Going to the Hall of Fame is sometimes referred to as the cherry on top of an NBA player’s career. It’s such a distinct honor that few greats can boast about because it is such an exclusive list. While active players like LeBron James, Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo will undoubtedly get in someday, there are a few players who were poised to join the exclusive club but suddenly fell off due to different circumstances that happened in their career.
In this list, we will name the top ten players who looked destined for the Hall of Fame before shockingly falling off. Whether it is because of injuries, failure to elevate their game and lack of accolades to boost their bid, we will dissect each player’s flaws and discuss why they aren’t fit for one of the game’s most prestigious lists.
10. John Wall
Wall was the consensus top overall pick heading into the 2010 NBA draft. Many pundits projected the lightning-quick Wall to become one of the best point guards in his generation and for a while, he surpassed every expectation given to him.
The 6’4″ guard made five all-star teams during his career and was even named a third All-NBA team member in 2017. But one huge knack of his game was shooting. As the league took significant importance with the three-point line, Wall never really honed his shooting from the outside. Plus, missing time due to knee injuries robbed him of his athleticism.
9. Deron Williams
The 3rd overall pick in the 2005 NBA draft, Williams had a promising start in his career while quickly becoming one of the hottest young players in the league. He was a three-time All-star and made the All-NBA team twice at 26 years old.
At one point, he had a fierce rivalry with Chris Paul on who was the best point guard in the entire league. But after his controversial exit from the Utah Jazz, Williams really never regained his All-star form and quickly became an expensive liability for the Brooklyn Nets.
8. Kevin Love
It’s really gut-wrenching to put Love on this list, but there was a time when he was considered one of the best players in the league years ago. He was both a scoring and rebounding machine for the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves early in his career.
Love legitimately looked like a future Hall of Famer and several analysts predicted him to be enshrined after his career is done. While getting traded to the Cavaliers did net him a championship ring, Love never regained his glory days in Minnesota.
7. Juwan Howard
Before coming to the NBA, Howard was a member of the fabled Fab Five in college while playing for the Michigan Wolverines. Howard was such a dominating force in college that analysts back then predicted that he’ll possibly become one of the best power forwards by the time he’ll go pro.
Howard proved his worth during his earlier years in the league, becoming an All-star in 1996 while being named as a third-team All-NBA member. But Howard was not able to replicate his success after 1996. While he remained a solid player throughout his career, Howard became a journeyman in the latter part of his time in the league.
6. Christian Laettner
While you may argue that Laettner is a current member of the Hall of Fame, it is solely because of his inclusion with the 1992 Dream Team and not about his personal accolades in the NBA. In college, Laettner has essentially won it all while playing for Duke.
Analysts concluded that he will have a seamless transition from college to the pro ranks and that was true for a while. He even became an All-star in 1997. But Laettner’s game fell off after his career year and ended his career as a journeyman.
5. Jermaine O'Neal
There was a time when O’Neal’s name was mentioned with the likes of Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Dirk Nowitzki. It took a while for him to get acclimated to the NBA game after being drafted at just 17, but when he figured things out, O’Neal became one of the league’s hottest stars in the 2000s.
He became a six-time All-star and a three-time member of All-NBA teams. Sadly, injuries robbed O’Neal of his game and was quickly relegated as a role player in the latter part of his career.
4. Shawn Kemp
Shawn Kemp decimated anybody who tried to block his dunks during his heyday. Together with Gary Payton, the duo led the Seattle Supersonics to the NBA Finals in 1996, eventually losing to the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls in six games.
Kemp was a six-time All-star and a three-time member of the All-NBA team. He was poised for the Hall of Fame but injuries and off-the-court problems became too much of a burden for him by the time he reached his 30s. Kemp’s decline was a steep one and he was out of the league in 2003.
3. Andrew Wiggins
The hype that surrounded Wiggins ahead of the 2014 NBA draft was so huge that even Kevin Durant infamously stated that the Toronto native has “the tools to become a Hall of Famer.”
While Wiggins had a few accolades in his name such as winning Rookie of the Year, becoming an All-star and a champion in 2022, he never developed into anything near the expectations bestowed on him years ago. He’s still a good third option on the Warriors but not the franchise-altering talent everyone dreamed of when he entered the league in 2014.
2. Derrick Rose
Rose could still technically make the Hall of Fame due to being named the youngest league MVP ever at just the age of 22 back in 2011. The former number one overall pick in the 2008 NBA draft was poised to become the face of the league but unfortunately, a devastating ACL injury robbed Rose of his athleticism and dominant play.
He never really fully recovered from the injury and missed subsequent time because of it later on in his career. Rose is still a beloved figure today and is set to suit up for the Memphis Grizzlies next season.
1. Ben Simmons
Simmons looked like the next successor of LeBron James due to his towering size, athleticism, speed and basketball IQ. The Australian native was named an All-star from 2019 to 2021 and was a member of the All-NBA third team in 2020. But after performing well below expectations against the Atlanta Hawks in the second round of the 2021 playoffs, Simmons became a totally different player.
He had an ugly exit with Philadelphia after sitting out a full season due to a personal holdout and a mysterious injury. While he finally had a fresh start after getting traded to the Brooklyn Nets, his numbers went down dramatically and looked uninterested on the floor countless times. While Simmons is still young and could turn things around if he puts his mind to it, there’s little faith for it to happen among the NBA circles.
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