Friday, December 11th, 2009 at 8:00 am  |  58 responses

Decade’s Biggest: Bust

Kwame and Darko walk into a bar…

by Bryan Crawford

When the writing topics were sent out for the decade’s best and worst, ‘Biggest Bust’ wasn’t even one of the initial topics. It was a subtopic at the bottom of a list of about fifty or so main ones. But the minute I saw it, I knew I had to claim it. While the other topics were a little more thought provoking, this one required little to no thought whatsoever. Sure there have been a lot of busts to come into the NBA over the past ten years—you know, like every player that came out of Duke—but there is no player that epitomizes the term ‘Biggest Bust’ of the decade better than Kwame Brown.

Coming out of Glynn Academy in Brunswick, GA, Brown was widely considered to be the best player in the HS class of 2001 which included fellow big men Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler. We all saw the videos of him dominating his competition and he looked like a man among boys. The prevailing thought was that once he made it to the NBA, given some time and some grooming, he was going to be a beast. He had good size at 6-11 and his potential and upside seemed limitless. He was Mr. Basketball in the state of Georgia and finished his career at Glynn Academy as the school’s all-time leading rebounder and shot blocker. Although he signed to play college ball at Florida, his stock was high enough to make the prep-to-pro jump. Kwame Brown appeared to be a “can’t miss” pro prospect.

Michael Jordan became part owner and President of Basketball Operations for the Washington Wizards in January of 2000 and was in charge of all personnel decisions. The following year the Wizards won the NBA Draft Lottery and the right to pick first in the draft. It would be Michael Jordan’s first, first round pick as an NBA team executive. And since he was the greatest player to ever play, we all figured he had to have a good eye for talent and there was no way he could screw this up. Right?

The NBA Draft Class of 2001 wasn’t exceptionally strong to begin with. Sure it had guys like Pau Gasol (3rd), Joe Johnson (10th), Tony Parker (28th), and Gilbert Arenas (31st) who would later become all-stars, but it also had guys like Rodney White (9th), Kedrick Brown (11th), Kirk Haston (16th) and Michael Bradley (17th) who all washed out just as quickly as they came in. Still, something unprecedented happened in that draft that year as Michael Jordan made Kwame Brown the first HS player ever to be chosen number one overall.

The end result?

Nine years in the League, four teams, and career averages of 6.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. There hasn’t been a bigger bust picked No. 1 since Michael Olowokandi came out of Pacific in ’98.

So what did Michael Jordan really see in Kwame Brown that made him take a gamble on him with the first pick? Was it his size? Was it his potential? Or was it just a guy looking out for his illegitimate son? I guess we’ll never know.


For more Decade Awards, check out the archive.

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  • Ken

    The weird thing is that there’s a city councilman in DC named Kwame Brown, and you see election posters for him all over town. It’s weird to see that in the town that drafted the worst bust in memory.

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    What about Nikoloz Tskishivilieshiali? Yeh, that guy.
    He sucked too. Pick 7th overall or something.
    At least Kwame can play some D and rebound the ball.
    Tshi.. couldn’t do sh*t.

  • http://slamonline.com/ niQ

    The reason Michael Jordan will never make a good draft pick is cause the only person he sees that is great is himself. True story.

  • http://slamonline.com/ niQ

    Jordan: “Hmm, you mean I can’t pick myself? Well then, I guess I’ll just go with (swirls finger) him.”

  • rav

    kwame brown once told doug collins and mj that they would not regret picking him #1…

  • rav

    couple of years from now greg oden could end up on this list…

  • jason

    I completely disagree, rav.

    Oden is just unfortunate to be plagued with injuries, but the kid can produce. When he’s on the court, he has the potential to be a star. Obviously, if you’re the Blazers now, you regret not picking Durant, because he’s been a stud since he was picked.

    Besides, Oden’s stats are still better than Kwame’s, and he’s only played for 1.25 seasons.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    Wait! Bryan stole my line about Kwame and Darko walking into a bar! I expect some royalties, Ryne. You know my email.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Wayno

    I’d rather have Kwame on my team than Darko…just sayin…

  • http://fashionsensei.files.wordpress.com/2008/02/jackie-moon.jpg Jackie Moon

    Yaroslav Korolev

  • http://www.realcavsfans.com Anton

    In Soviet Russia, league busts you!

  • http://www.twofistedpress.com Pve84

    “Or was it just a guy looking out for his illegitimate son?” Nice.

  • black pinoy

    well id take kwame over darko any day..atlis kwame can foul hard.. well looking back at that draft class (whhich didnt really have a legitmate number first overall pick at that time except maybe for gasol)
    so its either mike chose kwame, or he went with chandler, curry or gasol.. if he picked chandler or curry hed still get crticized for his GM skills but not as much..so he didnt really have alot of option at that point..the hype was on the three highschoolers so who you gonna pick? and just so you know, oden isnt a bust,,hed contend with the dfnsive player of the year if he didnt fracture his patella (how the hell can you fracture your patella by just jumping straight up)..biggest bust for me is still darko.. darko darko darko all the way.. they said kwame had potential but they said darko is the greates..they chose him over carmelo,wade, and bosh..so that makes him a bigger bust because detroit had other options while jordan had three highschoolers to choose from.DARKO!! go back to europe or play in vietnam or something

  • mike

    michael olowakandi – the candy man couldn’t

  • mike

    he’d be the choice if it was the right decade – oops – still sucked though

  • http://www.twitter.com/Th3_R3al_Chris Th3_R3al_Chris

    Olowakandi > Kwame.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Myles Brown

    I’d have gone with Sofia Vergara or Salma Hayek.

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    Darko was an infinitely worse pick than Kwame. Like, literally infinitely (∞).

  • http://slamonline.com Bryan Crawford

    You couldn’t go wrong with either Kwame or Darko really as the biggest bust of the decade. Yeah Darko was picked over Melo, Flash, and CB4, and only a handful of people have actually seen him play in the NBA (for the record, I still haven’t and his parents probably haven’t either). But Kwame was the #1 pick in the draft for crying out loud. Historically speaking, the top picks usually go on to have decent and productive careers and at the very least have a double digit PPG career scoring average. Since ’98 only Olowokandi, Kwame, and Greg Oden (who really shouldn’t be in the discussion due to injury, but still…) are the only three #1 picks without double digit scoring avergages. So by that standard… Kwame Brown has to be the biggest bust in the last 10 years. And I agree with Russ, Darko was definitely the worst draft pick of the decade. Hands down.

  • http://slamonline.com Bryan Crawford

    Oh and for the record, Darko may have been picked behind Bron and before Melo and Bosh in the ’03 Draft, but he has something that those three guys don’t…a ring. No, he didn’t earn it, but he has one. I’m just sayin’.

  • tavoris

    Kwame wouldn’t have been so bad if MJ hadn’t broken his spirit. He was doing really well in the summer league and the preseason, then BOOM!

  • http://www.manutd.com Z

    James White has a ring too. Can we just stop the championship argument for players that didn’t contribute anything? Who cares that Mitch Richmond has a ring? Nobody. He’ll be remembered as a stone-cold scorers on terrible teams, that’s his legacy.

  • http://www.manutd.com Z

    tavoris, Dion Glover was the king of summer ball. Like just dominating dudes.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    there is a website called kwamebrownsucks.com for the record…..and in 2001 i am willing to bet that picks 19-31 of that draft would beat picks 1-11.

  • tavoris

    Z-I don’t disagree. However, Kwame was doin aiite until MJ started callin him a scrub. He could catch the ball and everthing.

  • http://slamonline.com Bryan Crawford

    @Z & @Tavoris: Sometimes fathers can be hard on their sons.

  • Miike

    At least Kwame is still in the league. I would think the biggest bust of the decade wouldn’t still be getting NBA minutes. As others have pointed out, the 01 lottery was weak anyway, and if not Kwame, it still would’ve been Chandler or Curry. What MJ saw in Kwame Brown was how he beasted Chandler in 1-on-1 workouts. If anything, Jordan shouldn’t be blamed for drafting Kwame Brown, he should be blamed for not trading the pick for Elton Brand. The Clippers made out like bandits trading the #2 for him and MJ got that offer first.

  • http://www.triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    Darko wasn’t given an opportunity to produce in his first handful of years and by then he was just to disgruntled to try.

  • Sturm Drang

    I think Larry Brown pulverized Darko’s spirit more than MJ broke Kwame.

  • J-RO

    Kwame and Darko would have both been considered bust even if they were picked 20th………

  • http://none The Philosopher

    Michael picked Kwame because Krause originally wanted him. Michael had bones to pick. When Kwame showed signs of being a bust, Michael got mad at him for making him look stupid by drafting him. That’s what happened.

  • J

    i’m trying to comment on how big of a bust Kwame is.. but i can’t think of any.. that’s how big of a bust he is.

  • http://www.in-n-outnba.blogspot.com Lucas

    Kwame definitely has an edge on Darko here, but not by much.

  • Sporting-Lisbon-Blazers


  • LCD screen cleaner

    Sebastian Telfair underrated as a bust. Here’s looking at you, SLAM.

  • http://www.bebo.com/SupahhHuman B-Moore

    And in the red corner… At 6’11 and straight outta High School Kwame ‘ Brickhands ‘ Brown

    And in the blue corner.. The unknown European..
    Darkoooooo (I can’t spell his last name) Milicic

  • http://www.bebo.com/SupahhHuman B-Moore

    Seriously, Kwame and Darko should fight for the honours of biggest bust.

  • http://slamonline.com Bryan

    stromile swift? marcus fizer? they sucked too.

  • http://slamonline.com Bryan

    stromile swift at #2 was pretty sad, so was marcus fizer at#4 in 2000. I agree though, kwame at #1 takes the cake, with Darko almost tying him. The pistons have had some good picks, but they took Mateen Cleaves at #14 in 2000. Rodney White- #9-2001, and Darko in ’03. They’re only pick in ’04-Rickey Paulding…

  • Michael Scorn

    I vote the WNBA as the biggest bust.

  • a_whiteman

    i cant believe rafael araujo hasnt been mentioned!!!!i would take kwame AND darko over that scrub ANY DAY OF THIS AND ANY OTHER decade.

  • Michael Scorn

    I think it should be measured by who got paid the most but never one a championship. It’s one thing to make a mistake on draft day, but it’s another to keep paying a guy millions and getting nothing in return. At least nobody is giving Darko $20 million. LeBron on the other hand….

  • matt

    michael scorn your comment is absurd. all you’re trying to do is stir trouble here. Getting nothing in return? Lebron? Are you serious?

  • http://www.slamonline.com Wayno

    Just the fact of the draft class in which Darko was selected makes him #1 for me…I mean, it was at worst the second best draft class in NBA history…there was a plethora of talent and they just had to pick effing Darko…ugh…I die a little more inside every time I think about it…

  • reidz

    Co sign wayno. IMO You have to look at what you passed up.

    The talent Detroit potentially could have possessed instead….. The three players who went after him are two surefire choices for HOF and one potential HOF.

    Of the three who went after Kwame one is gonna be HOF (at least if you include international CV), but the two others aren´t even All Stars.

  • youngmuggsy

    Darko was taken 2nd in arguably the best draft class ever. Darko was picked ahead of 3 franchise players, a bunch of allstars and dozens of solid role players.

  • youngmuggsy

    If Kwame had been taken later on in the draft and never met Jordan he’d be an allstar.

  • Starchild

    ok matt, either you’re the biggest idiot in the world or the biggest hater in the world for even mentioning lebrons name in this blog. you pick which one you are.

    for the record, darko is the biggest bust. kwame is a descent roll player who out of highschool happened to go number one. no fault to anyone.

  • rexon

    hey starchild matt was defending bron. you may need to re-read some of his comment bro. did you say something about an idiot?

  • Michael Scorn

    I can understand why someone would pay Kobe $20 million, because he gets the ultimate Team/organization result and that is a championship. All LeBron has done was score a lot of points. Good for him.
    Most people get fired if they do not get the job done. “You play to win the game,” not “check my stats.”

  • Michael Scorn

    By the way. I’m not hating on LeBron. He is a very skilled and athletic player. I just wouldn’t pay him so much money until he won a championship. That is what Jordan says is wrong with the NBA.

  • jamal

    a. You picked the wrong article to quote MJ as a credible source.

    b. Lebron brings in much more in revenue than he costs, which makes paying him the big bucks a smart business decision…not to mention he won the Eastern Conference Finals, which counts for something this early in his career.

    c. If you don’t pay the stars the big bucks they won’t come…if they don’t come, you won’t win a championship. Don’t confuse the order of things.

  • http://jayemmbee.blogspot.com CLUTCHperformer

    big deal eastern conference, since when are we paying guys for almost doing things? wade has a title, kobe has a title so they get paid right fully so, melo just got to the Western conference but they arent paying him that kinda money, ok yeah lebron got them to the finals, to get swept, and has been since, yea i think we need to reevaluate that pay cheque, pay when you produce

  • http://edgeofsports.com Dave Zirin

    This is all very silly. Kwame still has a career while so many top draftees do not. Also, I remember watching Kwame drop 34 and 19 at home for the Wiz in (I think) his third year. Kwame could have been something special. Could have used college in a huge way. But honestly, I give him credit for still hanging in the league.

    The answer, btw, is Darko.

  • tavoris

    I’d say that the biggest bust is Bobby Hurley or Jay Williams. Coming out of college, they were both considered a future HOF Point Guards, and neither came close to that.

  • tavoris

    take hurley back, cuz he was last decade. fml

  • chintao

    It is my opinion that Air Head destroyed Kwame’s fragile image of self. Thus, Jordan is responsible for the biggest bust of the decade. Put that trophy on your shelf, Mike, right next to all the championships that you will never win as a front-office guy.

  • Yesse

    Wasnt this suppose to be about the 2000-present?Olowokandi got drafted 1998.