In May, the San Antonio Spurs emerged as the fortunate winners of the NBA lottery, granting them the coveted No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming 2023 NBA draft. Amidst this outcome, little debate arose regarding their imminent selection. Victor Wembanyama, a talented center hailing from France, unequivocally stands as the obvious choice, being hailed as a once-in-a-generation prospect with the potential to revolutionize any team he joins—an extraordinary blend of attributes rarely witnessed in the realm of sports.


Back in February, scouts made it abundantly clear that disregarding Wembanyama in the draft would be a severe transgression worthy of dismissal. LeBron James himself went as far as describing Wembanyama as an "alien", an unparalleled talent of his generation. Kevin Durant, too, mentioned that the NBA will be in trouble when the towering 7-foot-4 center arrives in the league . ESPN's esteemed Adrian Wojnarowski went even further, proclaiming Wembanyama as the pinnacle of athletic prospects across all sports, solidifying his unrivaled status.


While Wembanyama undoubtedly possesses generational talent, it is important to acknowledge that the NBA has seen its fair share of highly acclaimed prospects in the past. Among them, a few managed to fulfill the lofty expectations placed upon them, forging remarkable careers that left a lasting impact. On the other hand, there were those who unfortunately fell short of the anticipated greatness, unable to live up to the hype surrounding their arrival.


Here’s how some of the most anticipated NBA prospects fared in the league.


Kareem Adbul-Jabbar

After being drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in 1969, Abdul-Jabbar embarked on his NBA journey armed with an extraordinary basketball background.

Prior to his professional career, he had already showcased his unparalleled skills by guiding Power Memorial Academy to an awe-inspiring 71-game winning streak, securing a remarkable 79-2 overall record and capturing three consecutive New York City Catholic championships. Continuing his dominance at UCLA, Abdul-Jabbar further solidified his legacy by clinching three consecutive national championships, boasting an astounding record of 88-2 during his collegiate tenure.

Due to the then-existing rule that prohibited freshmen from playing varsity, Abdul-Jabbar made his varsity debut as a sophomore, leaving an indelible mark by unleashing a phenomenal performance of 56 points in his very first game.

Abdul-Jabbar continued his exceptional performance in the NBA, where he seamlessly transitioned from his illustrious college career. In his rookie season, he astoundingly averaged 28.8 points and 14.5 rebounds per game, rightfully earning the prestigious Rookie of the Year title. Throughout his remarkable 20-year NBA tenure, Abdul-Jabbar's excellence was consistently recognized, being selected as an All-Star an astounding 19 times and securing a spot in the All-NBA team on 15 occasions.

Undoubtedly leaving an indelible mark on the sport, he amassed an impressive collection of achievements, including six NBA championships and six MVP awards. Remarkably, Abdul-Jabbar's prowess extended beyond team success, as he also held the all-time scoring record in the NBA for nearly four decades until LeBron James surpassed him this year, further cementing his status as one of the game's greatest icons.

His achievements put him in the conversation for the greatest basketball player of all-time, living up to all the hype that surrounded Abdul-Jabbar as he entered the league.


LeBron James

Imposingly gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated with the bold proclamation "The Chosen One," LeBron James found himself thrust into an immense spotlight at a mere 17 years of age. The basketball world bore witness to his meteoric rise at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio.

Renowned analyst Jay Bilas hailed him as the most exceptional 17-year-old prospect he had encountered in two decades. ESPN, recognizing the magnitude of the hype surrounding James, broadcasted one of his high school games in 2002, marking the first regular-season high school game televised on ESPN since 1989.

The weight of expectations trailed James incessantly, magnified further when his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, selected him as the first overall pick in the 2003 draft. Undeterred, he swiftly made his mark, averaging an impressive 20.9 points per game in his debut season, ultimately earning the esteemed Rookie of the Year honors—an initial milestone among numerous others he would achieve throughout his illustrious career.

In the years that followed, James would string together an astonishing streak of 19 consecutive All-Star appearances, secure four NBA championships, collect four MVP awards, and ascend to the pinnacle of the NBA's all-time scoring leaderboard. Much like Abdul-Jabbar before him, James solidified his position in the conversation surrounding the Greatest of All Time (GOAT), leaving an indelible legacy that resonates in the annals of basketball history.


Zion Williamson

During his time at Spartanburg Day School in South Carolina, Zion Williamson's exceptional athleticism and thunderous dunks propelled him to become one of the most electrifying high school players. Notably, he was among the first prospects to captivate widespread attention through highlights that rapidly spread across social media platforms.

In 2018, Williamson committed to Duke University, where he showcased his extraordinary talent for one season as a Blue Devil. His remarkable performance earned him the prestigious title of national player of the year, making him only the second freshman ever to achieve such an honor. Additionally, he became the fourth player in Duke's history to sweep all six major national player of the year awards—an exceptional feat.

The New Orleans Pelicans selected Williamson as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft. Despite showing immense potential, injuries have plagued him throughout his four seasons in the league. He has managed to play in more than 30 games in just one season (2020-21), during which he showcased his prowess by averaging an impressive 27 points per game on a remarkable 61% shooting. Undoubtedly, when Williamson graces the court, his impact is undeniable, solidifying his status as one of the league's elite players. However, his recurring unavailability due to injuries has sparked trade rumors surrounding him in the current offseason. Thus, the jury is still out on whether he has fully lived up to the immense hype surrounding him.


Shaquille O’Neal

Before Shaquille O'Neal's charismatic presence graced TNT's "Inside the NBA" and numerous television commercials, he was a young kid returning to the United States from Germany. However, O'Neal wasted no time making up for lost opportunities on American soil. Growing to an impressive height of 6-foot-10 by the age of 16, he emerged as an unstoppable force at Cole High School in San Antonio, Texas. Remarkably, in his final two high school seasons, O'Neal propelled Cole to a remarkable combined record of 68-1, culminating in a Texas state championship victory during his senior year.

O'Neal's journey continued at Louisiana State University, where his star power skyrocketed due to his dominant performances and infectious personality. He received the prestigious honor of being named a consensus All-American twice and secured the title of player of the year for the 1990-91 season, amassing staggering averages of 27.6 points, 14.7 rebounds, and five blocks per game. In 1992, he declared for the NBA draft and was subsequently chosen as the No. 1 overall pick by the Orlando Magic.

The hype surrounding O'Neal seamlessly transitioned into the NBA, as he promptly proved it to be well-deserved. He not only earned the Rookie of the Year award but also secured a spot as an All-Star, joining the ranks of only seven rookies since 1985 to achieve both honors. Throughout his illustrious career, O'Neal amassed an impressive array of accomplishments, including 15 All-Star selections, four NBA championships, three NBA Finals MVP awards, and one regular-season MVP award. By leaving an indelible mark on the sport, he has solidified his status as one of the greatest big men to have ever graced the basketball court.

Patrick Ewing

The inaugural NBA draft lottery bestowed upon the New York Knicks an extraordinary gift in the form of Patrick Ewing, an event of such magnitude that it adorned the cover of Sports Illustrated with the headline: "Jackpot! The Knicks Win Patrick Ewing." Although the Knicks had yet to officially make their selection, any doubts were swiftly dispelled when then-director of basketball operations, Dave DeBusschere, proudly unveiled an already prepared Knicks jersey with Ewing's name.

Ewing's illustrious tenure at Georgetown University had already propelled him into the realm of legendary NBA prospects. He consistently shone as an All-Big East player for all four years, showcased his skills in the NCAA All-Final Four three times, claimed the Big East Player of the Year award twice, and was named the Player of the Year for the 1984-85 season. Adding to his collegiate achievements, he triumphed in securing a national championship in 1984.

Upon being drafted as the No. 1 overall pick, Ewing was hailed as the savior of Knicks basketball. Under his leadership, the Knicks experienced a resurgence, reaching two of their most recent NBA Finals appearances. Like many highly regarded prospects, Ewing also earned the coveted title of Rookie of the Year. Throughout his remarkable career, the Hall of Famer garnered 11 All-Star selections and secured a place on the All-NBA team seven times. While a championship eluded him, Ewing remains revered as one of the greatest Knicks of all time, leaving an indelible mark on the franchise's storied history.


Greg Oden

This collection of stories serves as a testament to the fact that several highly acclaimed prospects in basketball have been towering big men who, indeed, lived up to the immense hype surrounding them. Greg Oden emerged as the next in line to follow suit, armed with an impressive high school record of 103-7 over four years, three consecutive state titles, and the honor of being named Gatorade National Player of the Year on two occasions. Steve Kerr even described him as a player of once-in-a-decade caliber.

Oden's journey continued at Ohio State University, where he continued to thrive. With notable achievements as a consensus All-American and All-Big Ten player, he played a pivotal role in leading Ohio State to the national championship game, showcasing his remarkable averages of 15.7 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 3.3 blocks per game. After a single season at the collegiate level, Oden decided to declare for the NBA draft. Consequently, the Portland Trail Blazers selected him as the No. 1 overall pick in 2007. However, despite his tremendous potential, Oden's career was plagued by persistent injuries that prevented him from truly showcasing his abilities.

The setback began with microfracture surgery on his right knee, resulting in his absence for the entirety of his rookie season. He managed to play 61 games in his second year in the NBA, only to suffer a fractured left patella after 21 games into the subsequent season. This injury forced Oden to miss the following three seasons, and the Blazers eventually waived him in 2012 due to multiple setbacks caused by injuries. In 2013, he briefly resurfaced, signing a one-year deal with the Miami Heat and appearing in 23 games. Ultimately, Oden made the difficult decision to retire in 2016, having participated in a mere total of 105 NBA games throughout his career.

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