Worst NBA Players of All Time: A Look at the Strugglers 2024

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As a basketball enthusiast, you’ve probably marveled at the incredible skills and talent displayed by some of the greatest NBA players. However, not every player in the league shares the same level of prowess on the court. It’s only natural for you to wonder who might make the list of the worst NBA players of all time.

Let’s dive into the world of basketball and touch upon those unfortunate players who, despite making it to the NBA, struggled to find their footing and left less than stellar marks in the league’s history books.

Defining the Worst

When you think of the worst NBA players of all time, what comes to mind? Is it their lack of skill, subpar performance, or maybe their inability to contribute to their team’s success? In this section, we’ll dive into what makes a player earn the title of one of the worst players in NBA history. Keep in mind, this analysis is meant to be friendly and surrounded by the fun of the game, not demean the players.

First, let’s talk about skill. Basketball, like any other sport, requires a combination of physical ability, technique, and mental prowess. Some players might struggle with their shooting form or have trouble keeping up defensively, which often hinders their contribution on the court. Furthermore, players lacking in fundamental skills, such as ball handling or passing abilities, can also be considered amongst the worst players in NBA history.

Performance, on the other hand, is more closely tied to a player’s statistical output. Low shooting percentages, high turnover rates, and dismal rebounding numbers are just a few examples of poor performance metrics. Worst NBA players tend to show a consistent pattern of underachievement in these areas, making them less effective and valuable for their teams during games.

Beyond skill and performance, there’s also the aspect of fitting into a team’s system and being a positive teammate. Sometimes, even players with decent skill sets and respectable stats might find themselves labeled as one of the worst NBA players due to their inability to mesh with their team’s style of play or create a better team dynamic. These players might lack the chemistry needed for collective success or have a negative impact on team morale.

Historically Bad NBA Draft Picks

As an NBA fan, you’ve likely witnessed some great draft picks that turned into superstars while following the league. However, on the other side of the spectrum, you’ve probably also seen some of the worst NBA players of all time. This section will delve into those historically bad draft selections, specifically the notorious number one pick fails and the busts that went beyond the first round.

Notorious Number One Pick Fails

There were high expectations for several number one draft picks, but many failed to live up to those grandiose expectations. Anthony Bennett, for example, is often considered one of the worst number one draft picks in NBA history. Drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2013, he barely made an impact during his short-lived career.

Another example is Nikoloz Tskitishvili, who was drafted by the Denver Nuggets in 2002. He had an underwhelming performance, making him a disappointment for his high draft position. Similarly, Michael Olowokandi, picked by the Los Angeles Clippers as the first overall pick in 1998, failed to make a significant impact on the team.

Kwame Brown, the 2001 number one pick by the Washington Wizards, is also regarded as a bust. However, he had a lengthy NBA career, but not as a star player. Lastly, Darko Miličić was expected to be a dominant presence for the Detroit Pistons after being drafted in 2003, but he never managed to meet those expectations.

Busts Beyond The First Round

Not all historically bad NBA draft picks were in the first round. Some players selected later in the draft didn’t live up to their potential either. For example, Hasheem Thabeet, selected by the Memphis Grizzlies as the second overall pick in 2009, struggled to make a mark in the league. His NBA career was short, and he later played overseas.

In 2004, Rafael Araújo, picked by the Toronto Raptors as the eighth overall pick, failed to contribute much to the team. Another bust is Adam Morrison, a third overall pick by the Charlotte Bobcats in 2006. Although he showed promise in college, his transition to the NBA wasn’t successful.

While drafting players can be a gamble, it’s important to remember that not every high draft pick automatically translates into success on the court. As history has shown, some of the most anticipated prospects have turned out to be some of the worst NBA players of all time.

Disappointing Careers

When discussing the worst NBA players of all time, it’s important to recognize the different categories that various players fall into. In this section, we’ll explore some of the most disappointing careers in NBA history, covering players who have been plagued by injuries, underwhelming superstars, journeymen, and forgettables.

Injury Compounded Careers

Unfortunately, injuries are a part of any sport, and the NBA is no exception. Some players, like Bryant Reeves and Adam Morrison, had promising starts, but their careers took a nosedive due to persistent injuries. Morrison, a collegiate star at Gonzaga, was drafted third overall in 2006 and struggled with injuries and underperformance throughout his short-lived NBA journey.

Underwhelming Superstars

Occasionally, players enter the NBA with high expectations and loads of potential, only to end up being considered among the worst of all time. For example, Mengke Bateer and Rafael Araujo were both top-tier picks that didn’t live up to the hype. Araujo, in particular, & struggled to make a meaningful impact during his three seasons in the league.

Gilbert Arenas is another name that comes up when discussing underwhelming superstars. Despite a few successful seasons, his career rapidly declined due to a combination of injuries and off-the-court issues.


Journeymen in the NBA typically bounce from team to team, never finding a long-term home. Though they may not be the absolute worst, their lack of stability is often a testament to their underwhelming skills. Players like Brian Scalabrine and Cherokee Parks fall into this category. Parks, a first-round pick in 1995, played for a multitude of teams during his time in the league, failing to make a significant impact on any roster.


Finally, there are the forgettables – players who simply just didn’t make the cut when it came time to leave a lasting impression in NBA history. These players may not be quite as bad as journeymen, but they ultimately failed to forge any sort of noteworthy legacy in the league.

Players Met with Fan Disapproval

When discussing the worst NBA players of all time, one can’t ignore the extent to which fan disapproval impacted their careers. This section delves into infamous NBA player decisions and failed hometown hero stories, two situations where players didn’t quite live up to their hype and disappointed the fans who once cheered for them.

Infamous NBA Player Decisions

It’s not uncommon for players to make decisions that lead to a swell of fan disapproval. Take, for example, the Boston Celtics and their eventful history. The Celtics faithful have had their fair share of ups and downs, including unfortunate incidents such as Kyrie Irving’s departure in 2019. It’s safe to say that the fans’ frustration sometimes takes center stage.

The Los Angeles Lakers also had their share of controversial players. Keith Closs, a seven-footer with tremendous potential, never reached the heights expected of him. His off-the-court issues and lack of focus led to a short, unremarkable NBA career that left fans disappointed.

Failed Hometown Hero Stories

Sometimes, a player might be hailed as a hometown hero only to stumble later and let down the fans who believed in them. A classic case is Sam Bowie, who was drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers ahead of Michael Jordan. Injuries and unfulfilled expectations made his career a far cry from what fans hoped, and he’s often mentioned in discussions about the worst NBA players of all time.

Another notable example is the Cleveland Cavaliers’ regrettable draft pick of Anthony Bennett in 2013. Hopes were high for the Canadian forward, but he failed to make a significant impact during his time with the Cavs, leaving fans disheartened and also securing his place in the conversation of worst NBA players of all time.

Poor On-Court Performances

When it comes to the worst NBA players of all time, their on-court performances often leave fans in disbelief. In this section, we will explore some of the most notorious players in terms of shooting, defense, and center positions.

Worst Shooters

You’ve probably seen some poor shooters in your time as an NBA fan, but few can match some of the worst field goal percentages in history. Consider the likes of Elliot Williams, who had a career average of just 36.6% from the field. With percentages like these, it’s no wonder Williams couldn’t stick in the league for long.

Another infamous shooter is Desagana Diop, known for his abysmal 41.7% career field goal percentage. As a center, one would expect better numbers, but Diop often struggled to make even the most straightforward shots.

Lackluster Defenders

Defense is an essential part of basketball, but not every NBA player has the talent or commitment to excel at it. Brian Cardinal is one name that comes to mind when discussing lackluster defenders. Despite his hard work and hustle, Cardinal couldn’t establish himself as a reliable defender in the league, which is why he’ll go down as one of the worst NBA players of all time.

Chuck Hayes is another example of a player who struggled on the defensive end. Although he had an impressive run as an undrafted player making it to the NBA, Hayes’ limited size and lack of physicality made it challenging for him to excel as a defender.

Ineffective Centers

worst nba players of all time

Centers play a crucial role in the NBA, but not every big man is destined for greatness. For instance, Hasheem Thabeet was a highly touted prospect, but unfortunately, he never lived up to expectations. Thabeet’s lack of offensive skills limited his impact in the league and contributed to a relatively short NBA career.

Mark Madsen is another center who struggled to make a lasting impact on the court. Despite being a fan favorite for his aggressive play and lively celebrations, Madsen’s overall game left a lot to be desired. His limited offensive capabilities and inconsistent defense didn’t do him any favors in the eyes of NBA historians.

Notorious NBA Teams

When you think about the worst NBA players of all time, it’s essential to know that some teams in NBA history have contributed more to this undesirable title than others. In this section, we’re going to dive into those notorious teams and find out which franchises have left their marks in the not-so-illustrious history of the NBA.

Teams with the Lowest Winning Percentages

The Washington Wizards and the Los Angeles Clippers have had various seasons that place them in the low ranks of league history. Similarly, the Charlotte Hornets have experienced years with disappointing performances. The Minnesota Timberwolves and the Sacramento Kings have struggled over time, often featuring some of the league’s more disappointing players.

Teams with Notorious Draft Mistakes

Making poor draft decisions can shape a team’s future, and some franchises have been infamously poor at choosing promising talent. The Portland Trail Blazers made one of the most notorious draft mistakes in NBA history by passing on Michael Jordan in the 1984 draft.

The New York Knicks have faced several draft mishaps over the years, like choosing Frederic Weis over Ron Artest in the 1999 draft. The Charlotte Hornets selected Kobe Bryant in the 1996 draft, only to trade him to the Lakers soon after, missing out on a legendary player.

Teams with the Worst Trades

In addition to draft mistakes, some teams are known for making misguided trades. The Houston Rockets traded the rights to Dirk Nowitzki, who ended up becoming an NBA champion and an MVP. The Memphis Grizzlies made a trade in 2008 with the Lakers, which is now known as one of the most lopsided trades in NBA history, benefiting the Lakers more than the Grizzlies.

Players like Javaris Crittenton, Rafael Araújo, and Brian Cardinal are among the names that have been included in notable lists of the worst NBA players based on their poor performances while playing for various teams listed above. As a fan of the league, it’s always interesting to look back at teams that have made decisions that have led to the unfortunate addition of players who end up being remembered as some of the worst in NBA history.

My Personal Opinion

I think, in the world of professional sports, particularly the NBA, the spotlight often shines on the remarkable talents and achievements of the best players. However, it’s also important to acknowledge that not every player who enters the league reaches the same level of success. While it’s easy to label some as the “worst” NBA players of all time based on their statistics or on-court performance, I believe it’s crucial to remember that even these players have achieved something extraordinary by making it to the highest level of basketball.

Critiquing their skills is valid, but it’s essential to do so with empathy and an understanding of the challenges they faced. Many of these players might have struggled with injuries, faced personal difficulties, or simply didn’t find their rhythm within a specific team’s system. It’s easy to judge from the sidelines, but the reality of professional sports is far more complex.


Who was the weakest NBA player of all time?

DeSagana Diop

Diop somehow found a way to play parts of 11 seasons in the NBA despite averaging a mere 2.0 points and 14 minutes per game. Even at 7-foot, the Senegal never averaged more than 3.4 rebounds in a single season.

Who is the lowest scoring NBA player?

Michael Ruffin has the fewest career points per game, with 1.7 per game.

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Fabian Kühar
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