While Serge Ibaka was setting up his teddy bear prop on Saturday night during the Slam Dunk contest, TNT replayed Gerald Green’s "Birthday Cake" dunk from 2008. "If he ever spent more time working on his jump shot than blowing out them candles, he could still be in the NBA," Charles Barkley said. This should have got viewers thinking: Where did Gerald Green go?
Would you believe Krasnie Krilya Samara in the Russian league? Green is just one of several former NBA players who failed to find success in jumping from high school straight to the pros. In honor of the Green clip and the rapidly approaching 10th anniversary of the 2001 Kwame Brown/Eddy Curry draft, here is the All-Prep-to-Pro Bust Team:
No. 5 Sebastian Telfair
Drafted 13th overall in 2004. Pro teams: Six, all in the NBA. Current team: Minnesota Timberwolves. In 2004, USA Today asked Telfair, "In 10 years, [you] will be where? Doing what?" His reply: "An all-star guard in the NBA.” Seven years later, Telfair can barely crack the 13-43 Timberwolves’ rotation. In three years, he’ll be lucky just to have a job in the NBA. During Telfair's senior season at Brooklyn's famed Lincoln High, sportswriter Ian O’Connor shadowed Telfair to write a biography, while director Jonathan Hock shot an award-winning documentary about the guard’s decision to bypass the NCAA (he committed to Louisville). Telfair was a teenage celebrity in a city that expected him to be even better than its last high school phenom, his cousin and mentor, Stephon Marbury. But Telfair quickly proved to be too short (6-0), too skinny (170 pounds) and too slow to be a starting NBA point guard, let alone an All-Star. He made a bigger splash off the court. While ticketing Telfair for speeding, New York police found him to be driving under a suspended Florida license plate. After examining his car further, a loaded .45 caliber handgun was found under the passenger seat. Telfair denied any knowledge of the weapon, but was still given three years probation and a three-game NBA suspension. Career NBA averages: 7.9 points, 3.8 assists, 1.6 rebounds.
No. 4 Gerald Green
Drafted 18th overall in 2005. Pro teams: Four in the NBA, two in the D-League, two in Europe, currently with Krasnie Krilya Samara in Russia. Green and his agent decided to only give individual workouts to the teams with the top six picks. In a draft class that included Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Andrew Bogut and Raymond Felton, Green dropped all the way down to 18th, where the Celtics gambled on him mainly off reputation. In January of his rookie season, Green was demoted to the D-League’s Fayetteville Patriots for one month. After one week back in Boston, the Celtics sent Green to the Florida Flame of the D-League, where Green spent another week. Green returned to Boston for the season’s final two months, finishing with averages of 5.2 points and 1.2 rebounds in 32 NBA games. Green saw a light in his sophomore season, averaging 10.4 points, and beating defending champion Nate Robinson and future champ Dwight Howard to win the Slam Dunk contest. He jumped over Robinson and threw down a windmill dunk over a table. Green was runner-up the next season after his infamous “The Birthday Cake” in which he blew out a candle on the rim while dunking. Dealt to Minnesota in the Kevin Garnett trade, Green couldn’t find his way off the bench and had his agent demand a trade. Green played one game for Houston and finished the season in Dallas before jumping to Europe. Career NBA averages: 7.5 points, 2.0 rebounds, 0.8 assists.
No. 3 Jonathan Bender
Drafted fifth overall in 1999. NBA teams: Two, now retired. At the 1999 McDonald’s All-American Game, Bender scored 31 points to break Michael Jordan's record of 30, set in 1981. Bender was one of the most hyped prospects of all-time because of his versatility -- a 7-footer who could shoot, drive, and post-up. Larry Bird, Donnie Walsh and the Pacers took him over Richard Hamilton, Andre Miller and Shawn Marion. Bender played 13 minutes in his NBA debut and scored 10 points, becoming the first high school draftee ever to post double digits in his opening game. But Bender played in only 24 games in his rookie season, averaging 2.7 points. After a weak second season, heshowed enough promise in his third to received a four-year $28.5 million extension. From there, Bender’s career rolled straight downhill. A right knee injury limited him to 46, 21, seven and two games, respectively, in the next four seasons. To Bender’s credit, even after reeling in over $37 million in seven seasons, the forward/center spent the next three years in gyms and weight rooms, attempting to rediscover his game. Last season, Walsh, now with the Knicks, signed Bender to a one-year contract, capping off a miraculous comeback. He averaged 4.7 points in 25 games, but his knee injury would once again foil his career. Bender made his final retirement this past summer. Career NBA averages: 5.5 points, 2.2 rebounds, 0.8 blocks.
No. 2 Kwame Brown
Draft first overall in 2001. NBA teams: Five, currently with Charlotte. In 2008, Stephen A. Smith’s described Kwame Brown as a bona fide scrub. Simply put, there is no other way to describe his train wreck of a career. Brown told Wizards coach Doug Collins at a pre-draft workout, "If you draft me, you’ll never regret it." Jordan came out of retirement to play with Brown, and Washington basketball seemed to be resurrected. Brown started off with two average seasons for a prep-to-pro baller and then in 2003-04 averaged a respectable 10.9 points and 7.4 rebounds. The Wizards offered Brown a five-year $30 million contract, but he opted for free agency. Brown did not receive any higher offers and was forced to play for his $5.3 million option that the Wizards picked up in 2004-05. Brown, injured most of the season, was consistently booed. Before a home playoff game, Gilbert Arenas appeared on the Verizon Center’s video screen to instruct fans not to boo Brown. Brown played four minutes that game and fans did not boo. But Brown then abandoned the team’s postseason practices and claiming that he would punch out Arenas if the two were in the same building together. The Wizards suspended Brown for the rest of the playoffs and traded him the Lakers for Caron Butler. When the Lakers came to D.C. that winter, Washington fans booed Brown each time he touched the ball. Brown was also hit in the head with a pass from teammate Sasha Vujacic while not looking, prompting cheers. And yes, Doug Collins does regret that pick. Career NBA averages: 6.7 points, 5.5 rebounds, 0.6 blocks.
No. 1 Eddy Curry
Drafted fourth overall in 2001. NBA teams: Three, currently with Minnesota. Curry claims to have dreamed of becoming a gymnast as a young child. The Bulls tried to pace Curry at the start of his career but he averaged 6.7 points in just 16 minutes of playing time, as a rookie and increased his clip to 10.5 points in 19.4 minutes in his second season. Curry’s playing time grew to nearly 30 minutes a game in the next two seasons, leading to scoring averages of 14.7 and 16.1. But that fourth season, 2004-05, ended in chaos when he was hospitalized for an irregular heartbeat and refused to submit a DNA test to help investigate the issue. Curry then had three decent seasons for the Knicks (scoring 13.6, 19.5 and 13.2) but it wasn't nearly worth what it cost them in draft picks. In 2008, he showed up noticeably out of shape for training camp -- well above 300 pounds -- which would be a tremendous liability in new coach Mike D’Antoni's fast-paced system. Curry compounded problems by hurting his knee, and between this injury and his weight issue, he has played just 10 games the start of the 2008-09 season. Curry will be a free agent this summer and should draw interest from teams needing a heavyset, slow, uncoordinated, washed-out center. Career NBA averages: 13.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 0.8 blocks
G Shaun Livingston (fourth overall, 2004)
F Darius Miles (third overall, 2000)
C DeSagana Diop (eighth overall, 2001)
C Robert Swift (12th overall, 2004)
G/F Martell Webster (sixth overall, 2005)
F Dorell Wright (19th overall, 2004)
F LeBron James (first overall, 2003: Didn't he promise to bring a championship to Cleveland? Bust.)