someone be blessed with height that hits the 7-foot mark, you will likely get a shot to play basketball on a very high level.
Diop was a space filler for 12 seasons in the NBA. He played in 601 regular-season games and walked away with career averages of 2.0 points and 3.9 rebounds.
One thing Diop was pretty average at — meaning better than anything else he did — was block shots, which ended up bringing him approximately $57 million in career earnings.
22. Kwame Brown
Born: March 10, 1982 (Charleston< South Carolina)
NBA career: 12 season (2001-13)
Teams: Washington Wizards (2001-05), Los Angeles Lakers (2005-08), Memphis Grizzlies (2008), Detroit Pistons (2008-10), Charlotte Bobcats (2010-11), Golden State Warriors (2011-12), Philadelphia 76ers (2012-13)
Bottom Line: Kwame Brown
High school phenom Kwame Brown was a spectacular swing-and-a-miss for Washington Wizards player/president Michael Jordan in his first attempt at the NBA draft.
Brown never made an All-Star team, never made an All-NBA team and never played on a team that made it past the first round of the NBA playoffs.
Brown ended up playing for eight teams in 12 seasons and has been very vocal about defending his career accomplishments over the last year. Don't buy it.
21. Timofey Mozgov
Born: July 16, 1986 (Leningrad, Russian Soviet Union)
NBA career: 8 seasons (2010-18)
Teams: New York Knicks (2010-11), Denver Nuggets (2011-15), Cleveland Cavaliers (2015-16), Los Angeles Lakers (2016-17), Brooklyn Nets (2017-18)
Bottom Line: Timofey Mozgov
Timofey Mozgov wouldn't have made this list if he didn't have the good sense to cash out with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2016, when the franchise tossed a four-year, $64 million contract to a player who, for all intents and purposes, had been nothing short of a bum through the first six seasons of his career.
Mozgov's contract is routinely pointed to as one of the worst NBA deals of all time, and his time with the Lakers exposed him as essentially a do-nothing player. Below-average scorer, below-average rebounder and putrid defender.
20. Rick Robey
Born: Jan. 30, 1956 (Coral Gables, Florida)
NBA career: 7 seasons (1979-86)
Teams: Indiana Pacers (1978-79), Boston Celtics (1979-83), Phoenix Suns (1983-86)
Bottom Line: Rick Robey
A lot of players made this list not just for being terrible, but for being terrible and having been the player some front-office genius determined was better than an actually great player in the same draft. Rick Robey is one of those.
Robey played eight seasons and made just 46 starts in his career after he was selected No. 3 overall in 1978 by the Indiana Pacers — three slots ahead of the Boston Celtics, who selected Larry Bird.
Robey got a front-row seat to Bird's greatness after he was traded to the Celtics and rode the bench behind Bird from 1979 to 1983.
19. Randy White
Born: Nov. 4, 1967 (Shreveport, Louisiana)
College: Louisiana Tech
NBA career: 5 seasons (1989-94)
Teams: Dallas Mavericks
Bottom Line: Randy White
Randy White had the good fortune of being a power forward at Louisiana Tech directly following Karl Malone and was selected No. 8 overall in the 1989 NBA draft by the Dallas Mavericks, who were hoping to find the second coming of "The Mailman." White's nickname in college was actually "The Mailkid."
White was awful. Picked ahead of future standouts like Shawn Kemp, Vlade Divac, Glen Rice, Tim Hardaway and Cliff Robinson, White shot around 40 percent from the field over five seasons, never averaged in double digits and played in one playoff game over just five total seasons.
18. Mark Madsen
Born: Jan. 28, 1976 (Walnut Creek, California)
NBA career: 9 seasons (2000-09)
Teams: Los Angeles Lakers (2000-03), Minnesota Timberwolves (2003-09)
Bottom Line: Mark Madsen
There's something to be said when below-average talent meets great opportunity. That was the case of former NBA forward Mark Madsen.
Madsen, a genuinely nice dude, caught on with the Los Angeles Lakers as a rookie in 2000, right after the first of three consecutive NBA titles won by the dynamic trio of Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant and head coach Phil Jackson. It speaks to what a great teammate Madsen was that he stayed on the roster for three seasons because he was truly horrific on the floor. He ended up with career averages of 2.2 points and 2.6 rebounds.
Madsen has been the head coach at Utah Valley University since 2019.
17. Smush Parker
Born: June 1, 1981
NBA career: 6 seasons (2002-08)
Teams: Cleveland Cavaliers (2002-03), Detroit Pistons (2004-05), Phoenix Suns (2005), Los Angeles Lakers (2005-07), Miami Heat (2007-08), Los Angeles Clippers (2008)
Bottom Line: Smush Parker
There are two very simple ways to define how bad Smush Parker was. The point guard with career averages of 9.2 points and 2.9 assists at different points in his career took to waving off Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant with the Lakers and future Hall of Famer Dwyane Wade with the Heat.
The great Smush Parker, who played a whopping 274 NBA games, at different points in his career couldn't co-exist with two of the best basketball players of all time. Because he thought he was better and needed the ball in his hands more than they did.
Smush Freaking Parker.
16. Jerome James
Born: Nov. 17, 1975 (Tampa, Florida)
College: Florida A&M
NBA career: 9 seasons (1999, 2001-09)
Teams: Sacramento Kings (1999), Seattle SuperSonics (2001-05), New York Knicks (2005-09)
Bottom Line: Jerome James
Jerome James was a 7-footer who really looked like he could play basketball.
He made enough of an impression on former New York Knicks general manager/head coach Isiah Thomas that he signed him to a disastrous five-year, $30 million contract in 2005 following a decent showing in the playoffs.
James was as bad a player as Thomas was at running a team — and averaged 2.5 points and 1.5 rebounds over the course of his contact with the Knicks.
15. Cherokee Parks
Born: Oct. 11, 1972 (Huntington Beach, California)
NBA career: 8 seasons (1995-2003)
Teams: Dallas Mavericks (1995-96), Minnesota Timberwolves (1996-98), Vancouver Grizzlies (1998-2000), Washington Wizards (2000), Los Angeles Clippers (2000-01, 2002-03), San Antonio Spurs (2001-02), Golden State Warriors (2003)
Bottom Line: Cherokee Parks
Cherokee Parks won a national title at Duke as a freshman and eventually became the No. 12 overall pick in the 1995 NBA draft. This bum averaged 4.4 points and 3.6 rebounds over 11 seasons and never averaged more than 8 points in a single season.
Modern NBA fans lucked out. They never had to suffer through seeing Parks play the most extravagant version of Spanish bullfighter-inspired "Ole!" defense in history.
14. Keith Closs
Born: April 3, 1976 (Hartford, Connecticut)
College: Central Connecticut
NBA career: 3 seasons (1997-2000)
Teams: Los Angeles Clippers
Bottom Line: Keith Closs
Keith Closs still holds the NCAA record for blocks. He averaged 5.87 per game in two years at Central Connecticut.
Closs, 7-foot-3, went undrafted but caught on fairly quickly with the Los Angeles Clippers, where he was a backup for three seasons before he drank himself out of the league.
Closs' infamy now lies with one of the first viral videos in internet history — a harrowing beatdown suffered outside of a Los Angeles nightclub in 2000 during his final NBA season.
Closs averaged 3.9 points and 2.9 rebounds over the three seasons, which is really, really bad considering he averaged 13 minutes per game.
13. Michael Olowokandi
Born: April 3, 1975 (Lagos, Nigeria)
NBA career: 8 seasons (1999-2007)
Teams: Los Angeles Clippers (1999-2003), Minnesota Timberwolves (2003-06), Boston Celtics (2006-07)
Bottom Line: Michael Olowokandi
Michael Olowokandi was a surprise No. 1 pick by the Los Angeles Clippers and one of the biggest busts in draft history. He only averaged in double digits for scoring in two seasons.
What's worse for the Clippers is that there were three likely Hall of Famers taken in the first 10 picks — Vince Carter, Paul Pierce and Dirk Nowitzki.
The prize jewel of those three was Nowitzki, the 2007 NBA Most Valuable Player, a 14-time All-Star, 12-time All-NBA pick and leader of one of the most historic upsets in NBA Finals history in 2011, when the Mavericks beat the Miami Heat.
12. Adam Morrison
Born: July 19, 1984 (Glendive, Montana)
NBA career: 4 seasons (2006-10)
Teams: Charlotte Bobcats (2006-09), Los Angeles Lakers (2009-10)
Bottom Line: Adam Morrison
Adam Morrison torched NCAA competition at Gonzaga to the point where he was selected No. 3 overall in the 2006 NBA draft by the Charlotte Bobcats.
Morrison showed some glimpses of his promise as a rookie, when he averaged 11.8 points, but fell off the map in stunning fashion after that and was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers midway through the 2008-09 season.
That's where the story takes a strange twist. Morrison won back-to-back NBA championships with the Lakers in 2009 and 2010 although he played in just 39 regular-season games and averaged 2.2 points and less than 1 rebound and assist per game.
11. Brian Scalabrine
Born: March 18, 1978 (Long Beach, California)
NBA career: 11 seasons (2001-12)
Teams: New Jersey Nets (2001-05), Boston Celtics (2005-10), Chicago Bulls (2010-12)
Bottom Line: Brian Scalabrine
Few players in NBA history have gained such a following for doing so little as Brian Scalabrine did in 11 NBA seasons.
Scalabrine must have been an amazing hang and a great locker-room guy, because what he did on the floor leaves us scratching our heads. His career averages of 3.2 points and 2.1 rebounds were almost cut in half in the postseason.
All that trash talk aside, the man who once famously challenged fans to come out and play him 1-on-1 while he was still playing in the NBA won an NBA championship with the Boston Celtics in 2008.
10. LaRue Martin
Born: March 30, 1950 (Chicago, Illinois)
NBA career: 4 seasons (1972-76)
Teams: Portland Trail Blazers
Bottom Line: LaRue Martin
No team has failed more dramatically when it comes to the NBA draft than the Portland Trail Blazers. Their 1972 selection of LaRue Martin at No. 1 overall serves as the beginning of those woes, which would come to include passing on Michael Jordan in 1984 and Kevin Durant in 2007.
Martin was the third-best player available, with Julius Erving already playing in the ABA and Bob McAdoo, reportedly, unable to come to a deal with the Blazers before the draft.
Martin only played four years in the NBA, and his shy personality was a huge hindrance to becoming a star. Martin repeatedly said he never got used to the notoriety that came with being the No. 1 overall pick.
His career averages of 5.3 points and 4.6 rebounds reflect as much.
9. Javaris Crittenton
Born: Dec. 31, 1987 (Atlanta, Georgia)
College: Georgia Tech
NBA career: 2 seasons (2007-09)
Teams: Los Angeles Lakers (2007-08), Memphis Grizzlies (2008), Washington Wizards (2008-09)
Bottom Line: Javaris Crittenton
Javaris Crittenton was really bad on the floor during two NBA seasons spent with three different teams after he was the No. 19 overall pick with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2007. Just a few years before, he might have been a major contributor on back-to-back NBA championship teams.
There was no such future in the cards for Crittenton, who was part of the trade that brought future Hall of Fame center Pau Gasol to the Lakers from the Memphis Grizzlies. Crittenton was traded again within a year, this time to the Washington Wizards, where he and teammate Gilbert Arenas engaged in an Old West-style, guns-drawn standoff in the locker room in one of the scarier incidents in NBA history.
Crittenton and his 5.3 points and 1.8 assists per game were quickly suspended, waived by the Wizards and never returned to the league. In 2011, he was convicted of the murder of a 22-year-old woman in Los Angeles and sentenced to 23 years in prison. He's scheduled for release in 2036.
8. Greg Oden
Born: Jan. 22, 1988 (Buffalo, New York)
College: Ohio State
NBA career: 7 seasons (2007-14)
Teams: Portland Trail Blazers (2007-12), Miami Heat (2013-14)
Bottom Line: Greg Oden
The debate between who to pick — Greg Oden or Kevin Durant — went up until draft day. The Blazers ultimately settled on what they thought would be a dominant center for the next decade in Oden. They were wrong.
Oden missed his rookie season because of microfracture surgery and battled injuries for all seven seasons. Durant is arguably one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history — a nine-time All-NBA pick, two-time NBA champion and the 2014 NBA Most Valuable Player.
Oden is widely regarded as a top-three all-time draft bust, and watching him play, when he was available, was painful.
7. Dragan Bender
Born: Nov. 17, 1997 (Capljina, Bosnia and Herzegovina)
NBA career: 4 seasons (2016-20)
Teams: Phoenix Suns (2016-19), Milwaukee Bucks (2019-20), Golden State Warriors (2020)
Bottom Line: Dragan Bender
What in the world happened in the office of the Phoenix Suns to make Dragan Bender the No. 4 overall selection in the 2016 NBA draft?
Bender, 7-foot-1, was just 19 years old and had already spent four years playing professional basketball in Croatia and Israel when the Suns nabbed him, and even in one of the weaker drafts in recent history it's a pick that stands out as being historically bad.
The Suns declined the option on Bender's rookie contract, and he was out of the league after four seasons and back in Israel playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv.
6. Chris Washburn
Born: May 13, 1966 (Hickory, North Carolina)
College: North Carolina State
NBA career: 2 seasons (1986-88)
Teams: Golden State Warriors (1986-87), Atlanta Hawks (1987-88)
Bottom Line: Chris Washburn
Chris Washburn was the No. 3 overall pick in the doomed 1986 NBA draft out of North Carolina State and averaged 3.1 points and 2.4 rebounds in just two seasons.
Three years and three failed drug tests after he was drafted, Washburn was kicked out of the league for life and spiraled into decades of drug use.
Washburn spent five more years bouncing around lower leagues in the U.S. and overseas before returning home and eventually settling in Houston, where he said he lived in crack houses and ate out of garbage cans for years while trying to get money for crack cocaine.
5. Darko Milicic
Born: June 20, 1985 (Novi Sad, Serbia, Yugoslavia)
NBA career: 9 seasons (2003-12)
Teams: Detroit Pistons (2003-06), Orlando Magic (2006-07), Memphis Grizzlies (2007-09), Minnesota Timberwolves (2010-12), Boston Celtics (2012)
Bottom Line: Darko Milicic
Darko Milicic ended up with one of the greatest nicknames in NBA history, even if it was derivative.
"The Human Victory Cigar" will forever be known for having been the most glaringly terrible pick in perhaps the greatest NBA draft in history in 2003. Milicic went No. 2 overall to the Detroit Pistons behind No. 1 pick LeBron James and right ahead of future NBA stars Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade.
Milicic won an NBA championship as a rookie in 2004, although he averaged just 1.8 minutes in the postseason. He never had a single season in which he averaged double digits.
4. Nikoloz Tskitishvili
Born: April 14, 1983 (Tbilisi, Georgia, Soviet Union)
NBA career: 4 seasons (2002-06)
Teams: Denver Nuggets (2002-05), Golden State Warriors (2005), Minnesota Timberwolves (2005-06), Phoenix Suns (2006)
Bottom Line: Nikoloz Tskitishvili
There are bums, and there is Nikoloz Tzkitishvilli, the No. 5 overall pick in the 2002 NBA draft by the Denver Nuggets.
Tskitishvili could barely function on a basketball court. He shot 30 percent from the field while he averaged 2.9 points and 1.8 rebounds for his career, while playing for four teams over four seasons.
Tzkitishvili wasn't done being bad at basketball once he was out of the NBA. He played professionally overseas for 13 more years, finally hanging it up in 2019.
3. Rafael Araujo
Born: Aug. 12, 1980 (Curitiba, Brazil)
NBA career: 3 seasons (2004-07)
Teams: Toronto Raptors (2005-06), Utah Jazz (2006-07)
Bottom Line: Rafael Araujo
There might not be words to properly convey our disdain for former NBA center Rafael Araujo, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2004 NBA draft.
Araujo couldn't score, couldn't rebound and couldn't last more than three seasons in the NBA. Worst of all, he was selected before a gaggle of future standouts and key role players such as NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala, Tony Allen, J.R. Smith, Jameer Nelson and Anderson Varejao.
There was little Araujo could do well in the pros, as evidenced by his matching career averages of 2.8 points and 2.8 rebounds.
2. Hasheem Thabeet
Born: Feb. 11, 1987 (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)
NBA career: 5 seasons (2009-14)
Teams: Memphis Grizzlies (2009-11), Houston Rockets (2011-12), Portland Trail Blazers (2012), Oklahoma City Thunder (2012-14)
Bottom Line: Hasheem Thabeet
The first player from Tanzania selected in the NBA draft, Hasheem Thabeet was as bad as they come when he finally stepped on the floor for the Memphis Grizzlies, who made him the No. 2 overall pick in 2009.
Thabeet was bad on his own. See his career averages of 2.2 points and 2.7 rebounds. But his career was made worse by the fact he was selected ahead of two future NBA MVP Award winners in James Harden and Stephen Curry.
After being drummed out of the league for five lackluster seasons, Thabeet still has managed to cash checks around the world and was playing in a professional league in Taiwan as recently as 2021.
1. Anthony Bennett
Born: March 14, 1993 (Toronto, Ontario)
NBA career: 4 seasons (2013-17)
Teams: Cleveland Cavaliers (2013-14), Minnesota Timberwolves (2014-15), Toronto Raptors (2015-16), Brooklyn Nets (2016-17)
Bottom Line: Anthony Bennett
The Cleveland Cavaliers can at least share their shame in not picking future Hall of Famer and 2019 NBA Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo with 13 other teams in 2013.
What they can’t share with any of those other teams is the fact that they made one of the most stunning No. 1 overall picks in NBA draft history when they selected Anthony Bennett, who played for four teams in four NBA seasons.
Bennett is one of the worst No. 1 overall picks not just in NBA history, but in the history of team sports.