Oden is out, again, for the season, after yet another microfracture surgery. Considering that Oden was regarded as possibly the next Bill Russell coming out of college, it made me think about others whose careers were cut short before they ever really got going.
Here's an off-the-top-of-my-head all-time "What If?" team: Oden, Len Bias, Maurice Stokes, Jason Williams, Hank Gathers
I'm not talking about guys like Bill Walton, who had injury-plagued careers that lasted for years (although Walton certainly would have had an even more glorious career had he been injury-free).
And I know many of you will add Hurley to the list, although I don't know that he would have ever reached the level of accomplishment of my "first five". Gathers, maybe, is a question mark.
Bias, of course, is and always will be at the top of the list. The Oden that we saw at OSU might have been dominant defensively. So far, he has played 82 career games. In Stokes' 3-year career, he was Rookie of The Year and a 3-time all-star. Jason seemed destined for stardom. Gathers famously led the nation in scoring and rebounding in college.
Reggie Lewis seemed destined for greatness. Not to mention that his death seemed to set the Celtics back at least a decade.
I think that you would have to put Drazen Petrovic on this list. I realize that a lot of the posters on the board are too young to remember him (wow... did I just write that?) but that guy was un-be-leivable! (Once he got away from Portland and got PT in Jersey.)
No, not Marty. Arvydas Sabonis. The greatest center to ever play in Europe, and by some estimations the most versatile big man to ever play the game of basketball period, Sabonis never recorded a single minute of action in the NBA during his prime. Beleaguered by physical deterioration and his home country's refusal to allow him to leave the U.S.S.R during the height of his playing career, the 7-foot-3 Lithuanian giant was merely a fossil of his former self by the time his game finally reached stateside in 1995. At the time of his first NBA game with the Portland Trail Blazers, he was already 31 years old. Compare that to Shaquille O'Neal, who debuted with the Orlando Magic at a still vibrant and youthful 21. In the demanding and often abbreviated life of an NBA center, Sabonis already had one pivot inside of his career grave before ever even beginning his rookie season.
Despite these limitations, Sabonis still managed career averages of 12 points, 7 rebounds and 2 assists per game in seven NBA seasons, including scoring 23 a game during the 1996 playoffs. As impressive a scorer from underneath the basket as he was from beyond the arc, Sabonis was an even more brilliant passer, possessing a feel for the game that was highly unusual for a man of his size. A graceful giant. While still playing in Europe, before becoming the weary and rundown Hack-a-Shaq we saw in the 2000 NBA Playoffs, he was Larry Bird playing in Shaq’s body. And the most talented center the planet has never truly known.
Maybe only the words of an NBA legend could fully do justice the awesome nature of Sabonis’ game and offer an educated perspective into what might have been.
Once said Clyde Drexler, “Had Arvydas spent his entire prime in Portland, we would have had four, five or six titles. Guaranteed. He was that good. He could pass, shoot three-pointers, had a great post game, and dominated the paint.”
Last edited by Cameron; 02-21-2012 at 02:08 PM.
Bobby Hurley - god I wanted to see him become an all star. I remember all the favorable comments he got from pros when he practiced/scrimmaged with I think the US national teams many, many moons ago. Some story I think about Hurley leading the B team to a win against the A team and then the guys sticking Jordan on Hurley to shut him down. Someone please correct me if I'm getting this all wrong. Really vague memories here.
"The Glove" is gary payton
I know he's had a good NBA career, but what if Grant Hill...
I'll throw in Penny Hardaway, the first jersey I ever owned. Many -- including his peers -- thought he was second-best behind Jordan in the Mid-90's before his knee gave out and he was never the same player. If anyone's interested, I wrote this about what could have been, and also did an interview with Penny.
Coach K explained the Daley wanted to get his guys attention. He set it up for them to lose. When they returned the next day, he did put Jordan on Hurley, but it was more than that. All the stars were focused and embarrassed. They dominated the college kids in every scrimmage after that.
But that first scrimmage was the only time the greatest collection of basketball talent ever assembled ever lost.
I'm not as sure that Bobby Hurley wouldn't have been a star (how's that for a double negative). When the Kings looked at him before the draft, he was the fastest player with the basketball they had ever measured. He had just moved into the starting lineup a month into his NBA career when he was almost killed.
I don't see why he couldn't have developed into the kind of player that john Stockton or Steve Nash has become. Not sure either had any significantly greater physical gifts and I won't concede that either had a better understanding of the game.
If Eric Meek hadn't had that accident before his freshman year...
There are countless stories of playground legends who have slipped through the cracks of our nation's concrete canyons without ever getting the opportunity to showcase their abilities to the world, but Oakland product Demetrius "Hook" Mitchell is one that might just be worth noting. ESPN a few years back aired an emotionally-driven documentary on Hook's painful tale of god-given talent gone wasted and there were a lot of NBA stars that backed the story up. Oakland natives such as Hall-of-Famers Gary Payton and Jason Kidd as well as guys like Brian Shaw and Antonio Davis all agreed that, of all of the NBA players who came from The City during their era, Hook was the best of them all. Said Kidd during the doc, "Hook was better than me, better than Gary, better than Brian, better than everybody. People, they just don't even know."
Mitchell played for two seasons at Contra Costa College in northern California and another year at Cal State before robbing a Blockbuster at gunpoint in the mid-90s and spending what might have been the prime of an NBA career behind bars. Released at the age of 32, Mitchell never got his chance to play in the League, becoming just another statistic of the streets and a broken childhood. Sad story.
Career highs for a season in some major categories -
Penny - 21.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 7.2 assists, .513 FG%. All-NBA 1st team twice, 3rd team once.
Grant - 25.8 points, 9.8 rebounds, 7.3 assists, .523 FG%. All-NBA 1st team once, 2nd team 4X.
A pretty good argument...
Ah, great memories. I certainly loved me some Sabonis. And add Vlade to that list. Two of my favorites, and absolute beautiful reflections of the European game.Originally Posted by DevilBen02
How about Ralph Sampson? He was an all-star his first 4 seasons, and then his knees (and back) went.