10. JaMarcus Russell, quarterback, Oakland Raiders (2007-2009):
There’s a lot of vitriol towards the former LSU star. In truth, his numbers don’t help his case. Drafted in 2007 as the #1 overall pick, and sporting a record of 18-23 as a starter, Russell mustered a mere 60-65 in QB ratings. We’re talking about a guy who had one of the strongest arms in football (known to have heaved a ball 60 yards…on a knee) but just couldn’t pan out to even half of all the expectations in the pros.
9. Greg Oden, center, Portland Trailblazers, (2007-3rd quarter buzzer, game 1 of season)
Another player drafted in 2007, Oden was Ohio State’s prodigal post-player. He had the moves, the numbers, and most importantly, the beard. Here’s the problem, hoop fans saw less of moves and digits and more of the beard. Greg Oden was the #1 overall pick in 2007’s NBA draft. Picked up by Portland, he was drafted just in front of Kevin Durant. The fact of the matter is that Oden’s actual performance cannot be criticized. I mean, you literally can’t criticize his play, because he hardly ever played. At 7’, slated to take on the center duties of guarding NBA bigs, Oden may have suffered too many injuries to play, but there was a high likelihood from the onset that he was doomed to fail.
8. Nolan Ryan, pitcher, Texas Rangers (1968-1993)
By an alarming amount of baseball fans, Ryan is considered among the top three hurlers in baseball history. This is the same sport that boasts a history teeming with pitchers like Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and Roger Clemens, to which Ryan holds not even a scented candle. This is also the same sport that has an award specifically tailored for pitchers, The Cy Young Award (another pitcher that blew Ryan away), of which Ryan has none. 2,795 walks and 292 career losses in 616 starts, no wonder the re is an empty space in his trophy case. No-hitters are nothing to sneeze at (especially when you can boast seven of them). But with a baffling walk rate and a wins record just floating above .500, Ryan is pretty far down the list.
7. Joe Namath, quarter back, NY Jets (1965-1977)
Ask anyone who lives even remotely close to New York. Heck, ask a resident of Connecticut: “Is Joe Namath among the greats?” Unfortunately, you won’t get many “No’s” (except for that one Jets fan who believes that Sanchez is, in fact, the second coming of Namath). Unfortunately, despite Namath’s Super Bowl antics, the numbers are uninspiring. In an AFL that wasn’t exactly loaded with defensive back talent (not to mention the much less complicated defensive schemes), Namath produced 173 touchdowns to 220 interceptions. Essentially, you’re looking at a QB who’s a 50.1 completion percentage and putting him on black-and-white highlight reels, selling me that he’s among the top tier men under center. Not buying.
6. Apollo Ohno, olympic speed-skater (1992)
Now this one just frustrates me. Ohno was the biggest thing since bottled water because he excelled for a short period of time in a minor sport. His short-lived “dominance” was matched only in the brief relevance of a sport that was only even allowed on television since 1992 (allowed because it bored to death in its adaptation of NASCAR, in tights, on frozen water). Ohno was even placed on the cover of a Sports Illustrated issue. Two gold medals, masses of sponsors, and an enviable name, outside of that: Nada.
5. Jeremy Lin, point guard, New York Knicks, (2011-present)
I almost feel bad for placing Lin on this list because he’s just an unassuming Ivy Leaguer who became fodder to the cannon of New York sports media. The Knicks are often known as the Mecca of basketball (personally, I prefer The Jerusalem of Joke Journalism), and the world’s attention was centered on the Knicks’ young star for the short time when Lin captured imaginations. As a starter, Lin is looking at an impressive 14.6 ppg and 6.4 apg. A hot start of 24 and 13 in the same categories fizzled down to the current averages. Lin’s positives are easily offset by an alarming three turnovers per game (awful for the head of an NBA offense) and the fact that he is literally the product of a happy-go-lucky, offensive-minded system in New York. Again, Lin is among the many victims of the hype machine that is sports journalism in New York. That being said, he’s vastly overrated for a point guard who turns the ball over and looks often as if he’s lost as the game is progressing.
4. Ryan Leaf, quarterback, San Diego Chargers/Dallas Cowboys, 1999-2001
If I told you that there’s this QB that San Diego drafted as the number 1 overall pick, over Tennessee’s Peyton Manning, would you be able to think of his name? For those of you who remember it, I can almost hear your groans as you read this. Leaf was Washington State’s heralded quarterback going into the 1998 NFL draft. Leaf and Peyton Manning were considered 1A and 1B as far as top picks. Fourteen touchdowns, 36 interceptions, and a 50 QB rating later, and you’re probably still groaning.
3. Sebastian Telfair, point guard, Phoenix Suns (2004-present)
To have this guy ranked so high on this list seems odd as very few even recall his name. That, folks, is exactly why he’s the third most overhyped player on this list. Consider this, Telfair was (and still is) the second highest high school scorer in New York’s basketball history, bumping metaphorical shoulders with Earl “The Pearl” Monroe. Also consider that Telfair was one of two players spotlighted on SLAM magazine’s cover, stating “The Takeover.” Who was the other guy? None other than LeBron Raymone James. That’s right. Though much like Lin in that he was essentially victimized by the New York hype machine, Telfair was once compared to James in regards to potential in the pros. Telfair opted to enter the NBA draft out of high school (back when that was still ok) and was selected 13th overall by the Portland Trailblazers. The rest is unfortunate, injury-riddled history.
2. Fredy Adu, mid-fielder, Philadelphia Union (2003)
If anything explains the expectations placed on Adu, it’s this: there’s a widely known picture of Adu posing next to the great Pele. Pele in this picture is planting a peck on Adu’s cheek. Pele had once said that Adu was “…given the gift to play football.” Obviously he means soccer, but I digress. Adu was so highly touted that he made his MLS debut at the tender age of 14. 14-year-old Adu was most likely balancing practice alongside seasoned veterans with his Algebra homework. Unfortunately, Adu struggled to adjust to complex formations not only in the MLS but overseas. There’s no question that futbol has never seen a young man so loudly heralded as “the next Pele” as much as young Adu was.
1. Darko Milicic, center, Minnesotta Timberwolves, (2003-present)
There a few reasons why Darko ranks higher on this list than the likes of Adu: First, he was the 2nd pick in what is widely considered the greatest NBA draft class of all time. Picture this: draft stock (omitting the obvious numero uno in Lebron James): Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh. Those names all followed Milicic. The Detroit Pistons skipped out on those three (even Chris Kaman would have made more sense as a #2 pick…I’m serious!). Darko was not only mired by several injury-struck campaigns in the NBA, he also showed some unflattering numbers. The Serbian seven-footer sported a ppg average that peaked at 8.8 back in the 2010-2011 season. Despite his 1.5 to 2.0 blocks per game average, Milicic showed a timid nature at a position that prohibited it and a league that could smell it. To be the pick immediately following the man widely considered the NBA’s best player as of right now, Milicic held on his shoulders the expectation of truly, truly great things. Unfortunately, he hasn’t even come within the same zip code as them and very likely never will.