Every NBA franchise has dreams of finding their own superstar in the hopes they will bring glory, attract fans, and enhance the name of the team for a generation. However, in reality, things often don’t always work out as smoothly as hoped. In some cases, situations get so bad that the players even destroy their own teams.
Sometimes it is because of their personality issues with wild antics on or off the court. On other occasions, superstars leave their team reeling by demanding a move to another franchise. Then there are the times when players inadvertently harm their teams by their prolonged absence through injury. Today, we’ll take a look at 25 different scenarios where NBA players destroyed their teams. Check out the list below via Sporting News.
25. Shaquille O’Neal – Orlando Magic
Harsh but true. NBA fans associate Shaq with the LA Lakers, with whom he enjoyed massive success before a final championship win with the Miami Heat. However, he first spent four seasons in Orlando who drafted the future superstar No. 1 overall in 1992.
In the end, he simply outgrew the team. Unfortunately for many franchises, this is the case because stars become too big for teams in lesser markets. Like Shaq, star players are more interested in enhancing their own brand instead of bringing glory to a team without global recognition. In the end, athletes have just one professional career, so it’s understandable. But that didn’t make it any easier for the Magic.
Together with Javaris Crittenton, Arenas participated in one of the most ludicrous lockerroom disputes in NBA history. While Crittenton was the overall perpetrator, Arenas’ own part in this scandal can’t be discounted because it was so dumb. The pair got into it over a gambling dispute before pulling guns on each other in the locker room. The NBA, the Washington Wizards, and D.C. Law Enforcement all had something to say about this.
After the investigation concluded, the NBA suspended Arenas for most of the 2009-10 season. This was a massive blow because Arenas and Crittenton were valuable members of a genuinely decent roster. It also had a cost on dressing room morale. In the end, the Wizards ended the season with a shoddy losing record having underachieved without two of their stars. A moment of stupidity cost the franchise.
This may seem like an exaggeration because the Raptors made the postseason in 2019-20. But after winning the NBA Championship the previous year, it was a massive blow to lose Leonard to free agency. He was the difference between them winning the coveted prize for the first time in their history. However, Leonard took his ring and jumped ship to the Los Angeles Clippers because he had no desire to stay in Canada.
A player with Leonard’s ability can be a building block for the future; however, losing him was like an earthquake. If they kept him they could have built a dynasty around him but now Toronto will struggle to bring exciting talent North of the border. There is no room for sentiment in professional sports because careers are so short. Leonard is the epitome of an NBA mercenary as he always puts himself first.
Few players had as strong a sense of self-belief as Patterson. However, he definitely wasn’t anywhere near this level. The self-professed ‘Kobe Stopper’ proved to be a thorn in Portland’s side. But the problem was that he was one of their players. Unfortunately, his career never reached the level that it could have because of his own personality issues and a lack of dedication to his team.
On one occasion he punched his teammate Zach Randolph during a practice session. Needless to say, this didn’t help his popularity in the locker room. He also consistently ran into problems with the coaching staff. After failing to convince them that he deserved to start on a regular basis, he demanded that they handed him more minutes. Such antics never help a team to improve and Patterson held the Trailblazers back.
Ming was the epitome of professionalism, so he may seem like a strange addition to this list. An eight-time All-Star, his impact for the Rockets was so profound that they even retired his jersey. Not many overseas players can lay claim to that type of honor, but Ming found his own true home in Texas for a few years. However, as the seasons rolled on, his injury record became diabolically bad.
It’s problematic for a player to be so crucial to a team but so unavailable. Ming missed the entire 2009-10 season with a broken bone in his foot. But he endured many severe injuries including stress fractures, sprained ankles, and various other maladies that cost the Rockets at critical moments. If they kept him fit, it could have been a very different legacy despite an excellent individual career.
The only reason why Thomas isn’t higher up this list is that he didn’t destroy his own team as a player. But he did so as a head coach and as an executive. Thomas was one of the worst of both worlds in the history of the Knicks and the NBA as he ran his team into the ground. First of all, he worked in the front office as a general manager, where he made several catastrophic decisions including some horrible trades.
Also, he couldn’t coach to save his life. Thomas had already made a mess of coaching the Indiana Pacers but failed to improve with the Knicks. It was a shame because he was such an excellent player. But this doesn’t translate to other facets of the game as he proved. The Knicks have made some terrible decisions over the past few decades, but introducing as the leader of their franchise is up there with the worst.
Irving’s first season with the Brooklyn Nets wasn’t a spectacular success because he spent most of it on the sidelines with injury. Nonetheless, Brooklyn fans expect him to massively improve their chances of a postseason impact. However, their gain is definitely the Celtics’ loss. An NBA Champion with the Cavaliers, Boston hoped he would have a similar effect for them.
However, he ditched the franchise much quicker than expected. Now in his physical prime assuming he bounces back from his injury-riddled season, Irving is a massive loss for them. It’s not that the Celtics even played badly in their first season without him. But how could they not miss the six-time All-Star? His presence would have been a massive asset in the NBA bubble during the 2019-20 postseason.
Crittenton was the other half of the ridiculous Wizards’ gun scandal in 2010. Following a dispute with Gilbert Arenas over a gambling debt, the pair pulled pistols on each other. Arenas whipped out his own weapon first but it was Crittenton who started the overall feud. However, he didn’t sit back and allow his teammate to intimidate him because he grabbed a weapon himself. Then, Kendrick Long claimed that Crittenton just defended himself.
Obviously, serving a suspension didn’t help his team. Furthermore, Crittenton played in several All-Star games throughout his career so the Wizards did miss him and they didn’t play well without their two players. Crittenton is higher up this list than Arenas because he later became a convicted murderer. A 23-year prison sentence isn’t the best thing for an athlete’s career prospects.
Another case of being just too good, James has definitely ruined the Cavaliers’ hopes of NBA title contention in the near future. They might not care because he did play a crucial role in their sole NBA Championship victory in 2016. It was one of the most romantic returns in the history of sport because the prodigal son came back. After leaving for the Miami Heat in 2010, this was the perfect way to reannounce himself in Ohio.
‘King James’ received less animosity from fans when he left again for the Lakers in 2018. He cleansed his own image because they won the title. But there is no doubt that they have little hope of being competitive in the future unless they find some hidden superstar in the draft. The Cavaliers appear destined just to be there as a non-entity once again. In sum, he made them relevant.
It’s incredibly harsh to include Hill on this list because he didn’t do anything wrong from the perspective of personality or antics. In fact, he should take it as a compliment because he was so valuable to the Magic. For a couple of seasons after the retirement of Michael Jordan, he was arguably the best player in the NBA. However, his injury record is stark and that’s why he appears here.
When a team has a player like Hill, they tend to put all of their faith in them. This makes life very difficult when they suffer an injury because the team wants to give their star every chance to return. Hill suffered life-threatening symptoms after ankle surgery in 2000 and missed the full season. Then he bounced back to make the All-Star game, but after this, continued to suffer injury after injury.
Westbrook’s relationship with Kevin Durant was a key factor behind the latter’s decision to leave. It’s wrong to totally blame him for another player’s departure, but it definitely had an influence. Initially, it looked like the pair had a perfect symbiotic relationship as they broke multiple scoring records together. However, their bond fractured and rapidly deteriorated. Westbrook should take the larger chunk of responsibility for that.
He failed to pass to Durant on several occasions and generally made life uncomfortable for the superstar. This obviously had a negative effect on the franchise because it meant they lost their best player. Many analysts believed that the Thunder could have established an exciting dynasty with their exciting roster. In the end, it broke up after the dressing room fell apart.
As an NBA MVP and an eight-time All-Star, many fans will scoff at Harden’s inclusion on this list. However, the Rockets’ decision to build their team around him may prove costly as he tries to force his way out of Houston. A very gifted player, Harden has complained about the toxic atmosphere around the franchise but it is also possible to accuse him of putting his own personal interests first.
Harden refused to attend the Rockets’ preseason training camp because he wanted to join Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving at the Brooklyn Nets. Where he ends up only time will tell, but there’s no doubt that this has damaged the Houston franchise. Nobody likes to see a fractured locker room and fans won’t be happy to see that the face of their franchise is demanding to leave.
Everybody thought that Brown was going to be brilliant but this turned out not to be the case. One of the biggest busts in NBA history, his career is most noteworthy for his toxic relationship with Michael Jordan. M.J. bullied Brown when he was his Wizards’ teammate and even left the younger man in tears. Of course, this wasn’t good for locker-room morale nor Brown’s confidence.
The Wizards thought that Brown would change their franchise and be a building block for the future. However, he simply wasn’t up to the task. He struggled with his own motivation and a lack of maturity in his rookie year but improved slightly in the following season. But some decisions can change the course of a franchise and the front office’s decision to pursue him as number one pick was a fatal one.
Tarpley never lived up to his own potential. The former Mavericks star was definitely a maverick but not in a good way. Things started well for him in the NBA because he played well consistently and made the All-Rookie team. Furthermore, in his second season, he won the Sixth Man of the Year award. The power forward consistently made an impact and looked to become a regular starter in year three.
However, things went downhill very quickly. Tarpley faced multiple arrests in 1990 and 1991 for DWI, substance abuse, and resisting arrest. Meanwhile, the NBA suspended him three times before banning him from the league for violating their drug policies. The Mavericks put a lot of faith in Tarpley but he was unable to repay them. After his ban, the Mavericks went on and had a miserable losing season.
A Bulls’ icon and arguably the NBA’s greatest ever player, it might seem ridiculous to put Jordan on this list. However, the aftermath of his departure from Chicago left a gaping black hole in the team. Chicago’s last championship was in 1998 when Jordan ended his tenure in the Windy City. It’s fair to say that they have never recovered from losing their iconic star because he was such a force of nature.
For a franchise to have such a hangover after losing one player is ridiculous but a sign of how good he really was. The very fact of his departure destroyed their hopes of success in the near future. It resulted in one of the longest transition periods in NBA history. Of course, it’s impossible to blame Jordan for this because it’s not his fault. The Bulls failed to make a transition plan because they had such faith in M.J.
These days, Robinson is famous for being excellent at slam dunk competitions as well as Jake Paul knocking him out in a boxing match. The three-time Slam Dunk contest champion played for the Knicks for five seasons. While he did have some excellent moments, he was by no means the best teammate in the world. He had several run-ins with his fellow Knicks’ players.
Robinson was so annoying that head coach Larry Brown put him on the inactive roster. No coach wants a toxic presence on their roster because it’s bad for team spirit. Furthermore, he got into fights with opposition players. It feels like there is a bit of a revisionist narrative around Robinson because of his slam dunk achievements and his small stature. To sum up, he wasn’t a great teammate and by no means an asset to an ailing franchise.
It feels cruel to include Oden on this list, but he definitely hurt the Trailblazers. Teams only get the number one overall draft pick because they were bad the year before. They tank because they think their outstanding rookie will be an incredible building block for the future. Oden’s own body let him down time after time to bring his NBA career to a premature end after failing to light up Portland.
Oden missed his entire rookie season due to microfracture surgery. This was a blow but not the end of the world. But over the next two years, he played just 82 games thanks to fractures and knee injuries. Finally, he sat out without playing for three seasons because of medical woes. Of course, the Trailblazers also failed to progress without him.
Before Kawhi Leonard there was Carter. These two men were superstars in Canada’s biggest city but didn’t want to stay there. Carter built up a massive public persona in Toronto and quickly became the Raptors’ first true superstar. Initially, he was happy in the city because he was incredibly popular there but things went downhill fast. In short, he expected the Raptors to bring in better players to build a team that could challenge for titles.
Unfortunately, the Raptors let him down. They failed to bring in the type of talent that would bring them to the next level and as a result, Carter stopped dunking in games. Their relationship totally broke down and, in the end, he left for pastures new in New Jersey. Carter and the office squashed Toronto’s dreams together. In the end, Carter’s own career was magnificent but the Raptors waited another 14 years for their first title.
Michael Jordan went to Washington and left a massive gaping hole in Chicago. It was clear that this team was going to go through a transition period without their star player because he was so essential to their playing style. Furthermore, they required their best veterans to stick around and ensure the Bulls were stabilized. However, Rodman decided to focus on his own championship hopes and bounce to the L.A. Lakers instead.
These days Rodman is a caricature of himself because of his outrageous personality. But the reality is that he was a brilliant player and losing him after Jordan was a huge blow for the Bulls. Scottie Pippen also left in 1999, but he deserved to go and make some money after his ludicrously low-paid deal in Chicago. These mass departures destroyed the franchise.
Alongside Kawhi Leonard, George is one of the Clippers’ two biggest stars. On the court, this was generally a great combination, but in the locker room, things are not as they seem. Reports emerged after the 2020 season of favoritism and special treatment for these two players as well as general dissent from their teammates. When they crashed out of the postseason against the Denver Nuggets, fingers pointed at these two athletes.
George has always been a big fish in a small pond after his time with Oklahoma City and the Pacers. But it looks like his teammates in Los Angeles don’t have any time for this. With a new coaching staff, there is time for the Clippers to turn it around and use an exciting generation of players to capture an elusive NBA Championship. However, George needs to check his own ego if he doesn’t want to damage the team even more going forward.
Isaiah Rider was a nightmare for his coaching staff. First of all, he was a problem in Minnesota because his off-court antics and general immaturity cost the team at various points. As one of their most exciting young players from the 1993 draft, it wasn’t ideal to watch the police arrest him on multiple occasions. Finally, the franchise had enough and shipped him off. It was time for Rider to reassess his own personality issues, but he did not.
Instead, he made life difficult for the Atlanta Hawks. While he played reasonably well, his problems outside were a serious distraction. They suspended him multiple times for various infractions including drug use, showing up late to practice, and generally dumb antics. When they hit him with a three-game suspension, he demanded his release instead. The Hawks were sick of him and complied.
A four-time All-Star, Sprewell was a great player prone to bouts of volatility. Former head coach P.J. Carlesimo discovered this the hard way in 1997 when a feud between the two men erupted in the most scandalous manner possible. After Carlesimo criticized his player, Sprewell put his hands around the coach’s neck and then attempted to choke him unconscious. In the end, teammates and coaching staff had to separate the pair.
It definitely wasn’t good for team morale. Furthermore, the NBA didn’t take kindly to the incident because apparently, they don’t like to see their athletes trying to strangle the life out of coaches. They hit Sprewell with a massive 68-game ban. This had a big effect upon the team as they missed out on the playoffs that season while Sprewell had the chance to ponder his own mistakes.
Leonard already made this list after abandoning the Raptors following their 2019 NBA Finals victory. Then he went to the L.A. Clippers where he helped make them one of the most interesting and exciting teams in the Western Conference. In fact, many analysts tipped them for the Championship in 2020 over the local rival Lakers because they were so dynamic and effective.
However, Leonard allegedly played a big part in their failure to capitalize on the NBA Bubble in Orlando. He received multiple benefits from the team as well as special treatment when he missed flights and failed to report for practice. Leonard has never been afraid to focus on his own interests, but this type of behavior is very dangerous for team morale. The Clippers are playing a dangerous game but can perhaps turn it around.
Few players had as profound an influence upon a franchise as Iverson. One of the greatest postseason scorers ever, Iverson was central to the 76ers’ success in the early 2000s. It’s dangerous to depend on a single player to such a degree though because when they go, it can leave a team in the lurch. Philly found this out the hard way after Iverson forced his way out of the franchise after 10 years.
Iverson dedicated the majority of his career to the 76ers before he decided to put his own interests first. However, his departure to the Denver Nuggets left a gaping hole in the team. Nobody could have imagined what an effect it would have because at the end of the day he was just one player. But it took Philadelphia six years to make the playoffs again after one of their greatest stars inadvertently destroyed the franchise for a generation.
Marbury had one of the worst reputations in the NBA while playing for the New York Knicks. The franchise has experienced a lot of adversity over the past couple of decades but never expected a single player to cause them so much trouble. In fact, his behavior became so bad that the team literally banned him from home games because he was such a cancerous presence.
At one point Marbury even promised to blackmail Isiah Thomas because the Knicks coach removed him from the team. Meanwhile, he underwent unnecessary surgery to prematurely end his season, while the team still paid him. Their own medical team believed that it wasn’t essential, but Marbury put his own interests first. He became a hated figure in New York because he was such a toxic figure.