Joe Smith. A name so ordinary that Wikipedia brings up 56different pages for various people with the same exact name. That includes three different congressmen, a jazz trumpeter, the founder of a religion, and 22 different professional athletes.
One of those athletes is the Joe Smith we are about to talk about.
Otherwise, they are all actually Joe Smith.
But one is Joseph Smith; the number one pick in the 1995 NBA Draft, a mainstay in draft bust listicles everywhere, one of very few people to have single-handedly destroyed an entire nba franchise’s future, and a man who blew through over 60 million dollars.
Much like Andrew Wiggins, Joe Smith might not exactly be the standard that earns the ridicule of ‘bust’, if it weren’t for one thing, which was completely out of his control – his draft stock.
As one nba scout said before the draft, he had “no weaknesses in his defensive game [or]…offensively.” Another claimed he was “an absolute monster” who “dominated games” and was “too athletic to be stopped.”
So he went number one.
Over Antonio Mcdyess, Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace, and even Kevin Garnett.
And it was an obvious choice.
Flash-forward three years, and the stories of Smith and Garnett crossed paths again, on the team occupied and preoccupied with Andrew Wiggins – the Minnesota Timberwolves.
In the chaos of a sixteen-day January offseason, following the league’s longest lockout, one of the hottest names on the market, along with Derrick Coleman and back-to-back-to-back reigning champ Scottie Pippen, was Joe Smith
And in the weirdest twist of all, Smith signed a one year 1.75 million dollar deal with Minnesota. Except that deal would never be made today. Because it’s now illegal.
The context for this goes way back:
When the Golden State Warriors selected Smith with the first pick, he just so happened to be the first pick at the worst possible time to be a first pick.
The league had just approved rules putting a cap on rookie contracts that would go into effect that year, meaning that while Glenn Robinson, the top pick the year before, got the chance to sign the dotted line on a 10-year , 69 million dollar deal, the most Smith could be offered as a rookie was three years for less than nine million.
Between that, the losing – and the team’s best player in Latrell Sprewell being suspended by the league and deemed unwelcome at Oracle after choking coach P.J. Carlesimo, it was no big surprise when smith turned down an extension worth 80 million dollars.
Golden State realized he was out the door, so they cut their losses when he asked for a trade closer to his home in Maryland, shipping hime off to Philly.
The Sixers, who already had Derrick Coleman and Theo Ratliff in the post, didn’t need him, and, in one day, he went from future all-star to the second guy off the bench on a losing team… in the middle of his contract year.
After that sour note to end the season, Joe Smith was still a coveted free agent, but not at the 80 million dollars the Warriors offered earlier in the year.
Except for one team that was willing to throw piles of money at him. The only problem was they couldn’t come even close to affording him.
Two years and two first-round exits after first signing with Minnesota, Smith had not only failed to be the piece that put them over the top, he helped sink them to rock-bottom.
When his agent left his agency, they sued him, and out came details of an illegal under-the-table deal Joe Smith had made for the Timberwolves.
Three years of cheap service to the team, and then they’d be able to go over the cap to max him.
Sixty-eight million dollars, that would have been.
Instead, it was a league-mandated voided contract, the ends of careers for multiple agents, and three forfeited first-round picks for the Timberwolves.
Once the Timberwolves’ penalties were over, they were ruined for a generation and they wouldn’t sniff the playoffs again until 2018.
It turns out Smith could’ve used that cold hard cash as well.
Journeyman Joe tied the league record for most teams played on, bouncing around 12 different franchises in 15 years, grossing over $61 million in his career. Eventually, his worth plummeted to $157,000 in the red.
It turns out that after taxes and agent fees, sixty-one million is somewhere closer to eighteen million, which is still thirteen times as much the average American makes in a lifetime.
But, in his case, it wasn’t enough. As he bought a new multi-million dollar home in each city he went to, and sold each on a loss when he left.
It wasn’t enough when he bought luxury car after luxury car, had investments turn south, and lost half his money in a divorce.
And then…Of course…He thought he could be a rapper, which only naturally cost him more money.
It’s not at all a bad ending, though.
None other than baseball legend alex rodriguez stepped in.
A-Rod helped turn around Smith’s life, helping him budget expenses and reworking his coaching business to increase his earnings tenfold.
Putting him on a 3-year track to pay off his debt in full.