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5/29/2008 02:20:00 PM
Sports Phenoms Who Never Lived Up to the Hype
Even a change of scenery hasn't helped Darko Milicic.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
By Lang Whitaker, SI.com
When the Reds called up outfielder Jay Bruce this week, baseball fans watched with baited breath and internet message boards started buzzing. Would he handle the pressure and make it in the big leagues? Would he wobble and flirt with disaster only to rebound spectacularly (like SI coverboy Josh Hamilton)? Or would Bruce, like so many other sports phenoms from the past, bottom out, never to be heard from again? Here are my top five most memorable sports phenoms who never lived up to the hype.
1. Brien Taylor: Selected by the Yankees as the first overall pick in MLB's 1991 draft, Taylor squeezed a then-record $1.55 million signing bonus out of the Yanks. Two years later, this hard-throwing lefty tore up his shoulder in a street fight and effectively ended his career without ever making The Show.
2. Darko Milicic: In the 2003 NBA Draft, the Detroit Pistons passed on Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade in order to select the largely unseen and internet-hyped Darko Milicic. Darko got paid big bucks last summer in free agency and has posted solid if unremarkable numbers in the NBA, but he's never come close to matching the hype that followed him into the League.
3. Todd Van Poppel: Back in 1990, Van Poppel was projected by some as the greatest high school pitcher of all time. The Braves, drafting first, were wary of Van Poppel's salary demands, and instead, then-Braves GM Bobby Cox drafted a shortstop named Larry Wayne Jones, who has turned in a Hall Of Fame career.
4. Ryan Leaf: One of the most dominant college quarterbacks of his era, Leaf stirred debate over who should be taken first in the 1998 NFL draft, himself or Peyton Manning. The Colts went for Manning, the Chargers went for Leaf, and soon after, Leaf went off. He bounced around the NFL for four years and retired with nearly three times as many interceptions as touchdowns.
5. Todd Marinovich: The perfect storm. As a high schooler, SI told the world that Todd's dad, Marv, was raising him to be the ultimate quarterback, even keeping him from eating McDonald's. He went on to USC and even took snaps in the NFL, but consistent brushes with the law and problems with drugs kept Todd from achieving the sky-high goals he (or his father) set for himself.
Who are the most memorable sports phenoms who couldn't match the hype? Let us know below...
Lang Whitaker is the executive editor of SLAM magazine and writes daily at SLAMonline.com
Tony Mandarich, the only collegiate player to ever make the All-Madden teams should be first on this list. Sam Bowie, drafted before a skinny guard from North Carolina. Brian Bosworth, Bo knows Boz. Rick Mirer and Ron Powlus, were supposed to be the second coming of Joe Montana, they even gave them Joe Cool's number 3 jersey to wear, but they never lived up to the hype. Andre Ware and David Klingler, set all kinds of NCAA records, terrible pros.
Although Eric Lindros had a fine career, he garnered so much hype that he had the stones to tell the Quebec Nordiques NO when they drafted him. He was billed as the cant miss next great one, and never lived up to it.
Sergio Garcia, Rashann Sallamm, Rocco Baldelli, Phil Hughes (For now), Tyrone Wheatly, Kordell Stewart, Paul Wilson, of the METS- remember that fearsome foursome of starters they were supposed to have back then, they all sucked until Isringhasin showed up late, Mark Prior, Craig Hanson, Mark Mulder, Bryan Bullington, Kwame Brown, Jayson Williams- DUke, Sebastian Telfair, Steve Emtman, Dan Wilkinson, Health Shuler, Danny Warfeul, Ki-Jana Carter, Peter Warwick, Andre Wadsworth, Curtis Enis, Tim COuch, David Boston, Courtney Brown, Gerard Warren, MICHAEL VICK, David Carr, Joey HArrington, Charles Rogers, Mike Williams (the wideout from USC), Robert Gallery, Alex Smith, SOON TO BE Jamarcus Russell
David Clyde, a high school pitching phenom from Houston, was drafted first by the Texas Rangers in the 70's and was sent directly to the Show. It was a circus. He was out of baseball after parts of 5 seasons.
Hideki Irabu! I live in Binghamton, home of the Mets' AA club and when the Norwich Navigators had Irabu start his first professional American game in Binghamton, not only was the stadium packed with fans but the media American AND Japanese were flocking to the stadium. Of course within the first inning or so the B-Mets rocked Irabu for upwards of seven runs. YET, the Yankees didnt see this as a precursor to what would happen, and they called him up to the bigs after 2 or 3 more starts. HAHAHAHA!
Someone needs a sedative. As the first poster in this list, I simply answered the question. I never said that these people were bad athletes or bad people. The author asked which athletes weren't able to convert from college to the pros.
Yes, it would be nice to have their abilities for a little while, but sports entertainment has become a high-priced ticket. When you spend $4 for a bleacher seat at a minor league baseball game, you don't hear many boos, but when tickets cost $100 - $1000 each and someone doesn't play up to snuff, you now have the consumer who feels shortchanged.
"I'm always amazed that people will even comment. Every one of those athletes could run faster backwards than either of the anonymous posters."
Thats not the point bud. These athletes get paid mind boggling amount of money to do what they do. We as fans have the right to post on these topics because we help pay their salaries. Bad mouthing pro athletes is nothing new, there were just no forums like these in the past for fans to speak their minds. So get off your high horse pal.
Have we forgotten the massive talent that was LaRue Martin? Drafted No. 1 overall by the Trailblazers, thereby creating a gigantic sucking sound that was heard throughout the Pacific Northwest for the next two decades.
This whole "you can't play so you can't comment" thing is garbage. It is true- if I was drafted in the 1st round of the NBA I would be a bust, that said I am 5"10 145 not very good at basketball and won't get drafted. This is not a contest about the worst players, it is the worst players who everyone thought would be good.
Patrick Ewing was the most overrated player in the history of team sports. Selfish, lazy and "uncoachable" (when the Knicks were winning, he told the coach "I'm not gettin my touches," and got the coach fired. We call him peee-ew ing in NYC
Marijuanavich of course, but I always think of the hype of Benoit Benjamin as being overdone. He came in to the NBA with Don King as his agent (or manager) so was hyped to the moon. He was a decent player, but couldn't justify the money King was trying to get.
Not drafted, but Danica Patrick has to be up there. She is a big part of the media hype machine. If anyone thinks that the Japan 300 wasn't a gimme, is not paying attention. That race is meaningless. Besides, people were starting to question her driving capabilities and if she could win a race. Loosing doesn't sell products....
I'll concur that we expect pro athletes to give us the bang for the buck. But in the old days, it used to every boy's dream (prior to title IX) to be a great college athlete and it was just gravy to become a pro.
Now, sadly being a great college athlete is just a means to an end.
Although it pains me as an Irish fan to say this, I have to go w/ Rick Mirer and Ron Powlus. Mirer was great in college, very much bolleyhooed ... but did not pan out w/ the Seahawks or any other team he played for. Powlus, was incredibly hyped up going into college. I believe Beano Cook predicted he would win 3-4 Heismans. He one zero and never played in the NFL to my knowledge.
Don't forget Jim Drukenmiller . And who was that linebacker who reported for his first practice with the Vikings in a chopper? He was such a bust I cannot even remember his name, and he was a Heisman winner I think...
Anybody remember Damon Bailey? I guess you almost have to have been forgotten about to make this list, but Bailey was Mr. Hype from 8th grade on. He was successful in high school but only had moderate success in college and no success in the NBA. He was back coaching his old high school team but believe he only lasted one season.
Brian Bosworth... if you're old enough to remember, he was one of those guys who was "all over the place" media-wise before he did *anything* in the NFL. I was lucky enough to watch that game against the Raiders (Sunday night... Monday night...?) when Bo Jackson ran over/through him in the end zone like he was made of paper. Which he evidently was.
The Spring Training COVER of Sports Illustrated in about 1974 had only the word "Phenom" on it and a picture of an up and coming Kansas City Royal on it.
No, it wasn't George Brett. It was some dude named Clint Hurdle. Nice enough guy. Good baseball man. Loyal almost to a fault. Damn good manager for the Rockies. But definitely did NOT pan out as anything CLOSE to his hype, which was a lot for that time.
I would like to know , just as a bit of general information, does any body actually think before responding to this nonsense ?
These "phenoms" did not make the hype , those screeming belchers of ballyhoo, the ratings-prostitute Neilsen streetwalkers and asinine personality promoters did the hyping. So some players did not live up to a claim that they did not make -- to a reputation that they did not earn ....shocking ! Some of those here posting may believe themselves to be well informed , logical, maybe even intelligent. Don't look now sportsfans , but some of you clearly are not quite up to scratch. That is if the sports world is one where facts, logic and chains of reasooning involving cause and effect are still allowed to have their moment. Some of you need to break the apparent habit of a lifetime and actually think -- for yourself that is .
Kent Benson: Much-heralded bruiser center from Indiana imploded in the 1976 pre-season. It was all caught on tape from a baseline photographer: Benson runs downcourt, sets up in the post and elbows Kareem Abdul-jabbar in the abdomen. Kareem falls in front of the camera, gets up, calmly walks up to Benson and clobbers him in the jaw. Kareem injured his hand while breaking Benson's jaw (and ending his career).
How could you forget Brian Bosworth? I remember all the hype about him and his stupid hair. On a personal note, I actually met Todd Van Poppel when he was pitching for the Medford A's in the minors. He was a nice enough guy but man did his acne make it hard to look at him in the face!
100% Alexander Daigle (NHL) In 1993 Ottawa Senators chose the Center (Daigle and signed him to biggest entry level contract of 12 Million and the guy never amounted to anything. Other players chosen after Daigle in same draft include Chris Pronger, Paul Kariya, and Nashville's Jason Arnott. Crazy stuff !!
The second-generation Nicklaus, the second-generation Miller, and the second-generation Player, all PGA flameouts. Still in the PGA, Bobby Clampett leads, but he actually won a tournament. Michelle Wie is in contention on the distaff side of the ball.
I'm a huge Duke fan, but I have to go with Christian Laettner. He was the dominant college player of his time, even securing a place on the original Dream Team. This third overall draft pick finished his career with a 13, 7, and 2 stat line.
I must be getting old. Almost nobody seems to have mentioned Brian Bosworth, the "flamboyant bad-boy" Oklahoma linebacker who was the subject of a full-length Sports Illustrated cover story as a college player. He went to the Seattle Seahawks with a huge signing bonus, and had crashed out of pro football after, what? One or two seasons? RIP, Bos.
I'm surprised few people said Jay Williams, after he won Player of the Year in college basketball at Duke and then was an idiot and crashed his motorcycle. Maybe it's because no one remembers him anymore.
Also, for players like Mike Vick and Mark Prior, I think it's a fine line.
Mike Vick was pretty darn good before he was an idiot, so in the time he had, I think he lived up to the hype.
For Mark Prior, I would say he did live up to the hype because it wasn't really his fault or a problem with his real talent level. After going 18-6 (including 10-1 after the All-Star break) in 2003 and a 3rd place finish in the Cy Young voting, I think we all agree that he lived up to his hype that year. It was a problem with Dusty Baker stretching his young pitchers (such as Prior and Wood, among others) too far and ultimately, causing career-changing injuries.
I'm surprised more people haven't mentioned Jay Williams (I only saw two people) after he won PotY honors at Duke and then was an idiot and crashed his motorcycle.
Concerning players like Mike Vick and Mark Prior, I think it's a fine line.
Mike Vick was pretty darn good for a long time before he was an idiot, so I wouldn't include him in this discussion.
For Mark Prior, I wouldn't include him because it wasn't really a problem with his talent level, and his problems weren't really his fault. After an 18-6 season and a 3rd place finish in the NL Cy Young voting in 2003, I think we all agree that he lived up to expectations for that season. Dusty Baker's tendency to stretch his young pitchers (such as Prior and Kerry Wood) too far ultimately caused their career-altering injuries.
Some loser on may 29,2008 and 3-12 pm dissed my ron dayne. Ron Dayne is amazing, obviously you didn't see him playing at Wisconsin. So he didn't have the greatest NFL career, but he's about a million times better then the loser who dissed him will ever be.
Wow. I haven't thought of Joe Don Looney in many many years. He was a bona fide pure-dee grade A psycho, by all reports. I remember a story of him the week of one of the Cotton Bowls, creating mayhem and assault in downtown D and the like. I never knew anything about him as a player, only as a felon who wasn't prosecuted because, well, you know, football and Texas.
Okay, wait a minute. Somebody mentioned that Jeter guy whose salary is higher than that of many enttire rosters. But, you don't fault a closer for not doing well in the early innings, do you? You don't dis a middle reliever for not finishing, I hope? So why blame Mr May for disappearing before the post-season?
In the field of undeserved notoriety, we must include Brandi Chastain. The 1999 Womens FIFA final ended in a shoot-out. The advantage is always with the shooter in a penalty kick. This is why the huge proportion of them are successful. That is why 9 out of 10 of the shots were scores in this phase that year. So you must credit goaltender Brianna Scurry for the only stop, which meant the victory. Although Ms Chastain is the one who removed her top, thus she became the poster girl.
To the person talkin about us commenting on athletes who can "faster backwards than either of the anonymous posters"...NO SHIT, but noone is paying us to run fast. These dickheads still made millions of dollars for sucking
I have to say that I'm shocked to see that Greg Oden's name hasn't been mentioned yet.
This guy was supposed to be the second coming of LeBron James, and he blows his knee out before the season even begins.
Also, to the person who said Kordell Stewart didn't live up to his hype, I have to say I agree, but disagree. He kinda sucked as a quarterback, but when he was "Slash", he was the shit and you know it.
tremonius, you have merely demonstrated how little you know about women's soccer. Brandi Chastain was a terrific player who made 192 appearances and scored 30 goals for the U.S. National team (despite playing as a defender for several dozen of her caps). She was a member of two World Cup champion teams and two Olympic gold medal teams, starting most of those games. She never had much hype to begin with, an she more than lived up to what little she may have had. Your rant about the penalty-kick shootout completely ignores the kind of player she was.
Brandi (I guess) say: "tremonius, you have merely demonstrated how little you know about women's soccer."
Here's what I know about some other stuff.
There is a new book on the shelves about the greatest game ever, the '58 NFL champeenship. It was, as I remember, not particular exciting. Ameche grinds over the goal in overtime. Many many were more thrilling. No, what made this one so memorable for ancient sportswriters is, it was the last White Boy Bowl. After that, integration.
Bo Diddley didn't get diddley, and you don't hear about T Bone Walker neither. Just let a white boy take their goods and present 'em. Elvis.
Great, great Jazz drummers. Jo Jones, Max Roach, Philly Joe Jones, Chick Webb. But who has the gig outdoors in the ball park, the Carnegie Hall concert, and the movie on his life? Right; Gene Krupa, white boy.
Brianna Scurry saved the day for the Americans that game in 1999. However, Brianna Scurry isn't white. So Brandi Chastain takes off her top after doing what 90% of the other players on both teams had done, and she becomes the poster girl.
She had a good career. Great. But she drew back more than she deserved for this game, and it had nothing to do with the game itself.
Len Bias couldn't live up to the hype since he was derad before ever stepping onto the Celtics court.
Whoever put Gerry Cooney on the list is wrong. Cooney demolished his opponents and was leading on 2 out of 3 score cards when Larry Holmes stopped him in the 13 rd of their world title fight. Hardly a flop.