NBA / Jul 16, 2010 / 1:06 pm

“I got a kid who’s 15, he’s gonna be the next Jordan.”

This morning on the subway I was reading Best American Sports Writing‘s 1998 edition, in particular a Sports Illustrated piece by Rick Telander about New York City playground ball. Telander, as you know, wrote the iconic Heaven is a Playground back in 1974, and in this SI piece, was going back to NY to see how (or if) the playground game had changed.

In one scene, he’s talking to talent-finder Rodney Parker (R.I.P.), a central figure in Heaven who used to ball with Lenny Wilkens and had seen Dr. J and Wilt and all the legends who came through spots like Rucker Park and West 4th back in the day:

“I got a kid who’s 15, he’s gonna be the next Jordan,” he said. “His name is Smoosh. There’s gonna be a sneaker named after him. Six-one, with arms that make him six-four. Best skills I’ve ever seen. Ever. Want to meet him?”

“What’s his real name?” I asked.

“I don’t know. Smoosh, that’s all. Want to meet him?”

Maybe another day.

It’s be easy to make fun of the elder Parker for seeing so much in the kid we came to know as NBA washout Smush Parker, but we all have had players we thought would be The Next Big Thing that fell short of expectations — our own, their own, everybody’s.

I watched Kenny Gregory at Kansas and thought he’d eventually be doing what Vince Carter has done in the NBA. I watched Greedy Daniels at UNLV and thought he was the second coming of Gary Payton. I watched Korleone Young in high school and thought he didn’t need to go to college to play pro ball. I could make a whole starting five of players I thought would be NBA stars who never got that high, or just guys I thought would make the NBA period who didn’t pan out. All of us can.

Who’s on the list of basketball players that never lived up to your own hype?

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  • Heckler

    Shareef Abdur-Raheem
    Stephon Marbury

  • IP

    Schea Cotton: Beast in HS, played one year at Alabama and disappeared.

  • Chris

    God Shammgod

  • s.bucketz

    Jebron Lames…thought he would have done something with his life by now

  • atticusmitch

    Back in the day Smoosh was legit. To bad he fell off the radar.

  • Heckler

    chris porter

  • Detroit Dave

    I can remember Orlando hyping up this Jerryl Sasser dude. I never seen him play I just know that he was on their roster for a long time as the “point guard of the future”.

    I really thought Rodney White would ball in the League.

    Tim Thomas didnt live up to the hype.

  • Tbeezy

    Estaban Weaver, Schea Cotton, Festus hawkins (i never thought he was that good but he was real hyped as a 15 and under aau player), Cameron Stephens, Jamal Davis, Jason Gardner (i thought he was the next Iverson), Luke Recker, Chris Thomas, Mason Harris (in case anyone that knows mason sees this). I’m from Indiana and the last few were Indiana’s future NBA players at one time that never made it.

  • shak33

    sebastian telfair my fav player smh

  • MBE18

    Lenny Cooke

  • easy yeezy

    starbury and shareef were both all-stars and had very successful careers.

    give me bassie telfair, who got more hype than rose, cp3, dwill and rondo put together

  • alex

    BJ Manalo

  • whitecollar

    I was gonna say Lenny Cooke too…when LBJ was coming up Lenny gave him the business at ABCD, hes probably working at Red Lobster by now

  • iannyb

    Darius Rice a.k.a Jerry Rice’ nephew. Dude sure did hold his own at Miami, then just dropped off the globe somewhere.

  • chicity

    @whitecollar thats the other way around, when cooke was #1 player in the country lebron gave him the business at abcd camp then he proceeded to fall off the face of the earth.

  • Celts Fan

    Gerald Green. I thought this kid was gonna be a STUD. I remember watching him run ish at the McD’s Dunk Contest (off the gym wall!?! GTFOH!) then, the next night, he’s running the break and hitting stop-on-a-dime pull up Js. Wet. Athletic as hell with a jumper? Can’t miss, right? I remember laughing like crazy when Portland took some jabroni named Martell as the first HS kid in the draft. Then he slid all the way to us and I was ECSTATIC. That was honestly the happiest I’ve ever been during a Celtics draft. It was: 1. G-Money, 2. Sugar Ray Trade, 3. Pierce at 10. We’d just conned the whole league (other than the Hornets and Pacers, who had the only picks I liked – CP3 and Granger.) We got the next TMac. Worst case scenario, we got Corey Maggette. The first preseason game we went to I picked up a Gerald Green jersey at the pro shop. Best $80 I ever spent. I was driving the bandwagon. I was cleaning out some old stuff in the basement yesterday and stumbled across that jersey in a box of old stuff that I don’t wear anymore and had set aside. I always knew #5 on the Celtics was gonna take us to the promised land…

  • karizmatic

    Kerry Kittles,
    Glenn Robinson (I thought he’d be much better than he turned out)
    Ditto for Latrell Sprewell
    Eddie Jones

  • karizmatic

    Oh and Larry Hughes

  • Spliff 2 My Lou

    Dajuan Wagner. If anybody was the next Iverson I thought it would’ve been him.

  • fallinup

    @ Celts Fan

    I said the same thing about Gerald Green. I was at that McD’s Dunk Contest and the game. I had him being the next TMac, before TMac became the current TMac. haha. He had a wet jumper, and could sky. Too bad he just didn’t want to get better.

    Was also impressed with Josh McRoberts while watching him play that game. Great basketball IQ… and not much else since Duke.

  • http://www.cnnsi.com JAY

    People forgetting Felipe Lopez?

  • http://www.SoulChorea.com Kermit The Washington

    So yeah, here’s what I think sums the whole thing up, and was proven with the Lebron hype fiasco whatever thing:

    You can’t be “the next Jordan” based on talent. Jordan himself wasn’t the legend he became based on talent. He became “Jordan” because of things he went through as a player (playoff disappointments, hearing that he couldn’t be a good “leader”, etc). He took those things, and BUILT his legacy. Similar situation with Kobe (I know, I KNOW!! I’m just saying).

    Now everyone’s looking for the next kid to be that type of player, but you can’t say at freakin’ FIFTEEN YEARS OLD, or even 20 years old, that dude is gonna be on that level, because that’s the same as predicting that he’s going to suffer some kind of adversity. You have no way of having any clue. Just say the kid’s super nice and leave it at that from now on.

  • K Dizzle

    Ed O’Bannon
    Tony Delk
    Ron Mercer
    Toby Bailey
    PJ Tucker
    Hollis Price
    Dontae Jones (Erick Dampier’s college teammate)
    James Forrest
    Ed Cota
    Joe Forte
    Scottie Thurman
    Actually, I realize I could do this all day, but you get the point.

  • ManilaFTW

    hahahahah BJ Manalo!!!

    That dude ended up being a tv host/model and marrying a hot chick. so yeah, not jordanesque, but still got his niche

  • http://www.espn.com Sho-Nuff

    @K Dizzle

    James Forrest-SF/Pf Ga Tech….damn that kid was nasty in HS..

  • whitecollar

    miles simon

  • Three Stacks

    Besides the obvious trio or Darko Milicic, Kwame Brown, and Michael Olowokandi…

    Ed O’Bannon
    Harold Miner
    Jay Williams (even if it’s cause of injury)
    Mateen Cleaves
    Shawn Respert

  • Joe

    Horace Jenkins

  • Papa Smurf

    Paul McPherson

  • Luke-Po

    Marcus Williams from Uconn

  • ReddiRed

    @ three stacks
    What did you really think Mateen was gonna do……..lol.

    Yeah, I was hurt by Gerald Green. I thought he was THAT DEAL!
    I was hoping Detroit tried to pick the Celtics pocket of him, but his arrogance and nonsportsmanship didn’t allow him to listen to coaches.
    He’s playing with the Lakers in the summer league and the announcers were even saying how he is a challenge to coach and what a shame that all that talent will prbably be wasted, unless some overseas team picks him up.
    *shakes head* damn…..

  • Billy Hoyle

    the Stewart twins out of rainer beach high school in seattle, wa

  • boomshakalaka

    Alando Tucker
    Mike Conley
    Tyrus Thomas

  • e

    lenny cooke thought the world would be handed to him and had a bunch of money hungry vultures in circle giving him the worst advice ever and after that abcd camp with lebron he was still ranked top 3 so that didnt matter things just didnt pan out right for him

  • http://uoregon.edu sans

    Steve Logan….I played against him in HS and was, by far, the most difficult player I’ve ever stayed in front of. Especially after how well his career in Cincy went, I thought he’d be a legit star in the L.

    In another respect, Sam Clancy, but I understood that he wasn’t the biggest guy to play in the L.

  • Basketball Spew

    Sheesh oh man I got names.. Lenny Cooke, Omar Cook, James White, Kris Clack, PJ Tucker, Andre Woolridge(Iowa), Todd Burgan(Cuse), Juanny Wagner, Qyntel Woods, Ajou Deng(Look him up),Victor Page,Tyson Wheeler,Rashad Phillips these 90’s throwbacks are bringing tears to my eyes!(born in 85) the list goes on and on…the point here is kids stay in school and get that education.

  • Basketball Spew

    Depaul had Paul McPherson, Bobby Simmons, Quentin, and Hunter

  • AOP

    Ronnie Fields…

  • http://deleted dagwaller

    Korleone Young and Jewish Jordan.

  • Leoni

    Sherrel Ford.

    Ronnie Fields.

    What about Darko?

  • Leoni

    And i remenber a sports writer talking about Felipe Lopez – “a Dominican who uses the number 23 like Mike”

    But this is the same guy tha preview that the Earvin jonhson (the center not magic) is a talented player when he is coming to the pros.

  • flavur

    Kwame Brown
    Eddy Curry

  • JJ Red Dick

    Sebastian Telfair

  • orickle

    yogi stewart

  • stillanetsfan

    Sad to say… but its gotta be my man Sean Williams… i always say im the only person in the world with a red authentic sean williams jersey and im proud of it

  • jm

    @Joe…Horace Jenkins shouldn’t be on this list. Kid din’t even play high school ball. Started at Juco, dropped out and then went D3 for several years in his mid to late 20’s. Was D3 POY for several years. He was never hyped and never supposed to make it.

    Made it to NBA for one year with Pistons with no hype around him at all in HS or college just a few seasons overseas killing former major D1 stars. If he played for anyone but Larry Brown would probably still be in the league, but has been killing it over seas for many years and making $$$ there. Brown tried to turn him into player he wasn’t. He is Monta Ellis, Will Bynum type. More of a 2 guard because he can score with anyone, but LB tried to turn into a robot.

    I think he actually is nowhere near a bust. Kid made it in my book and rep’d Elizabeth well. Is an inspiration to many as he battled through a lot to get his basketball career on track later in life. He is a success story and was featured by many shows including NBA Inside Stuff as an an inspirational story much like “The Rookie” because he was like 30 when he broke in the league.

  • asmaticasiatic02

    man Todd Burgan, haven’t heard that name in years. I was at the isiah thomas camp the same year he was there and dude was killin’ remembered he went to cuse but I don’t think he really did much there…

  • JC

    Luke Jackson from Oregon. Sean Dockery from Duke. Miles Simon from Arizona. Both O’Bannon brothers from UCLA. Ronnie Fields from…Damn, I know he went to Farragut Academy (KG’s high school in Chicago)… Matt Walsh from Florida.

  • Cleetis

    Kenny statterfield
    frank Williams
    Adam Morrison

  • Badger

    @jm — I see what you’re saying, but this isn’t just a list of “busts.” It’s guys who YOU thought were going to reach a certain level who didn’t make it. AB said in the article, Who didn’t live up to “your own hype?”

  • Promoman

    Paul McPherson, Smush Parker, & Corey Hightower’s attitudes killed their NBA potential. Darko Milicic was basically fucked over by Larry Brown. Frank Williams fucked up his last shot when he showed up out of shape at the Clipper’s training camp some years back. Chris Porter, Teddy Dupay, Brett Nelson, Lester Earl, Imari Sawyer, Marcus Fizer come to my mind.

  • http://www.vancouverbasketball.ca Soda

    JR Rider. Don’t think many thought he would be Mike, but he had some serious ups and could game too.

  • rymac

    now steph was ill but still. my best friend trained him wen he was at phoneix and he always talked about how steph would never try and if he trained he would of been ten times better. so i think steph probaly underachieved the ost then maybe telfair

  • Tone

    Ronnie Fields

  • carmikal

    Felipe Lopez
    Charles Smith(gtown)

    I thought Felipe was the next coming yo. To this day, I still feel that if went to a bigger program for a year or went directly into the league that he could have been much better than what he displayed.

    Charles Smith was like poetry in motion growing up. John Thompson’s most complete perimeter pupil in my eyes. Can’t believe how he went undrafted and then fell into that vehicle situation. dayum

  • http://ekama.vip-blog.com samuel blaise joseph ndiaye

    Why not? Bone courage and good luck
    The road is very long to go, but by dint of believing
    Anything can happen very quickly, we never know lolllllllllllllllll

  • Legend 33

    Smush actually had some talent, boy avg. 10 pts and 5 dimes a game back in 05-06. Just that Phil Jackson didn’t know how to coach him and that Kobe guy was mad cuz Smush was shinning and blackballed him from the league. lol

  • Chocohazed

    Omar Cook
    Darius Miles
    Melvin Levett
    Lawerence Moten

  • Josh