I thought it would be quite interesting to cronicle the rise and fall of some of the NBA Allstars of the recent past. Part 1 of "Fallen Stars of the NBA" will take a look at Antoine Walker, Larry Johnson, and Steve Francis. All three have a lot in common. They all played very well for the team they were drafted by and all three of them went down hill by the age of 28. Injuries did play a part in Francis' and Johnson struggles, but all three had issues with their teams on and off the floor. Their problems were not limited to injuries, but to attitude. Let us break them down.
Antoine Walker. 6th pick in the 1996 draft by the Boston Celtics. 3 time Allstar.
What happened to this guy. With the Celtics he was an animal. He had a post game and could frive the lane pretty well for a big man. He was a 20 point and 8 rebound machine. He was never known for his defense but was a terror on offense and caused all kinds of problems for other teams. He was a member of the Allstar team in 1998, 2002, and 2003. It was after his last allstar season that he was traded to the Dallas Mavericks. He had a problem fitting in on the team and his numbers dropped. He also started to gain a bit of extra weight and some started to question if he was even dedicated to the game of basketball anymore.
After one season with the Mavericks Antoine Walker was moved to the Atlanta Hawks were he put up his best numbers as a player ever. 20.4 ppg, 9.4 rpg, and 3.7 apg. To be fair the Hawks were not a very good team at the time and he was the go to guy. A midseason trade saw him return to Boston.
The downward spiral begins.
After a season and a half away from the Celtics Walker returns to the shock of NBA fans. He left on bad terms and there was quite a bit of bad mouthing going on. At the young age of 28 Antoine Walkers game really begins to slip. Slowly he had been turning into a pure shooter and now he seems just flat out affraid to drive the lane. All his stats dropped across the line and he was traded yet again to the Miami Heat in the largest trade in NBA history. With the Heat he was but a role-player on a Championship team. His battle with staying in shape and his desire to live on the three pointer had truly stripped him of the star badge. He was a 5th or 6th option now and he just got worse and worse.
After two seasons with the Heat he is dealt to the Timberwolves were he plays only 46 games and averages 8 points and 3.7 rebounds. He then got traded to the Grizzlies were he never even played. As a fan of the NBA I really felt that he faded as a players way to quick. that is not to say that I was a fan of his, but to have your game turn downhill at 28 is quite strange. Most players are starting to hit there peak at this time. Walker was just sitting on the couch and eating chips.
Larry Johnson. 1st pick in the 1991 draft by the Charlotte Hornets. 2 time Allstar and Rookie of the Year Award winner.
There was high hopes for Larry Johnson when he entered the League. Many thought he was going to not only be a great player but a legend. He was hyped more then Greg Oden and almost as much as LeBron James. He led UNLV to a championship in 1990 and was drafted with the firts pick. During his playing time with Hornets he put up great numbers. He was a 20-10-4 player night in and night out. The only problem was that he just could not get along with other players. He had to be the main man. One of the great ego problems the NBA has seen. Grandma-ma was in conflict with Alonzo Mourning and thing spun out of control and the Hornets Dealt ZO to Miami for Glen Rice. That did not seem to even make a difference and LJ was traded him self the very next season to the New York Knicks. Looking back on it is insane to think the Hornets traded away Mourning, but hey they did trade away Kobe Bryant for Vlade Divac. Could you imagine if the Hornets had kept Mourning and Kobe. Scary.
The downward spiral begins.
LJ had been suffering from back problems and his game started to include a lot of jump shots. His 5 seasons with the Knicks were aerage at best and the once "next best thing" was struggling to average 10 points a night. He let all his frustrations be known. He also let his mouth get him into trouble. A series of off color comments and disputes with NBA legend Bill Walton only brought unneeded attention to himself. In the end his ego and mouth made him a villain in most fans eyes and he retired at the age of 32 do to ongoing back problems. Yes, injuries were a major factor but he really did a fine job of making his retirement welcome.
Steve Fracis. 2nd pick in the 1999 draft by the Vancouver Grizzlies. 3 time Allstar and Rookie of the Year Award winner.
If there has ever been a fall from grace this is it. Stevie "Franchise" is a sad tail indeed. Like Walker and Johnson he had very good success with the team that drafted him. While with the Rockets he was considered a top 3 point guard. He put up great numbers. 19 points 6.5 assists and 6 rebounds a night is about as much as one can ask from a franchise player. But wait. How did he become a Rocket? Did not the Grizzlies draft him? Thats right he made a big stink and forced the Grizzlies to trade him for 5 garbage players. That is how he began in the League and that attitude followed him thoughout his short career.
The Rockets felt they were heading nowhere with Francis as the center piece of the team. His selfish play was starting to rub management the wrong way and he was traded to the Magic in a blockbuster trade for Tracy McGrady. Steve-o was not happy and went into shut down mode in the begining of the season. He then went on a terror and posted his best season averages ever. 21.3 ppg, 7.0 apg, and 5.8 rpg. Everyone thought that he was the real deal again. Then the Magic went and traded away his close friend Cuttino Mobley and Francis shut down again and the Magic missed the playoff dispite the great numbers Steve put up for the season.
The downward spiral begins.
Trade rumors began to swirl the next season after Francis got suspended by ownership. Nobody knew were he would end up but everyone knew that the once great point guard had lost all his value. Nobody really wanted to give up much for him. In the end he was traded to the New York Knicks for Trevor Ariza and an expiring contract. In less than two seasons he went from the centerpiece in a trade for Tracy McGrady to a has-been that only the Knicks would want. Sorry Knicks fans, but you have to admit you guys love to trade for headcases. Do not make me write a list of all the players the Knicks traded for in the last 15 years.
Francis, troubled with knee issues, really was never a factor again in the NBA and has played for the Rockets and the Grizzlies and is now a free agent. Of all three players I wrote about Steve Francis stands out the most to me. What a waste. It was like he just imploded over night.
Well that concludes part 1 in this series. What are some players that you think just faded over night? I am sure there are a few even worse cases then the ones I wrote about. Please list the players you think faded the fasted and why. Thanks for reading.