NBA / Jun 21, 2010 / 4:09 pm

The NBA’s All-Coulda Been Team

Rasheed Wallace

With talk out of Boston getting louder that Rasheed Wallace will retire this summer, we may be witnessing the end of one of the NBA’s all-time greatest coulda-been-greater careers.

For 15 years, we read that same book on ‘Sheed: He could have been … fill in the blank … if he’d wanted to be. Hall of Famer. Best power forward in the League. Franchise superstar. The Black Dirk Nowitzki. The hip-hop generation’s Willis Reed. As nasty as he wanted to be.

Even during his prime — ABC’s Mark Jackson said during Game 7 of the Finals that ‘Sheed “was one of the best power forwards in basketball for a good 10-year burst” — there was still the feeling that dude wasn’t living up to his potential as he was flirting with 20-and-10’s in Portland.

So what is Wallace’s final chapter? He’s got a ring, four All-Star nods, averages of 14.6 points and 6.7 boards. Add in a good $150 million earned, and definitely a career almost everybody would envy. But he’s got two enduring legacies: An all-time colossal hothead (he still managed to lead the League in techs this season despite playing just 22 minutes a night), and a player who should have been better than he was. In this past season with the Celtics he was like a caricature of his former self, expending more energy flipping out on refs than anything that happened before the whistle.

‘Sheed is the captain of the NBA’s All-Coulda Been Team. Who else joins him?

PG – Baron Davis
I once saw Jerry Tarkanian tell a room full of high school superstars that Baron Davis could’ve been one of the all-time greats “if he’d put his mind to it” … and Baron was sitting right there next to Tark. Baron just nodded. So did everybody else.

SG – Gilbert Arenas
He lost almost three whole years of his prime due to knee injuries and bad decisions. Arenas was arguably a Top-10 player in the NBA at the time he first tore up his knee, averaging 28 points, six assists and two steals for a mid-level Eastern Conference contending Wizards squad that seemed just a piece or two away from getting over the hump. Today, he’s being pushed aside as the face of the franchise for John Wall, and the Wizards are in disarray as one of the worst teams in the League.

SF – Grant Hill
Another legit superstar who had his best years stolen by injuries. In the season before his ankle began to betray him, Hill put up 25 points, six boards and five assists per game for the Pistons and was a nightly triple-double threat. He was going to battle Kobe Bryant as the heir to Michael Jordan‘s throne. Ten years later, Hill is (albeit a solid starter in the League) just making it out of the first round of the playoffs for the first time while Kobe is being fitted for his fifth championship ring.

PF – Rasheed Wallace
Even Baron gets a little leeway due to injuries. ‘Sheed is the only guy on this list purely because of his effort, or lack thereof. His defenders say ‘Sheed was simply choosing to be a good teammate and key cog, but you can’t stack his talent up against quintessential role players like Michael Cooper and Derek Fisher and get away with that. Those guys had limits: ‘Sheed’s game was MVP caliber. And those guys have a fistful of rings. ‘Sheed has one ring and too often made himself the star of the show for the wrong reasons. It’s like he wanted the attention but not the responsibility.

C – Greg Oden
Not saying he’s done as an effective player, but any talk of “next Bill Russell” and “franchise cornerstone” surrounding Oden is all but dead. Even in college we never got to see how good G.O. could’ve been, as he played his lone season at Ohio State with his right hand wrapped in a cast.

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  • http://dimemag.com Sean Sweeney

    Nice list, but you gotta have Tim Thomas somewhere on there, Austin.

  • malik

    rasheed def. deserves the reputation hes got but let me just say that he is one of the main reasons i started getting into basketball. hilarious techs and occasional badass moves.

  • Andy

    No Derrick Coleman? Say what you will about Sheed, at least he gave a damn SOMETIMES.

  • http://dimemag.com/author/adam/ Adam Flomenbaum

    The Qyntel Woods All-Stars

  • Chise

    Lamar Odom is the 6th man of this team.

  • adbanga

    steve francis gotta be on there somewhere

  • Charles Kirk

    Penny Hardaway should’ve been on here too.

  • Youngwood

    Vince Carter?
    Stromile Swift?

  • ctkennedy

    steve francis he played for numbers when he first got to the league
    jason williams(white chocolate)if a coach would of just let him play
    tim thomas has to be on their or close
    vince carter if he had more heart
    jr smith is on his way to joinin
    anfernee hardaway he lost a career cuz of injuries
    yao ming cant stay on the court to save his life

  • jax

    Bobby Hanson? He was money with that 3 in the corner.

  • http://gizmodo.com/5500343/sprints-htc-evo-the-first-ever-4g-phone-meet-the-new-terrific Mr. TKO

    Lamar Odom definitely has to be on here at least as a 6th man, but what about T-Mac.

    I would put him over Gilbert (due to Gilbert just starting to get HOT right before the injuires and coming out of nowhere)

    Tmac was “better” than Kobe to hear my boys tell it, but according to them Kobe wasn’t shit for real.


    Would love to thank Kobe for sending AI, Ray Allen And the whole Orlando Team fishing in June Hahaha

  • steven

    Lamar Odom for sure. When it’s all a wrap for L.O. we’ll be talking about how he individually accomplished even less than ‘Sheed, although he’ll have more rings.

    I feel like Shawn Kemp could easily make the list too.

  • http://facebook.com/Mr.Brogden Mr. Brogden

    JR RIDER — Dominique Wilkins, Interrupted
    That’s how I feel about him.

    Now we got JR Smith, who can be lights out but his attitude is UGGHHHH sometimes.

    JR SMITH — JR RIDER, Continued

    MOOKIE — I guess it’s not his fault…but I felt like this guy was a Championship Piece…just never found his way to the jigsaw puzzle.

    SHAWN KEMP — not sure he ever really learned the game. But was big and tall and could dunk. But…he had issues. He def could’ve been soooo much more.

    The Sheed pick takes the cake. I actually got kinda sad reading your write up on him…’cause it’s sooooo true!

  • bigdoggchad

    Even though Shaq has a great hall of fame career and is a top 20 player of all-time, I have always felt he could have been the best center of all-time if not the best player of all-time.

  • Badger

    I’d put Jay Williams on here before Steve Francis. It’s not like Franchise had major injuries or didn’t play hard — he was what he was, a scoring PG that came along at the right time before dudes like Nash and CP3 made the passing PG the preference again, then he became irrelevant. Francis basically had the same career as Iverson, he just fell of quicker.

  • bigdoggchad

    Grant Hill

  • sh!tfaced

    For some of the those mentioned, sounds like the lack of good basketball IQ is sort of a handicap..?

  • crossphaded

    One of my fave players of all-time, Ron Harper. Yeah, he won 5 rings and probably has no regrets of his dazzling NBA career, but you still say coulda, woulda if he never blew out his knee in 1990 with the Clips.
    He was definitely within shouting distance of MJ in terms of skill and talent and everytime they faced eachother, these 2 always brought their A-game and put up big number against eachother.
    Would Harp ever left the Clips and joined the Bulls and subsequently the Lakers? How big of a superstar would he have been since he was on pace to be a mid-20 point scorer in the league and prolly top 3 shooting guard behind MJ and Clyde the Glide. How many all-star appearances would he have since he never was named to one after being snubbed at least 2-3x in his career.
    I’m sure if you ask him he wouldn’t trade those 5 rings he has for a healthy knee though. haha

  • trey bing bay

    Penny’s game…..R.I.P

  • http://twitter.com/JayPii_318 Jay-Pii

    PG:J.Will(with dicsipline could have been a scoring machine in a era of scoring PGs)
    SG:JR Smith(unless he grows up in a hurry like Melo in 09)
    C:R. Wallace “he’s the best player in the league but he don’t care”- Sir Charles

    Others: Starbury, Peja, T. Mac, Kenyon Martin, Antwan Jamison, Darius Miles.

  • LB

    bigdogchad, I agree about Shaq. If Shaq figured out how to hit even a couple of more free throws, he could have AVERAGED 40 ppg easily. He was getting to the line probably 15 times a game because teams didnt have any other answers for him BUT to hack him. He was still averaging 30 even with his terrible free throw shooting, so if he hit a little bit more free throws, he could have been averaging Wilt like numbers.

  • LB

    I would argue that Dwight Howard is headed on this path too. Yeah, he’ll probably continue to be dominant on the defensive end, but unless he develops a reliable post game, we’ll always wonder how good he could have been.


    penny hardaway couldve been the next magic johnson

  • LB

    Gotta put Chris Webber on this list too. Big man who could post up, rebound, shoot, pass and handle the pill. Still had a phenomenal career, but alot of people were expecting more from him.

  • LB

    Come to think of it, maybe it’s our expectations that are unreasonable rather than than the players failing to reach their true potential. I mean, most of the guys listed above still had pretty damn good careers. Sheed had multiple all star appearances, a ring and a cult following. Lamar Odom is now a two time champ. B Diddy’s been in all star games, and led one of the most memorable playoff upsets in history. It’s just that their achievements pale when we compare them to our unreasonable expectations for them. Like Lamar Odom, for example. Dude was being compared to Magic before he even played a single game in the League. That’s just an impossible standard to live up to. There will never be another Magic.

  • Nyeme

    Lamar Odom and Mr. Potential Tim Thomas and MAYBE Vin Baker

  • http://deleted dagwaller

    @ Austin: Every time you put a list involving Rasheed Wallace, I’ll be there to tear it down. Just look at your lineup. Everyone on there other than Wallace has battled injuries that limited their time and effectiveness on court. Wallace can’t say that he had injuries holding him back. He just wasn’t THAT good.

    It’s like saying that Raef LaFrentz should be on this list. He’s tall, he can shoot…we get it. You like him…he’s just not all that great.

  • shiptar

    nice list + Tmac

  • tl

    Penny was a monster when he was healthy. Plus his sneakers were almost as dope as jordans

  • dsflkjdsfa

    Vince, T-Mac and AI.

    AI especially, I know he’s had a lot of success, but he could have been a top 10-20 all time player if he’d put his mind to it and just freaking practiced. He enough heart and talent to accomplish anything.

  • Lee

    If you’re counting injuries as to why a player never made it then Shawn Livingston

  • M-Intellect

    I don’t know how people can forward players who reached near MVP level at some stage in their career?! Shaq? He was a MVP and is the consensual MDE. T-Mac was toe-to-toe with Kobe until playing years caught up with him and Vince was ballin’ for like 10 years straight. The dude that said AI should just have his face shot off. You telling me the 5’11 dude who went to the rack under-achieved? Fuck outta here.

  • Thib

    Dope article. Penny Hardaway definitely belongs.

  • http://rapzilla.com Jayo

    I’m gonna go off the board & say Rod Strickland. Dude was a beast when he wanted to be one. He coulda easily been a 20-10 pg. You know a player doesnt take the game seriously when he vomitting hotdogs at halftime. I cant discount guys who”ve been injured. Those are just freak accidents sometimes.
    My team would be:
    G- Rod Strickland (Didnt care enough)
    G- Baron Davis (Didnt wanna be great)
    F- Vince Carter (Too soft physically & mentally
    F- Rasheed Wallace (Crazy)
    C- Derrick Coleman (Didnt care enough)
    6th Man – Stromile Swift (No B-Ball IQ)

  • kb24FAN

    Gilbert still is the man he average 22 ad 7 this year he just made a stupid desicion he stil is capable of being and all star point guard.

  • Promoman

    Tim Thomas, Derrick Coleman, Stromile Swift, Vin Baker, and Steve Francis should be ahead of or flat-out take Gilbert’s, Grant’s, and Baron Davis’ spots. Injuries played a role in their careers but each are still quality players and Gilbert can still make an All-Star team.

  • whataboutbob_cats

    What about Len Bias?

  • cleveland

    why is t-mac not on here?!
    lamar hates responsibility
    vince cant show up in a fourth quarter to save his life

  • bsteezy3

    A player who was hurt by injuries shouldn’t be on this list–not if Rasheed is the headliner. It’s not fair. It’s like you guys couldn’t think of anyone else, so this list turned into an all-injury team w/ Rasheed. What about guys like Latrell Sprewell? He’s someone who made a decision to do something that led to his poor ending in the NBA.

  • dvs

    A.I. has to be there.
    For all his individual accomplishments, he couldn’t play with a team and therefore never reached the heights he could have. MVP doesn’t look nearly as good as a ring. Ask Lebron.

  • haslem

    too many players left out. The woulda coulda shouldas team needs a bench. Heck maybe a conference.

    Tim Thomas has to get in there. Heck there has to be a documentary about Tim Thomas one day

  • witteljoe

    You guys forgot about Jay Williams but I agree with Sheed. Tall guy who can shoot the 3 and dunk on everyone

  • alf (from melmak)

    Thanks Dime. :)

  • http://www.cnnsi.com JAY

    Why are you people bringing up players who aren’t in the league?? It’s evident, to me at least, he’s talking about current players.

  • Phileus

    @25: Yeah I think you’re onto something. Like Vince Carter. Maybe he just loved dunking and played basketball for fun. Maybe he never wanted to be great – he was good enough to get his millions just by doing his thing. And why should we hate him for that? Not everyone has the Russell, Bird, Jordan, Kobe (yeah I put him in there) gene.

  • The Boi

    If you’re talking all-time, and barring injuries (where have you gone David Thompson?), then Coleman and Kemp for sure. Don’t forget Richard Dumas, who would have been Joe Johnson before Johnson. But for sheer waste of talent you can’t top William Bedford. The laziest kid in America (Jerry Colangelo) was a legit 7-footer who once made three triples within 20 seconds while with the Pistons. Any heart or desire at all and he would have been an all-star multiple times.

  • ab_40

    C. Eddy Curry.. well well well too immature heart problems mental issues we don’t wanna know nothing about

    Pf. Jonathan Bender 7 footer with a handle and a jumpshot he could be KG like

    Sf. Darius Miles… Where to begin heard an interview the other day where he was saying he didn’t care he couldn’t shoot because he could just jump higher than everybody… That’s just sad

    Sg. Dejuan Wagner amazing scorer his body just gave out on him

    Pg. Lamar Odom yeah he was that good

    6th man Tim Thomas dude was the no high school player in 96 over Kobe and it wasn’t close he had everything just not the mindset.

    Michael Beasley can be on here already haha
    Same for JR Smith but he’s at least had some good games
    Shaun Livingston it was great to see him do his thing sort of this season but his feel for the game is different and that is apparent in his style of play

  • http://www.cnnsi.com JAY

    “Maybe he never wanted to be great – he was good enough to get his millions just by doing his thing. And why should we hate him for that?”
    Because to me, players like Vince, who don’t use the god-given ability to the fullest, and just want the paycheck are bums. Demarcus has the questions surronding him as we speak. “How motivated is he?” “Does he WANT to play basketball or just cash in cheques”.
    Players like that, who don’t compete night-in and night-out make me sick. Remember, Vince once said he could be better than Michael Jordan…..

    Knock a guy like Iverson all you want but that guy competed every single night. Both ends. Most nights he was easily the smallest dude on the court and at the same time he was easily the biggest competitor. Imagine if Vince had HALF of Iverson’s competitive fire.

  • http://twitter.com/JT_90 Prez

    Drazen Petrovic (RIP)

  • Ian

    agree wallace wasnt that good.

  • K Dizzle

    but he coulda been.

    Watchin Sheed destroy the Lakers in game 7 in the post with a bad back and I just wondered what he was thinking his whole career. No single big man could guard him one on one, but it was really like he just didn’t want it.
    Sheed seems to be the kinda dude who was just good enough to get one ring, make about 100 mil in his career and then just disappear. Don’t think we gonna see dude doin hoops analysis on tnt.

    As for Lamar, if he keeps coppin chips, he’s off the list. You can’t be an underachiever with multiple rings, that don’t even make sense…Found his role, makin the best of it. Everybody can’t be an all-star…shoulda, coulda, but didn’t…

  • james p

    good list . But you left out alot of players.

  • barons beard

    I always wonder what coulda been, if Larry Johnson’s knee didn’t blow out

  • leftfield24

    This list begins and ends with J.R. Rider. All that talent phoned in on stolen phones and *POOF*… up in a toke of smoke.

  • NHK

    Please stop the Grant Hill revisionism. Even before he got injured he could never get his Pistons past the first round in three or so attempts. That makes him no different than Tracy McGrady.

  • http://uoregon.edu sans

    Yeah, how did Eddy Curry not make this list? And, faux real, where’s Bernard King…dude should be in the Hall regardless, especially in light of Dennis Johnson, let him get there while King is still breathing damn….kinda disappointed there was no bench for this list….

    and Derrick Coleman could have been MVP the way he played when he was young…

  • laura

    the more i look at this, the more i disagree
    greg oden is still young!
    and t mac and vince need to be in there in reference to players who just “didnt want it that bad”.