Ten worst No. 1 overall picks in sports of past 25 years
JaMarcus Russell, Oakland Raiders, 2007
It’s going to take a mammoth combination of apathy and poor results to dethrone Russell as the worst No. 1 pick in modern history. His career fizzled after three awful seasons. He completed 52.1 of his NFL passes, threw 23 interceptions to 18 TDs and posted a cumulative 65.2 quarterback rating. And all the while, he fell into worse and worse shape -- and seemed unable to muster the effort to care.
Getty ImagesEzra Shaw
Anthony Bennett, Cleveland Cavaliers, 2013
Is it too soon to write off the 2013 No. 1 overall pick? Unless he suddenly develops an understanding of fundamental basketball defense, probably not. Bennett hasn’t been great on the offensive end, but he’s shown zero ability to operate within a basic NBA defense. And more complicated schemes leave him completely out of place. He’s without a position on both ends of the floor. The only saving grace? The rest of the 2013 draft wasn’t incredibly strong, so there’s not yet a clear no-brainer alternate choice.
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY SportBrace Hemmelgarn
Kwame Brown, Washington Wizards, 2001
Poor, poor Kwame Brown. The man drafted No. 1 overall by Michael Jordan never stood a chance, as he famously had to face Jordan’s diatribes in practice. It was icing on the overwhelmed cake for Brown, who made the jump to the NBA from high school and couldn’t hold his own against grown men. He peaked in his third season, averaging 10.9 points. There was hope at the time that it represented Brown turning a corner; suffice it to say that was wishful thinking.
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Patrik Stefan, Atlanta Thrashers, 1999
Stefan has the ignominious honor of being a draft bust with a visceral moment that sums up his shortcomings as a pro hockey player. Highly regarded when he came to the US from the Czech Republic, Stefan failed to live up to heightened expectations; he totaled 64 goals over seven seasons, never more than 14 in a single season. But the darkest cloud over Stefan’s head developed in a January 2007 game against the Oilers, after he'd been traded to Dallas. With Stefan’s Stars up 5-4 and 10 seconds remaining, the former No. 1 overall pick found himself with an empty net and a chance to put Dallas up 6-4. Instead, he whiffed. Edmonton jumped on the puck and scored a game-tying goal with two seconds left.
Getty ImagesJeff Vinnick
Michael Olowokandi, Los Angeles Clippers, 1998
The top 10 picks in the 1998 draft included three probable future Hall of Famers: Paul Pierce, Dirk Nowitzki and Vince Carter. But the first pick was Olowokandi, who’s become something of a legend as a bad pick. The truth is he wasn’t awful in his first few seasons, approaching a double-double in points and rebounds per game. But the Clippers, mired in mediocrity, were unable to give Olowokandi any help in his player development. And he was stunted on that front to begin with thanks to his rookie season coinciding with the 1998-99 NBA lockout.
NBAE/Getty ImagesCatherine Steenkeste
Tim Couch, Cleveland Browns, 1999
Physical skills can overshadow a player’s shortcomings. That was certainly the case with Couch, who ran a vanilla, simplified offense in college for Kentucky before being asked to make reads in a spread-based offense for Cleveland. Couch was always just mediocre enough to put up deceptively decent numbers -- including a career 75.1 QB rating. But the Browns’ choice of Couch torpedoed the NFL’s return to Cleveland.
Getty ImagesOtto Greule Jr
David Carr, Houston Texans, 2002
Expected to be the face of the franchise for the then-expansion Houston Texans when he was taken with the top overall pick in 2002, Carr spent much of his rookie season with his face planted in the turf. He was sacked an NFL-high 76 times - a record that still stands - and lost seven of 21 fumbles. Three seasons later, he was sacked 68 times, the third-worst total in league history. His five-year tenure with Houston ended after the 2006 season and he never appeared in more than six games in a season before retiring after the 2012 season, serving as a reminder of how much situation matters.
Getty ImagesAl Messerschmidt
Matt Bush, San Diego Padres, 2004
A list of the worst No. 1 picks in modern history wouldn’t be complete without off-field trouble. Bush fits perfectly, as he was arrested on suspicion of assault, misdemeanor trespassing and underage drinking after signing a deal that included a $3.15 million signing bonus and suspended before his first game. Once he did take the field, he petered out, unable to hit pitching in even Double-A. Injuries followed before further run-ins with law enforcement officially ended a career that never really started.
Getty ImagesRonald Martinez
Ki-Jana Carter, Cincinnati Bengals, 1995
Injuries were the main culprit that prevented Carter from realizing his potential. He tore his ACL in his first preseason game and was never really the same. He showed a nose for the goal line with eight rushing touchdowns in 1996 and seven more the following season, but he ran for 100 yards in a game only once during his five years in Cincinnati -- the last two also shortened by season-ending injuries.
Getty ImagesAndy Hayt
Andrea Bargnani, Toronto Raptors, 2006
One of the more talented players on this list, Bargnani hasn’t been awful in the NBA. He hasn’t been good, either, and he’s built a reputation as a shooter despite the fact that he isn't very efficient. His defense is the stuff of hilarious memes, too. But the saving grace for Bargnani is that there wasn’t a ton of production in this draft. LaMarcus Aldridge would be the clear No. 1 pick with what we know today, but after that, the most productive players in the 2006 draft class are names like Paul Millsap and Kyle Lowry -- very good NBA starters, but not quite the caliber of the first pick.