The following players are among some of the most talented in this generation. Cut short by injuries or other events, their legacies and potential have been undermined significantly.
As part of the selection process, only players that are, or who could be, playing in the NBA were included. Surely there are some that are left out; feel free to speak up and comment on this (or the order of these players!).
10. Shaun Livingston
Livingston is a player whose talent may not be fully realized. Although he is only 24 years old, he has had a number of knee injuries. He has torn his ACL and PCL, injured his MCL, as well as dislocating the patella and tibia-fermoral joint. His injuries have caused him to miss just under half of his games in the first three years.
Livingston has taken his turn with a number of teams, including the Clippers, Grizzlies, Thunder, Wizards, and the D-League 66ers. Signing a two-year deal with the Bobcats, maybe there is a chance that Livingston can get back to form (he was a 4th overall pick in 2004). However, with the knee injuries sustained, it does not seem likely.
9. Jonathan Bender
Jonathan Bender’s career was supposed to have ended in 2005 after being plagued by injuries. Currently a member of the New York Knicks, it is clear that if he still has a career, which is arguable, it definitely won’t be up to his original potential.
Bender is a 7-foot athlete who could hit the 3-pointer, and was versatile enough to play near or far from the basket. Reminiscent of a style of a player such as Rudy Gay, Danny Granger, or Kevin Durant, Bender’s potential certainly was untapped in his career. The talented Bender is now known as a popular draft bust, and has likely seen his best days on a basketball court.
8. Jay Williams
After playing in his first season with the Bulls, Duke standout Jay Williams nearly lost his life after a tragic motorcycle accident. Tearing three ligaments in his knee, Williams began therapy to be able to use his leg again. He was subsequently waived by the Bulls, where they bought out his contract for $3 million.
Williams briefly tried to come back, but was waived by the Nets and released by the D-League Toros in 2006. Working as an analyst for ESPN, he has officially retired. A second overall pick in the 2002 NBA Draft and one of Duke’s best players in recent years, Williams surely would have had a career in the NBA, where he showed signs of his promise in his brief career.
7. Michael Redd
Redd’s injuries have prevented him from making any real impact for the Milwaukee Bucks over the past few years. Tearing and re-tearing his ACL and MCL, Redd’s problems in his left knee have dealt a blow to his career.
Michael Redd is one of the most talented scorers and outside threats in the game today, injuries aside. His two 50-point games in 2006-2007 and his performance with Team USA in 2008 are just a few examples of his talent. While his injuries have prevented him from being known as a household superstar, it remains to be seen whether Redd can reclaim his place in the league.
6. Baron Davis
The two-time NBA All-Star has had to deal with nagging injuries over the course of his career. Davis most notably was affected in his time with the Charlotte Hornets and in his years with the Golden State Warriors.
Now a member of the Los Angeles Clippers, Davis remains an interesting “what if” situation. Although he certainly has the talent to be a superstar in the NBA, his career has never quite reached its potential. Perhaps the real question here is whether it is due to injuries, or something else. At any rate, Baron’s scoring and clutch play has found an interesting niche on the highlight reel.
5. Zydrunas Ilgauskas
While “Big Z” has had a number of healthy seasons under his belt, his early foot problems have certainly dealt a blow to the career of the Cleveland, and now Miami Heat, big man. We can only wonder how Ilgauskas could have improved his career without such problems.
Ilgauskas has a distinct set of skills that aren’t seen too often in a big man. He is able to hit the mid-range jump shot, he isn’t a liability on the stripe, and can rebound and block shots inside. While his legacy and play has been affected by those early problems, he remains one of the better big men in this generation.
4. Penny Hardaway
Injuries after the successful seasons in Hardaway’s career have obviously undermined what Hardaway could have done. With six-career triple doubles and impressive statistics in his time in Orlando, with and without Shaquille O’Neal, Penny could have been a dominant force for many more years.
A four-time NBA All-Star, and an underrated defender and prominent scorer, Hardaway’s injuries took away many potential good years. Attempts at coming back were not very successful for the versatile point guard. Idolized by many current stars, it is unfortunate that the “Air Penny” line of shoes remains a prominent identity of his career.
3. Tracy McGrady
Multiple injuries have undermined the otherwise successful career of Tracy McGrady, who is still try to play in the league after his time in New York. An extraordinary scorer and wing player, the seven-time NBA All-Star and two-time NBA Scoring Champion still retains a legacy. He has made an impact that fills his sheet with highlights and awards, even apart from the injuries in his career. We can only wonder how great T-Mac would have been, and still could be, if he wasn’t so injury prone.
2. Grant Hill
The seven-time NBA All-Star has actually had quite a successful career. Yet Hill makes this list for his well-documented injuries that have taken away years in his prime.
As one of the best all-around players in the game, Hill’s legacy has incurred quite a blow due to his injuries. Talent-wise, Hill could have been inducted into the Hall of Fame, but it is not a lock at the moment. Perhaps he may still be inducted, but that is up to the committee to decide. Take the injuries away though, and he could have been one of the greatest in this generation.
1. Yao Ming
The tallest player currently in the NBA tops this list with dominance on both sides of the court. After a few years in the league in Houston, the rest of his brief career has been plagued by injuries.
It remains to be seen where Yao will be in terms of legacy, as he is only still entering his 30s. When healthy, he is the most dominant big man in the game, as evident in his time with Dwight Howard. His versatile post moves, exceptional blocking and rebounding ability, and seven-time NBA All-Star selections account for his talents. When healthy, his talent level is certainly reaching the elite big men in basketball. Perhaps he will follow through on this opinion.
by Brian Neese