Many star athletes have had brilliant individual careers, breaking records and showing their talent every time they hit the field. Unfortunately, however, many franchises have wasted and ruined some of the best stars on the planet. For multiple different reasons, they simply weren’t able to contend with bigger teams and held back their stars as a result. This affected their legacies and reputations.
So today we’re going to take a look at 30 athletes who suffered this fate. Some of these stars transcended their teams and earned Hall of Fame status on their own. But they never won league titles because their teammates and management weren’t in the same class as them. Some athletes had incredible potential but their team didn’t protect them like the Bengals with Joe Burrow. Check out the list below via the Sportster and AZ Central.
30. Aaron Rodgers
Superstar quarterback Rodgers won a Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packers in 2010. However, the franchise wasted the opportunity to build a dynasty around one of the best quarterbacks ever. There’s no doubt Rodgers is incredibly talented as his numbers stack up against all of his rivals. Meanwhile, Rodgers watched as the likes of Tom Brady achieved great things in a more cohesive system.
In 2021, Rodgers signaled his desire to leave Wisconsin. He cited the promotion’s culture under general manager Brian Gutekunst as the main reason why he wants to depart. 11 years after his only Super Bowl win, the reigning MVP wants to compete for the Lombardi again. It’s fair because history remembers winners. Mike McCarthy deserves a lot of criticism for how he handled Rodgers, but so does the Packers’ front office. Overall it’s been messy.
These days, NBA fans remember Arenas largely for his handgun violations and other unsavory exploits. So much so that it’s easy to forget that he was actually a brilliant player. Unfortunately, he spent most of his career with a franchise that didn’t have it in them to contend. Arenas served the Washington Wizards for seven seasons but never came close to a ring. Playing for a lesser franchise can be good because great players obviously stand out.
However, the other side of this is that their legacy will be limited within that franchise. While the Wizards remember him fondly, the rest of the league doesn’t think about him much. Arenas was a three-time All-Star and won the NBA Most Improved Player award. But his teammates were usually below his level so they never had a chance of greatness. Arenas retired at the age of 30.
Leaf’s own personality and character deficiencies are a major reason behind his NFL failure. But the San Diego Chargers were also responsible for the way they handled the second overall draft pick. He joined the Chargers in 1998 but failed to develop into a franchise quarterback and became one of the worst busts of all time. Also, he served jail time for his addiction problems and petty crimes.
However, in 2019, Leaf revealed that Archie Manning refused to allow his son Eli to play for the Chargers after speaking to Leaf’s father. The Chargers attempted to use the number one pick on Eli but the Mannings rejected them. Leaf claimed that the lack of support he received was an influence on Archie Manning’s decision. As a result, the Chargers wasted two franchise quarterbacks.
A look at Bale’s CV shows that he is a four-time Champion’s League winner with Real Madrid. He also won three La Liga titles with the Spanish Giants. Bale scored iconic goals for the team but struggled with injuries. Then, he suffered a fallout with manager Zinedine Zidane and began to play fewer games. Don’t forget that he was the most expensive soccer player on the planet at one point.
One major reason why Madrid never warmed to Bale was because of Cristiano Ronaldo. He was the main man for the team but there is a sense that they wasted Bale’s full potential. The Welshman is not the star that he should have been and a lot of that falls on his team. After a year on loan with Spurs, he signaled his intention to retire because he fell out of love with the sport.
Nunes has everything in her locker to be a superstar. The overwhelming majority of MMA fans believe that she is the women’s MMA GOAT after beating Cris Cyborg. She became a two-weight world champion in the process. However, the UFC still fails to market “The Lionness” despite her credentials. This is a wasted opportunity because she is a phenomenal athlete and a genuinely charismatic character.
Furthermore, she is also the sport’s first LGBT champion. The UFC had a brilliant opportunity to make her one of the faces of the promotion and gain a whole bunch of casual fans in the process. They could have attracted an entirely new market but failed to go down that road. Nunes still keeps winning and making money so she’s reasonably happy. But they could have done so much more.
Talking about wasted opportunities. The incredibly popular Iverson gave the 76ers about 10 years of the prime of his career. During his time in Philadelphia, he proved himself as a lethal talent. Typically, Philly over-relied on his talents without taking full advantage of him as a potential franchise building block. While they performed well in flashes, they lacked the depth to consistently pursue the title.
In 2001, they lost the NBA Finals against the Lakers. Iverson was an 11-time All-Star and played his heart out for the team. Then, Larry Brown left the team and this culminated with a decline in fortunes. Iverson didn’t like his new coach and they crashed out in the first round of the playoffs over the next couple of seasons. He bounced around the NBA with the likes of the Nuggets and Pistons before retirement.
There was a time when Kaka was the biggest soccer star on the planet. He was the driving force behind AC Milan’s 2007 Champion’s League victory. Possessing quick feet, mesmerizing skill, and supreme athleticism, he had everything. This attracted Real Madrid and they made him the most expensive player on the planet for about a week. However, it didn’t work out at all.
In fact, they wasted over $60 million because he struggled to make any kind of impression in Spain. Kaka suffered an endless cycle of injuries and didn’t feature very often. This also affected his impact on the pitch because he lost his pace. Finally, they sent him back to Milan before he finished his career with Orlando in the MLS. It’s unfortunate because it should have been a match made in heaven.
Indeed, Pisarcik might not have been the franchise quarterback some believed that he was. However, the New York Giants gave him no chance and ruined his confidence forever. In 1978, offensive coordinator Bob Gibson made one of the worst play calls in history. After initially protesting the play, Pisarcik fumbled the ball. This moment became known as the Miracle at the Meadowlands because it handed Philadelphia the game.
Pisarcik didn’t deserve the notoriety that came with this but life isn’t fair. Ironically, he became a second-string quarterback after the Eagles the Giants released him. He wasted away as a backup until he retired. However, the coaches were responsible for the decision. After this, it became common for quarterbacks to take a knee. Pisarcik left his mark on the game in a way that he didn’t want.
The Chicago Bears perked up in 2021 when they heard that Wilson was unhappy in Seattle. In the end, they drafted rookie Justin Fields instead. But Wilson’s unhappiness was significant after another excellent season for the franchise. The Super Bowl winner believes that the Seahawks lacked ambition over the years. While it’s true that he was one call away from winning back-to-back Super Bowls, there’s truth in his words.
Wilson’s problems in Seattle are similar to Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. Both men are at the top of the game but their teams aren’t quite on the same level. Wilson has fewer years and miles on his tread than Rodgers and believes that he could make another team into a contender. Time will tell if he leaves Seattle, but he feels as though they have wasted the chance to create a dynasty.
Nobody says Anthony is a two-way player, but he is a great scorer. Furthermore, he’s exceptional in clutch situations. It’s just a pity that he ended up playing for the New York Knicks for so long. The Knicks made their fans suffer for most of the 2000s and 2010s. Anthony could have been such an asset to a potential title contender but languished in the Big Apple.
A 10-time All-Star, Anthony played for the Knicks with pride. Also, New York is a great place for athletes to base themselves because it’s such a big market. However, considering his records with the Knicks, he could have been something truly special if he spent those years on another team. Instead, they wasted one of the best pure scorers in the league with their weak roster.
Sanders played for the Detroit Lions. If you’re anything close to resembling an NFL fan during. the early 1990s, you know he never had a chance of winning anything with them. However, he was still good enough to stand out and build a reputation as an elite Hall of Fame running back. The superstar rushed for over 15,000 yards in an electrifying career. In the end, he retired at the age of 31 because he was sick of falling short.
He made the Pro Bowl 10 times during his Lions’ career. Furthermore, he was a two-time NFL Offensive Player of the Year and led the league in rushing touchdowns on one occasion. Some fans believe he is the greatest running back of modern times. But sadly, he played in Detroit and everybody knows that they are a shambles of a franchise. He retired after wasting his best years with the team.
One of the most feared women on the planet, Cyborg is a brilliant mixed martial artist. The Brazilian is a former UFC women’s featherweight and Invicta FC champion but currently competes for Bellator. After she lost to current champ Amanda Nunes she left the UFC. The promotion should have made a rematch between the pair. However, they let one of the best female fighters in the world leave for their main rival.
For some strange reason, the UFC wasted the opportunity to develop Cyborg as a star. They struggled to find competitive fights for her. Then they gave up completely on the women’s featherweight division. This didn’t make sense because she did decent pay-per-view numbers and was a big star in Brazil. Cyborg resented the way the UFC treated her and was eventually happy to leave.
Brees retired after the 2020 season following another postseason failure. The long-serving New Orleans quarterback played with distinction for his franchise. A 20-season veteran, Brees holds the record for most passing yards in regular-season history. His only Super Bowl win came in 2009, but the Saints never managed to replicate that success despite having one of the NFL’s greatest-ever QBs on their books.
The former San Diego star is a future Hall of Famer. However, the Saints wasted the prime years of his career and failed to build a championship-winning defense. Meanwhile, the team also suffered appalling bad luck at times, which certainly didn’t help his cause. He joins a generation of brilliant QBs, like Wilson and Rodgers, who only won a single Super Bowl. It all depends on the franchise.
Kane is the face of his generation of English soccer players. He came through Tottenham Hotspurs’ academy before he established himself as a starter. Soon he was one of the top strikers in the world and captain of the England national team. However, his main problem was that he played for a Spurs team who were never good enough to compete at the top of the game.
In 2019, they played in the Champion’s League final against Liverpool but lost. Spurs wasted an opportunity to build on this near-miss. In Kane, they had a genuinely elite talent but as their results declined, he lost patience. Then, in 2021, he made it clear that he had enough of the situation. Kane wanted to leave and join a team with the capability of competing for trophies.
Questions remain over Darnold’s overall ability as an NFL franchise quarterback. However, he never had a fighting chance in New York. The Jets were a diabolical mess of a franchise in the latter half of the 2010s and ruined this young quarterback’s confidence. In particular, Adam Gase deserves heavy criticism because he failed to develop Darnold and wasted his potential. He played behind a weak offensive line and lacked any decent offensive weapons.
Remember, he had two seasons of NFL under his belt before the older Joe Burrow became a rookie. It’s easy to forget but Darnold appeared to have such a high ceiling. Ailing NFL franchises rush to draft franchise quarterbacks and throw them into deep water too quickly. It’s happened time and time again, yet they repeat this over again. They never learn but the cycle continues.
McGrady had a stellar individual career. He was a seven-time NBA All-Star and also led the league in points twice. He also won the Most Improved Player award in 2001. Unfortunately, McGrady never found himself at a franchise with the capability of winning the Finals. As a result, he retired without a ring on his finger. Blame the Orlando Magic and the Houston Rockets.
The Magic never had the ability to mount a serious postseason surge. It’s no real surprise that they failed to make the most of him. However, the Rockets definitely wasted him because they have championship wins in their history. They should have used him as a building block but they didn’t take advantage of his talents. It’s a shame because he never gained the respect he deserved.
Torres was sublime for Liverpool in the Premier League after he became their record signing in 2007. The Spaniard struck up an electrifying partnership with Steven Gerrard but never won a trophy for Liverpool. They failed to invest in their team and he became frustrated. As a result, he pushed to leave after a couple of barren seasons. In the end, he wound up moving to Chelsea for over $60 million.
It was such a shame because Torres was the best striker on the planet at Liverpool. But chaos behind the scenes and a lack of progress on the field was too much for him. Meanwhile, he won trophies at Chelsea but injuries piled up. While he scored some important goals and won a Champion’s League, he didn’t justify his enormous fee. His career was a strange one and it’s fair to say that both teams wasted him.
Griffin became an unlikely national star after his stellar collegiate exploits at Baylor, and the Washington Redskins drafted him second overall in 2012. He had an outstanding rookie season and won NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. Meanwhile, he also earned a Pro Bowl selection. But after tearing the ligaments in his knee in the playoffs that year, he was unable to play. It was devastating for his future.
Former coach Mike Shanahan deserves condemnation because he went against the doctor’s orders and played him in the postseason. Griffin suffered a relapse of his injury and missed the entire preseason. Shanahan rushed him back again and Griffin damaged his ankle. The injuries mounted and Griffin’s effectiveness was highly reduced. While his work ethic was questionable at times, Griffin was never the same player again.
Technically, Top Rank isn’t a franchise but the boxing promotion is close enough for this list. They represent Nebraska’s Crawford, one of if not the pound-for-pound best boxers in the world. The Omaha native is one of the slickest fighters in the world but lacks that one name to seal his status as an all-time great. Bob Arum and Top Rank justifiably receive a lot of criticism for this because he should be a superstar.
In 2020, Crawford made his frustrations known. He claimed that he lost money while under contract with Top Rank and noted their impact on his legacy. Everybody wanted him to fight Errol Spence Jr. but the fight wasn’t made. They’ve wasted numerous opportunities to get him a career-defining matchup. That is a shame because he is genuinely one of the best American boxers of the decade.
Williams was the Mike Trout of his day. The main difference between the pair is that people knew who Williams was. Anyway, he was unlucky because he played for one of the worst Boston Red Sox teams ever. As a result, he never won a World Series, even though his individual achievements merited one. A 19-time All-Star and three-time Triple Crown winner, Williams had and did it all.
While he played in a single World Series, the Red Sox simply weren’t competitive in the postseason during his era. However, Williams did help to win a World War after serving for three years in the Navy. In 1966, he made it into the Baseball Hall of Fame. It was no less than he deserved, but it’s a pity that the Red Sox wasted him on a team level. So many variables go into winning a title, and an individual can only do so much.
On the face of it, Gerrard had a brilliant career at Liverpool. He captained the side and won the Champion’s League, amongst other prizes. However, most pundits agree that the Reds wasted the best years of his career. They never invested properly in their squad and fell short of winning Premier League titles on several occasions. Finally, the team fell into anarchy and decline before he departed for America.
It’s a shame because Gerrard gave Liverpool everything. He was one of the most talented English soccer players of his generation. Chelsea attempted to sign him twice and he almost moved to London but stayed loyal to Liverpool. He said that winning a title with his hometown club would mean more than doing so elsewhere. Unfortunately, they never provided him with the means to achieve this because he retired without that medal.
Randolph played 1,196 games in the NBA and was one of the best power forwards of his generation. However, his postseason record with the franchise was miserable. This wasn’t his fault but rather that of the Memphis Grizzlies. Randolph is one of the Grizzlies’ greatest-ever players and wore the number 50 jersey with pride. But it’s a pity that they wasted the best years of his career and didn’t build around him.
He made two All-Star appearances while in Memphis but that was the highlight. Even LeBron James can’t win a series by himself as the Cavaliers discovered. However, Randolph didn’t leave Memphis until late in his career. By that time it was too late to do anything meaningful with the Sacramento Kings. In the end, he retired without a ring.
Sanchez was electric for Arsenal and Barcelona. Yet, he completely failed to assert himself as a Manchester United player. While both parties must share some responsibility, the onus is on the club to find a way to work things out. In 2018, United swapped Henrikh Mkhitaryan for the Chilean forward. Neither player succeeded in one of the worst trades in Premier League history.
However, Sanchez’s failure remains perplexing. He proved that he could handle English soccer with Arsenal but lacked sharpness in Manchester. Previously, dynamic and powerful on the ball, the excitement disappeared from his game. In the end, they sent him out on loan to Inter Milan while still paying his massive wages. They wasted a potential superstar and a lot of money in the process.
Carr experienced one of the most brutal rookie seasons in football history with the Houston Texans. They wasted their franchise quarterback by failing to protect him. This should serve as a warning to every NFL team because the number of hits he absorbed was unsustainable. A good quarterback is nothing without a strong defense, as the Cincinnati Bengals discovered with Joe Burrow.
The opposition sacked him 249 times during his five years in Houston. Meanwhile, to make matters worse, they failed to give him the weapons to succeed. He still achieved 60 touchdown passes as a Texan but it was a losing battle. When he moved to the Panthers, he was a shadow of his former self. A Heisman candidate at Fresno State, Carr deserved better.
Barkley spent his prime years with the Phoenix Suns so we don’t need to say much else. The Arizona-based franchise wasted their best chance of winning a championship when they lost in 1993. Barkley was the reigning league MVP at the time but fell short against Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. The Suns failed to build on this Finals appearance as Chicago and Houston took over the league.
The front office received a lot of blame because they failed to build around their star. As a result, Barkley is one of the best NBA players in history without a ring. It was never too close tp happening when he was in Philadelphia either because the front office clashed with him. While he made his money and earned a lot of popularity, Barkley was unlucky with his franchises.
Messi’s inclusion on this list may appear insane. After all, he has won over 30 major honors with Barcelona. These include 10 La Liga titles and four Champion’s Leagues. They also relied too much on their Argentinian superstar. The Spanish League is predominantly a two-horse race so the main glory is achieved in Europe. But Barcelona capitulated year after year from winning positions.
In 2020, Messi rocked the world when he made it clear that he wanted to leave Spain. He blamed the board of directors and their inability to develop a winning team. After carrying them for almost two decades, he had enough and wanted to leave. He watched a weaker Real Madrid win three Champion’s Leagues in a row. He felt as though he wasted his best years.
In 2021, Jones announced that his intention to move up to heavyweight. The former UFC 205 lb. champion was effectively unbeaten and one of the biggest names on the roster. After Francis Ngannou claimed the heavyweight crown, the future appeared certain. However, the UFC wasted one of the best opportunities in the history of the fight game. They refused to pay Jones and make the fight.
Jones demanded up to $30 million but the UFC wanted to give him just 10. Negotiations stalled and the promotion decided to push Derrick Lewis instead. Meanwhile, Lewis and Ngannou had previously fought one of the worst fights in UFC history. “Bones” is a polarizing figure and Ngannou is a feared knockout artist. This was a great chance to make a fight for the ages but the UFC blew it.
Marino played in the NFL for 17 seasons but never won a Super Bowl. He spent his entire career with the Miami Dolphins after they drafted him in 1983. Furthermore, he was outstanding for the Dolphins as he led the league in passing yards on multiple occasions. Marino was also a perennial Pro Bowler as well as the 1984 NFL MVP. But they wasted the opportunity to win their first Super Bowl since 1974.
That wait continues. The closest they came to an elusive victory was in 1984 when they lost the showpiece game to the Monta’led San Francisco 49ers. However, they never made it back and their defense became steadily worse. In fact, their defense in 1987 was the fourth-worst in modern NFL history. Marino had no chance of winning the Super Bowl after the most decorated year of his career. It’s a shame because he deserved a ring.
Anybody who knows anything about MLB knows that Trout is the best player in the world. However, the problem is that the majority of Americans have no idea who he is. Roughly 20 percent of the nation recognize him. Meanwhile, over 90 percent recognize LeBron James and Tom Brady respectively. Blame the Los Angeles Angels because they have no idea how to market their star.
Furthermore, Trout’s statistics are unbelievable on an individual level. But the biggest baseball star of the modern era will likely never win a World Series. This is down to the Angels because they haven’t built a title-winning roster in over a decade with Trout. It’s a wasted opportunity because they could have made baseball great again. Unfortunately, he’s never going to earn mainstream fame.
It looked like Luck was Peyton Manning’s perfect successor. The Indianapolis Colts had another brilliant franchise quarterback. On the face of it, he had an excellent career. A four-time Pro Bowler, he also won the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award. Meanwhile, the Colts won the AFC twice with him at the helm. However, he stunned the world when he retired in his prime at the age of 29.
Luck cited the number of hits he received while playing for the franchise. He absorbed so much trauma that his body couldn’t take it anymore. In short, the Colts wasted a golden opportunity to build a Super Bowl contender around him. They also failed their star because they didn’t protect him properly. While he overcame their offensive shortcomings at various points, the sacks became too much.