When fans think of the NBA Draft, one of the first words that come to mind is “superstars.” After all, the Draft has produced some of the biggest names in basketball such as Michael Jordan, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Larry Bird, LeBron James, Tim Duncan, Shaquille O’Neal, and more.
But the Draft has also produced some of the biggest busts in NBA history for being selected so high yet yielding so little once they started playing. For every Michael Jordan, there is a Sam Bowie.
Having an unsuccessful basketball career, however, is not the end of the line for these players dubbed as “busts.” Believe it or not, the NBA players on our list have discovered that there is life after basketball. Despite not being as financially rewarding, they have found careers outside the court.
Here are 10 NBA busts who are now living successful post-basketball lives.
- Luther Wright (1993 NBA Draft; 18th overall pick by the Utah Jazz)
Luther Wright is huge. Standing 7’2, the Utah Jazz selected Wright as a possible impact player in the middle stages of the first round. Unfortunately, he only played 15 games for them averaging a measly 1.3 points. He was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder and was entered by the team into a mental institution.
But life gets better for Wright. After being released from Essex County Hospital Center, Wright was to be paid $153,000 per year for 25 years under the terms of his contract with the Jazz, practically setting himself up for life.
What’s more, Wright found life after basketball as a DJ going by the name Wright at the Rock. He is also fondly called the World’s Tallest DJ. You can just imagine him playing at a club near you.
- Steve Stipanovich (1983 NBA Draft; 2nd pick overall by the Indiana Pacers)
Being a second overall pick in an NBA Draft, one is expected to be a franchise player. Steve Stipanovich was anything but. Though he played well enough to warrant playing for an NBA franchise, he did nothing to justify his lofty status as a high draft pick.
He averaged a respectable 13.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 403 games but it is not in the NBA where he would find his most success.
Stipanovichmay not have found gold in the NBA, but he has found success as the owner and operator of a coal mine in St. Louis. Steve has learned to utilize his NBA earnings as a means to become a business owner instead.
- Jonathan Bender (1999 NBA Draft; 5th overall pick by the Toronto Raptors)
Drafting preps-to-pros players became quite the fad in the late 1990’s to the early 2000’s. As a result, Jonathan Bender was picked much higher than he should have been. Though a serviceable player coming off the bench, his career was cut short by a number ofknee injuries.
Early this year, Bender launched a brand new professional basketball league called the National Solo Basketball Associations (NSBA). The format is patterned afterthe UFC model where players play one-on-one rather than five-on-five. After a short-lived career, Bender is giving opportunities to others to play the game professionally outside of the NBA.
- Eric Montross (1994 NBA Draft; 9th overall pick by the Boston Celtics)
Being 7 feet affords a player the benefit of the doubt when NBA teams select players in the draft. Such was the case for Eric Montross who was also a formidable player for the University of North Carolina Tar Heels during his college days. But the NBA was another matter as he only averaged 4.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, 0.7 blocks per game during his stint in the League, far from what you would expect from the ninth pick.
Montross didn’t give up on his dream to work closely with the game that he loves. He is currently the color commentator for UNC, his alma mater, and is loving every minute of it.
- Jay Williams (2002 NBA Draft; 2nd pick overall by the Chicago Bulls)
After Jordan retired, the Chicago Bulls had been looking for a new superstar to lead them to the Promised Land of an NBA championship once more. Jay Williams was supposed to be that player. One year later, Williams was fighting for his life in a career-ending motorcycle accident.
Instead of hanging his head over the missed opportunity to play the game he loves, he is now an ESPN college basketball analyst while also working as a motivational speaker.
Williams is also a published author after releasing his autobiography, “Life Is Not an Accident: A Memoir of Reinvention” in 2016.
- Pervis Ellison (1989 NBA Draft; 1st pick overall pick by the Sacramento Kings)
The Sacramento Kings needed a savior and they thought they found it in PervisEllison. He looked the part in Louisville where he played college basketball but the NBA was another matter. Though he played 11 seasons, Ellison only averaged 9.5 points per game and 6.7 rebounds per game.
After learning much about the X’s and O’s during his time in the League, coaching became a passion for Ellison who found new life after his retirement as a coach for the Life Center Academy in Burlington, New Jersey, giving back to the game in another arena.
- Bryant Reeves (1996 NBA Draft; 6th overall pick by theVancouver Grizzlies)
“Big Country” invoked fear in the hearts of other NCAA players as Bryant Reeves stood tall at 7 feet and weighing around 275 to 300 pounds. He became the first-ever pick by the expansion team Vancouver Grizzlies. Averaging a respectable 12.5 points per game, 6.9 rebounds per game and 0.6 blocks per game throughout his career, more was required from Reeves.
Various injuries took its toll on Reeves as he was forced to retire after only six seasons in the NBA.
But Big Country found his second wind as a farmer. He purchased a 300-acre cattle farm in Gans, Oklahoma, and staying true to his nickname.
- Sam Bowie (1984 NBA Draft; 2nd overall pick by the Portland Trailblazers)
Two words describe the downward turn of Sam Bowie’s NBA career: Michael Jordan. Bowie was the player selected ahead of arguably the greatest player ever at a time when skilled big men were considered potential franchise players.
As skillful as he was, Bowie had a difficult time staying on the court as various foot injuries plagued him. He retired with 10.9 points per game, 7.5 rebounds per game, and 1.8 blocks per game averages but was never the cornerstone of a franchise.
However, Bowie has found success training horses for harness racing after his NBA career ended. He may not be running with NBA centers up and down the court anymore, but Bowie has discovered a race that he can finally win.
- Danny Ferry (1989 NBA Draft; 2nd overall pick by the Los Angeles Clippers)
The Los Angeles Clippers chose Danny Ferry in the 1989 NBA Draft but he was shipped later to the Cleveland Cavaliers for fringe All-Star shooting guard Ron Harper along with two first-round draft picks and a second-round pick. What the Cavs didn’t realize was that Ferry’s multi-awarded college basketball career was his peak best as he struggled to make a name for himself in the NBA.
Ferry, though, has carved out a successful career as an NBA Executive. He first worked for the Spurs’ front office and was later hired by the Cavaliers as general manager. He went back to the Spurs years later, and became the president of basketball operations and general manager for the Atlanta Hawks in 2012.
After a buyout from the Hawks, Ferry is currently the New Orleans Pelicans’ special adviser to general manager Dell Demps.
- Darko Milicic (2003 NBA Draft; 2nd overall pick by the Detroit Pistons)
The 2003 NBA Draft is considered one of the best drafts ever in the game’s history with LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh among the many luminaries in the star-studded draft.
Darko Milicic was expected to be one of them. Except the Serbian wasn’t made for the pro game as he ended his 10-year NBA career with passable averages of 6.0 points per game, 4.2 rebounds per game, and 1.3 blocks per game.
Milicictried his hand at a kickboxing career instead, a far cry from his first career choice. Much like his NBA career, the big man didn’t exactly become a household name in the sport either.
He eventually found his true passion in agriculture as he now owns a 125-acre apple farm. Milicic ultimately wants to farm cherries now that he has found his place in this world as a 7-foot farmer.
Just like most of us, many NBA players didn’t find their calling in their first career. Success could not be found by bouncing a familiar orange ball on the hardwood and shooting it into a hoop. They had to take a hard look at their current situation and decided to make the best out of what they had.
The end of their NBA career wasn’t necessarily the end for them as they soon found that winning can be found on the very things they are passionate about.