The NBA has had some great players over the past couple of years, and they were some of the highest paid players in the league. Unfortunately, there are also those, who performed great for just a year or two before inking a large contract and playing at a low level due to age, injuries, or even both. We’ve got the 11 worst contracts in NBA history, plus a bonus horrible contract requested by popular demand. We start with number 12:
12. Josh Smith – 4 Years, $54 million
Josh Smith built his career as a two-way player in Atlanta, but ultimately decided he wanted to be “The Guy” in the north with the Detroit Pistons. Smith was the only player to average 15 points, seven rebounds, three assists, two blocks, and a steal per game since blocks and steals became an official league statistic over 40 years ago. Detroit was convinced of Smith’s potential, and signed him to a four year, $54 million contract that, from the start, seemed like a large sum for a guy who loved taking perimeter shots he proved he couldn’t make.
Smith was a bust alongside Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe, as it was clear one of the three had to go in order for the Pistons to succeed. After Stan Van Gundy took over, Smith’s time was numbered, and he was considered such a cancer to the team that he was waived with two years and more than $26 million left on his contract. Clearly, Smith’s place in the NBA is not as a star player.
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11. Amar’e Stoudemire – 5 Years – $99.7 Million
Stoudemire had great contract season with 23 points, 8.9 rebounds, and a block per game. He felt he could have better success in New York, so as a part of a sign-and-trade, was dealt to the Knicks along with his new five year, $100 million contract. He played well in his first season, averaging 25.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.9 steals, and 1.9 blocks per game in 78 contests. Nagging injuries ruined his career however, as his production and value severely diminished because of it. In 2013-14 and 2014-15, Amar’e made $42.6 million while averaging 11.7 points and 5.3 rebounds in 101 games, where he averaged just over 21 minutes per.
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10. Ben Wallace – 4 Years, $52 Million (2006)
The undrafted, four-time Defensive Player of the Year signed a big four year, $52 million deal with the Bulls, only to vastly underwhelm and eventually be traded to the Cavaliers, who felt they needed a defensive presence inside after getting swept by the Spurs. Wallace averaged just 3.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks in his time with the Cavs, before getting traded back to the Pistons at the end of his contract.
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9. Allan Houston – 6 Years, $100 Million (2001)
In 2001, Allan Houston signed a six-year contract worth $100 million. But after four years of playing, he decided to retire due to some nagging injuries. Sadly enough for the Knicks, he was still able to receive the remaining $40 million over the last two years. Not to say that the contract was a bad one to begin with, as he averaged 21.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 2.6 assists for the Knicks. After his retirement though, New York was basically locked up to his contract and were forced to build a winning roster while paying Houston $20 a year and staying within the salary cap. To counter this, the NBA created the rule where a team was allowed to release a player and the not have the respective player’s contract count against the luxury tax.
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8. Erick Dampier – 7 Years, 73 million (2004)
In Dampier’s contract year, he averaged 12.3 points, 12.0 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks, making him one of the hottest free agents in the offseason. That contract season was by far the best season of his career, which earned him a seven year, $73 million contract. For the rest of his career, Dampier never averaged more than 10 points, 10 rebounds, or two blocks per game for a whole season. A huge disappointment to a guy getting over $10 million for seven straight years.
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7. Larry Hughes – 5 Years, $70 Million (2005)
Cavs fans remember Hughes as the guy who was supposed to come in and be the shooter that LeBron James kicks the ball out to when he attracts all the attention. After improving his scoring average four years in a row up to 22.0 points a game, Hughes came to Cleveland, and saw his scoring and field goal percentage wither away. He averaged 15.5 points his first season, then 14.9 his second, and 12.3 points in his third year with the Cavs that saw him shoot a career-low 37% in 40 games. Cleveland traded him away during his worst season and he slowly disappeared from the NBA after that.
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6. Deron Williams – 5 Years, $98 Million
Deron Williams looked like a top three point guard when he was traded to Brooklyn from Utah. Everything went downhill after he inked the five year, $98 million deal. In his three years since the deal, Williams has dealt repeatedly with injuries and averaged 15.6 points, 3.0 rebounds, 6.9 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. This after putting up four straight 18+ points, 3+ rebounds, and 10+ assist seasons with the Jazz.
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5. Kobe Bryant – 3 Years, $84 Million; 2 Years, $48.5 million
Kobe Bryant, the NBA’s best player in the mid 2000’s, was signed to two incredibly ridiculous deals, and both coming in the waning years of his career. Bryant has earned more than $20 million in each of the last seven seasons, and in the last two years, he made almost $54 million for playing in 41 games. To put that into perspective, Bryant played just 1384 minutes, and earned $38,983 for every minute on the court. L.A. claims they’re paying Bryant this money out of respect, but its clearly the reason they’re in the ground in terms of the talent they have on board. Don’t expect the purple and gold part of L.A.’s basketball team to succeed anytime soon.
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4. Steve Nash – 3 Years, $27.8 Million
Nash was involved in a sign-and-trade deal that sent him from Phoenix to the Lakersto play alongside Kobe Bryant. Or at least, that was the plan. Nash played 50 games his first season, 15 games his second, and none in what would be his final season in 2014-15 due to recurring nerve damage. Nash ended up playing 65 out of a possible 246 games for the Lakers. Phoenix was the obvious winner in this one, as they were able to rid themselves of Nash just as the injury bug hit him time and time again.
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3. JaVale McGee: 4 Years, $44 Million
This one just blows everyone’s mind. McGee, who has probably made more Shaqtin’ A Fool appearances than made field goals over the last couple of years, was given a four year deal that paid him $11 million for each year! McGee played just 28 games in his last two years. He’s always had low basketball IQ and never seems focused on basketball. Sad to say it, but its a shame he wasted his 7 foot frame with a 7’6″ wingspan.
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2. Larry Sanders: 4 Years, $44 Million
Sanders showed potential when he averaged 9.8 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks in just 27 minutes a game. Milwaukee rewarded him with a nice contract of about $11 million a year for four years. But Sanders hit roadblock after roadblock, whether it was substance abuse to on court issues, Sanders could never stay on the court long enough to convince people he was worth the contract. When Sanders said he longer wanted to play basketball due to his issues with anxiety and depression, the team and Sanders agreed to a buyout that saw Sanders receive just under $2 million for the next seven years rather than $11 million every year through the summer of 2018.
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1. Gilbert Arenas – 6 Years, $111 Million
Gilbert Arenas was poised to become one of the NBA’s deadliest scoring point guard ever. He could almost be compared to Stephen Curry and how he shoots now. Arenas had unlimited range, which fit into his clutch shooting abilities. Arenas dealt with numerous off-court issues, but in December 2009, Javaris Crittenton and Arenas were involved in a locker room confrontation that involved guns. On January 25, 2010, Crittenton pleaded guilty and was given a year of probation on a misdemeanor gun possession charge stemming from this incident. Both Crittenton and Arenas were suspended just days later for the rest of the season.
Eventually, Arenas was traded for Orlando’s Rashard Lewis, but was waived at the end of the season. He tried to make a comeback by signing with the Memphis Grizzlies, but that failed as well.