GAME ON: All-Time Worst NBA second overall picks from 1966 to 2004

Just like a Sharon Cuneta commercial, if you have a number one, then definitely you have a number 2, 3, 4, etc. Imagine, you are one lottery pick away from capturing top spot, but as fate would have it, you have to settle for the second-best player available.

But what if the next best choice is a tad crappy than the picking of an elephant seal with a Nelson Asaytono jersey?

When the present “look” of the draft started in 1966, the second top picks often made an impact as important as those who were picked first… the saviors some might say.

By the way, the reason why a chose to end this until 2004 is because I might eat my words when guys like Michael Beasley and Marvin Williams ultimately suffer superstar outburst while LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Durant suddenly flop their next ten seasons (or when they get waived by their then team).

Anyway, for every Elvin Hayes was a Wes Unseld. For every Elton Brand, there’s a Steve Francis. For every Shaquille O’Neal, there is an Alonzo Mourning.

So on… and so forth.

Let’s look at the worse possible ways to waste this heralded position.

10. Darko Milicic (2003) – Detroit
2003 Top Pick: LeBron James – Cleveland

Gosh… this is tough. For one thing, I like Darko. I thought the Pistons made a wrong choice in under-developing him. If they used him wisely, then he’ll get first dibs on the spot vacated by Ben Wallace. Remember when the Pistons made a booboo and took Nazr Mohammed to replace Big Ben while they let Darko off to Orlando where he was blossoming? Detroit wasted precious dinero on that situation (they made wise when they nurtured Jason Maxiell but again made a stupid choice in selecting Allen Iverson for Chauncey Billups). Just when people think that it is Darko time, he stopped developing! Sure, for a five-year pro, the 23-year-old could still prosper. I myself want to be wrong in this choice. But he needs to evolve now, with Memphis (his new team) a starting lineup less of a contender.

9. Keith Van Horn (1997) – New Jersey (from PHI)
1997 Top Pick: Tim Duncan – San Antonio

1996 was the lockout season. Under the “dark” ages, San Antonio’s starting lineup was virtually wiped out because of injuries which resulted into a VERY poor season for the Spurs. In this predicament, the Spurs claimed first pick rights which became NBA superstar Tim Duncan. The Nets, second to pick, took in this University of Utah standout. Dimmed as the next Larry Bird, Van Horn seemed to fit the bill in his early years. However, during the first of two New Jersey final berths, players finally found the chink in his armor which will destroy his image completely – he was a liability in defense. The following season he was traded to the Sixers for the rights of Dikembe Mutombo. After his stint with the Nets he bounced to four teams in four years. The once-feared long tom artist is now a scout for the Nets.

8. Neal Walk (1969) – Phoenix
1969 Top Pick: Lew Alcindor – Milwaukee

After the Bucks selected Alcindor, Walk went to the recently-founded Suns. For you basketball dumbasses, Alcindor will become the biggest name in the business when he changes his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Meanwhile, Walk was more of a backup rather than a superstar to teammates. Walk played for the Suns for five years before moving to New Orleans and New York… two years later the Suns will win their first and only NBA championship. After his NBA stint, he would play in Italy and Israel. In 1988, a benign tumor in his spine left him confined in a wheelchair. In stark contrast when he was playing with both legs, he was magic when he played for the National Wheelchair Basketball Association. In 1990, then-President George Bush honored Walk at the White House with an “Wheelchair Athlete of the Year” citation. He currently works for the Community Affairs Department of the Phoenix Suns.

7. Sam Bowie (1984) – Portland (from IND)
1984 Top Pick: Hakeem Olajuwon – Houston
1984 3rd Pick: Michael Jordan – Chicago

I am not like those players out to blame Bowie for being the filling of this superstar sandwich! Like what the critics said, if the Blazers have already Drexler and Jim Paxson (John’s older and more better brother), then an untested Jordan would be the odd man out. With that said, Bowie was good for 10 points and 7 rebounds in his 12-year career. The only problem that surfaced clearly was his inability to stay healthy. In Portland he was merely an “on-bench” guy because he can’t play. When he was traded to New Jersey (for Buck Williams) he eventually had spurts but he was clearly a role player for guys like Derrick Coleman and Kenny Anderson. He played his last years as a Laker, where he again suffered the same fate he had when he was in Portland. In the 2005 Sports Illustrated article entitled “20 Biggest Draft Busts”, he was number one on the list. Even if people forget that he was the guy before Jordan, in that fateful 1984 Draft, he was also the guy above Charles Barkley, Sam Perkins, Kevin Willis, Alvin Robertson, and John Stockton. There was nothing he can do to save his image.

6. Shawn Bradley (1993) – Philadelphia
1993 Top Pick: Chris Webber – Golden State (from Orlando)

Dammit, this guy was on SPACE JAM! HE’S SUPPOSED TO BE GOOD! Does this mean that the oddball alien that got his skills either sucked more or actually made his skill-set work!?! OH MY GHULAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!


The 7’6 German-American was a highly-anticipated prospect from Brigham Young University which was the same school that produced current Boston GM Danny Ainge. Bradley is a mormon and for years of playing he garnered such monikers like The Stormin’ Mormon, The Deathstick, Missionary Impossible, Mormon Mantis, and the Praying Mantis. Anyway, he has size and defensive assertiveness to land him a Number 2 spot in the 1993 Draft. Poor Philly, the highly-anticipated recruit was nothing more than a beanpole that could easily be banged. Despite the fact he was an amazing blocker; coaches find his lack of aggressive nature intolerable. He found himself routed to New Jersey and then to Dallas, where he found himself being a starter and then dwindling into a underused backup. Just like guys with gigantism, his buckling knees were enough to hand him his retirement in 2005. He also teamed up with Dirk Nowitzki in the German National Team that finished fourth place in the 2001 EuroBasket tourney which was held in Turkey.

5. Stromile Swift (2000) – Vancouver
2000 Top Pick: Kenyon Martin – New Jersey

In their draft class, the best player is Michael Redd, an unheralded player picked 43rd by the Milwaukee Bucks. This “unheralded” player is an all-star and part of the world famous “Redeem Team” of the Beijing Olympics. Swift on the other hand, is a forever project. A project that had a potential to bloom but unfortunately couldn’t. The expectations were high when he was picked up by the Grizzles (which eventually moved to Memphis) but he couldn’t raise his game up. He is now playing for the Suns who is in need of a “backup” center. In hindsight, this is in a way, fortunate for the former LSU star because most of his 2000 Draft batch mates have either died, retired, or playing outside the States where a call-up shouldn’t be expected from now ‘til eternity.

4. Steve Stipanovich (1983) – Indiana
1983 Top Pick: Ralph Sampson – Houston

One would wonder: Who on earth!?! A product of the University of Missouri, “Stipo” led his team to 100 wins in a span of four years. Basically he’s like the classic “old school” big man in the likes of George Mikan and those other 50’s ballers but with a modern flavor. When he was picked up by Indiana, the Pacers passed on swingmen like Byron Scott, Dale Ellis, Jeff Malone, Derrick Harper, big man Antoine Carr and Thurl Bailey and most importantly, 14th pick overall Clyde Drexler. Even if they got Sampson, they’ll suffer the same fate since both men had to end their careers early because of their overabundance of injuries.

3. Marvin Barnes (1974) – Philadelphia
1974 Top Pick: Bill Walton – Portland

Back in his day, the NBA found itself competing with the ABA. Despite getting picked second overall, Barnes chose to sign a contract with the ABA’s Spirits of St. Louis. His monikers include Bad News, Marvelous, and Tire Iron. Why Tire Iron? He threatened a teammate by attempting to swing it to his face. Again, drugs and his volatile behavior drove him to basketball hell. When the ABA folded, he bounced on to four teams where his career eventually tanked. Philly could have loved it more if they nabbed Walton instead of this guy.

2. Jay Williams (2002) – Chicago
2002 Top Pick: Yao Ming – Houston

When Houston chose Chairman Yao, Williams was said to be the “next best thing”. After a great playmaking career in Duke, the Bulls sought for his services ahead of Caron Butler and former teammate Carlos Boozer. The results were kind of good… Williams struggled in his scoring but showed clear skills to lead the Bulls as its chief playmaker. However, just like Duke alum Bobby Hurley, Williams suffered a car accident which pretty much finished his hoop career. After a failed comeback, the prep guard is now doing announcing chores in ESPN’s college b-ball games. His injury paved the way for the Bulls drafting Kirk Hinrich in the following draft.

1. Len Bias (1986) – Boston
1986 Top Pick: Brad Daugherty – Cleveland

Less than 48 hours after getting drafted, Bias died due to cocaine overdose. He could have been the vital cog in strengthening Boston’s aging frontline. Had he gone on to become one of league’s elite, Paul Pierce could not have possibly worn #34 as his number. After his death, the NBA strictly imposed a more cohesive anti-drug policy. While Daugherty would have not become a big star if he landed with the Celts, at least Boston would have a fresh face to displace their now-often injured vets. Instead, what they had was a championship-less decade that could have been solved if they had Bias.

Then here it is. Looking back Stipanovich had it bad for being outstaged by a dead guy, a career-ending injury, and a druggie. Other players that should have made the list were Danny Ferry (for being the consolation price when San Antonio picked David Robinson in the 1989 Draft), 1976 Chicago pick Scott May (who was an injury stricken player and whose current claim to fame is fathering current Charlotte Bobcats often-injured star Sean May),1979 Chicago pick David Greenwood (whose coin toss of doom sent Chicago to lose to the Lakers for the rights of legendary player Magic Johnson), 1973 Cleveland pick Jim Brewer, and David Meyers, a little-known draft pick by the Lakers whose rights were traded to Milwaukee for the acquisition of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. His sister, Ann, was the only woman to sign a free agent contract by an NBA team (in 1979 she was signed by the Pacers).

So here goes this installment. For comments and ridiculous brain doodling, just fill out the “fontbox” below.

Game Over.


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