There are all sorts of reasons NBA players don’t ride off into a golden sunset. Some get sidetracked by off-court drama. Some don’t have the personalities to make the push to elite competitive status. Some just aren’t made for the roles they’re thrust into. Some are remembered only as a sidenote to historical moments, despite solid (and, in some cases, great) careers. Those are the players who make us shake our heads at the mere thought of what could’ve been. Because it’s Friday the 13th, here are the 13 unluckiest players in NBA history.
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13. Brandon Knight
Brandon Knight is solid player that may turn out to be a useful piece on a good NBA squad. Dude just needs to learn how to get out of the way. He’s acted as a crash test dummy during some of the most appalling highlight-reel moments of the last half-decade. Everyone from Kobe, Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving, and of course DeAndre Jordan have sonned Brandon over his three brief NBA years.
In that time, he’s established himself as the league’s living, breathing traffic cone, while actually posting pretty good numbers. He averaged 18 and 5 last season as a starter—but in another display of Knight’s horrid luck, it was for the Milwaukee Bucks.2 of 14
12. Amar'e Stoudemire
It’s easy to forget now, as Knicks fans mainly know him as the guy who’s due for $23 million next year and is simply impeding their spending in free agency. But Amar’e Stoudemire was destined to be one of the best scoring forwards the game had ever seen.
New York played witness to STAT’s offensive prowess for a season in 2010-11, before the injuries began to pile up. Before the Knicks brought Carmelo Anthony in that year, Amar’e was posting 26 points a game, and looking to be worth every penny of the $100 million contract he signed the summer prior.
As we’re all well aware of, that Stoudemire is long gone. Three knee surgeries and one back procedure later, the 31-year-old was most recently a role player on a 37-win Knicks team that failed to make the playoffs.3 of 14
11. Greg Oden
Getting drafted by the Portland Trailblazers in the first place should’ve tipped us all off on this one. After being selected by the same team that passed on Michael Jordan 23 years earlier and drafted injury-riddled Bill Walton, Greg Oden went on to appear in 82 games for PDX—hey, a full season!—from 2007 through 2012. His last game for the Blazers was on Dec. 5, 2009.
From 2010 through 2013, Oden appeared in more sexting scandals than NBA games. Oden played 23 games for Miami this regular season and says he’s looking to join a situation next year that involves a greater role, so we’ll have to wait and see which team takes a chance on Oden, who is only 26, and with some of his previously unlimited potential still (hopefully) intact.4 of 14
10. Shawn Bradley
Go ahead and get your jokes off now, but while you’re looking up YouTube videos of another man endlessly getting dunked on, Shawn Bradley and his $69 million are figuratively dunking all over your hating ass.
The man who holds the unofficial record for posterizations received posted a PER better than league-average over the course of his 12-year career. He averaged eight points and six boards over 24 minutes per game, and actually did cool basketball things when the entire world wasn’t watching. But, yeah, this guy is the definition of “wrong place at the wrong time.”5 of 14
9. Tyronn Lue
With his recent ascension into the coaching ranks, Tyronn Lue’s name may finally be associated with something other than The Stomp. But as of now, that’s it. Tyronn Lue is the guy Allen Iverson crossed up, hit a J on, and literally stomped over. And it’ll probably remain that way forever.
As a never-ending reminder, Lue’s current seat—as Clippers assistant coach—is literally two feet from the very spot where the incident occurred. He actually enjoyed a lengthy career as a backup point man, and is a candidate for several head job openings this summer. We hate it had to be him, but, hey, at least he and AI are cool.6 of 14
8. Craig Ehlo
Before LeBron came alone, Craig Ehlo was probably the player most directly associated with the Cavaliers—which certainly isn’t a good thing, since he was mostly remembered for one heartbreaking moment.
Ehlo’s the poor sap who was the foil to The Shot in 1989. Seconds away from eliminating the Bulls in the deciding game of the East’s first round, Michael Jordan received the inbounds pass, hurled a last-second attempt toward the rim over a sprawled-out Ehlo. The curse of Cleveland sports reared its ugly head once more—Ehlo was the unfortunate soul who shouldered the load on this occasion.7 of 14
7. Pistol Pete Maravich
Blessed with one of the best skillsets—and nicknames—in league history, Pistol Pete’s career rests as one of the NBA’s most disappointing. A Hall of Famer who averaged 25 points, five assists and four rebounds over his career, Maravich was forced out of the league by the age of 32 after chronic knee troubles hampered his game, retiring without a championship to his name.
Beginning in college at LSU, Pistol averaged an NCAA record 44 points per season—before the three-point line was introduced. Once he turned pro, he led the league in scoring in 1977 and dazzled fans with offensive wizardry. Maravich died in 1988 at the age of 40 from a rare birth defect. But the magic he pulled on the court lives on to this day.8 of 14
6. Stockton and Malone
Peanut butter and jelly, spaghetti and meatballs, lamb and tuna fish, Stockton and Malone. These two made for one of the baddest duos in basketball history—they just picked the wrong era to play in.
The Utah pair stands above the pack when it comes to the 1990s Bulls’ top threats to supremacy, but we’d run out of internet space if we were to rattle off the generation’s stars that remain ringless—and are equally luckless—thanks to Jordan & Co.
Utah stormed through the Western Conference in back-to-back seasons in 1997 and 1998, only to lost in six both times. Malone averaged 27 points a game both years, and Stockton was already one of the league’s most established dishers. Jordan’s reign simply wouldn’t allow for a Utah chip.9 of 14
5. Shaun Livingston
Seven years later, it’s still impossible to watch the video without shrieking in agony. When he shredded his left knee in 2007 on a breakaway layup attempt, Shaun Livingston’s career—previously limitless in terms of potential—seemed to be destroyed in a matter of seconds, at just 21 years old.
He lost all of the following season to rehab, and played in just 12 games the following season. After stops with nine teams between 2008 and 2012, including a trip to the D-League, Livingston landed a job with the Nets last season.10 of 14
4. Eddie Jones
Confused about this one? Just take a look at the teams Eddie Jones played for over the course of his 14-year career. He was drafted by the Lakers in 1994, and that’s where he stayed until he was shipped out mid-1999—the year immediately before Phil Jackson’s arrival and LA’s three-peat.
He then found a home in Miami—until it traded him in 2005, the offseason preceding the Heat’s title run under Pat Riley. After stops in Memphis, Miami again, Dallas and Indiana, Jones retired in 2009, ringless.11 of 14
3. Elgin Baylor
Even in an era where statistics tend to dramatically favor stars, Elgin Baylor’s 27 points and 13.5 rebounds per game for his career makes him one of the greats to ever lace up. He spent parts of 14 seasons with the Lakers, dating back to their time in Minneapolis in the late 1950s, but during the Bill Russell era of Celtics domination. Baylor holds the record for most NBA Finals appearances without winning (8).
Baylor was forced into retirement at age 37 during the ’72 season—the year LA finally won it all. The team presented him with a championship ring anyway.12 of 14
2. Hal Greer
If you’re scratching your head wondering who this guy is, then his place on the list just got justified. Greer was a 10-time NBA All-Star and won a chip with Philadelphia in 1967. The Sixers swingman averaged 19.4 ppg and 10.8 rpg during a Hall of Fame career but is more famous for being the guy who turned the ball over to John Havlicek.13 of 14
1. Penny Hardaway
Penny was one half (with Shaq) of the only duo that could’ve challenged Michael Jordan’s Bulls in the 90s. When began his NBA career in the 1993-94 season, Hardaway led the Magic to their first 50-win season and looked to revolutionize the game as a 6’7″ guard. One year later, he and Shaquille O’Neal brought an Eastern Conference title to Orlando.
Knee problems kept Hardaway to 59 games in 1996-97, then surgery limited him to 19 games the following year. In the years that followed, he has battled plantar fasciitis, more knee surgery, thumb surgery and even more knee surgery. His career ended when he was waived by Miami in 2007.14 of 14