What a waste! [Athletes in sports without a ring]
As players come and go throughout professional sports, there are some that establish themselves as all-time greats.
Among those in the latter category are names like Barry Sanders (3rd all-time in NFL rushing yards), Cris Carter (5th all-time in receptions and 4th in touchdowns), John Stockton (All-time NBA assist leader), and Karl Malone (2nd all-time in NBA scoring).
We have reached an era where it is no longer enough just to be one of the best in your game, you also need to have championships to prove yourself (Just ask LeBron).
Taking a look at the NFL, MLB, and NBA in the current era, there are players who are either younger or older that are/have wasting/wasted their career in a place that will never bring them a title, despite being some of the best in their league.
Here is a list of 20 athletes whose talents are wasted in their current situations:
20- Alshon Jeffery
We start off with Jeffery because he is a great example of a physical specimen at the wide receiver position. Jeffery is 6’4″ and 230 pounds, with a 36.5″ vertical. Some people may find it hard to get past his PED suspension this past season for four games, but if you look at his stats the prior three seasons, it is easy to see that he is a top threat at his position. Jeffery finished the 2013 season with a breakout year. He had 89 catches for over 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns. He was also selected to the Pro Bowl. The next year he had 85 catches for over 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns. 2015 was a great year as well until injuries hampered him for the last seven games. Through the first nine games, Jeffery had over 800 yards and four touchdowns. These are all numbers being put up with a mediocre quarterback.
19- Yasiel Puig
Puig could be considered a controversial person to have on this list as he has been falling off the last two years. In addition to decreasing statistics, Puig has many issues outside the batters box as well. Whether it was his demotion to the minors, posting party videos on social media, or a teammate saying he is the worst person ever. It is just so hard to believe that a player who started his MLB career with such promise could have fallen so fast. Puig was runner-up for Rookie of the Year voting in 2013 and 15th in MVP voting. The numbers dropped a little the next season, but he was still 19th in MVP voting. Since then his numbers have been mediocre at best. Perhaps a change of scenery would benefit the enigma that is Yasiel Puig.
18- Travis Kelce
Yet another controversial listing, Kelce has emerged as possibly the 2nd best tight end in the NFL. The Kansas City Chiefs made the playoffs this year as well. So why is Kelce here? It has to do with Alex Smith. Smith threw for a career-high 3,502 yards this season, but had only 15 touchdowns (lowest in his four season in Kansas City) and eight interceptions (highest in his four years in Kansas City). Kelce accounted for 1,125 of those yards and four of the touchdowns. At the end of the day though, Smith has always been a more middle of the road quarterback and could already possibly be on a decline. If that is the case, you end wasting the prime of Kelce.
17- Todd Gurley
With Gurley having just finished up his second season, this may seem premature. However, do we really have faith that the Rams can become a good team? Probably not. The last time they made the playoffs was in 2004. Since then they have finished 8-8 or worse in every season. His production dropped from 2015 when he as named Rookie of the Year, however that is to be expected when you are essentially the only threat on your team. Gurley needs to attempt to find a new home if he wants to have a successful career in the long run.
16- Ryan Braun
The Milwaukee Brewers have had a gem on their team for quite some time now. He was named Rookie of the Year in 2007, won the MVP in 2011, and finished runner-up in MVP voting in 2012. 2012 was a career year for him when he hit 41 home runs. 2013 saw his season shortened with injury. This last season, Braun returned to relevance by hitting 30 home runs and batting .305. Now is a better time than any for Braun to try and move to a team that can give him a chance to get a title.
15- Philip Rivers
Rivers is among the elder class of quarterbacks in the NFL. That has not shown to slow his statistical abilities though. Rivers threw 33 touchdowns this season, which is the second most in his career. He also threw for almost 4,400 yards. The only downsides to him this season was the interception totals (21- most in his career) and his QBR (87.9- lowest since 2007). Rivers has always been a Brett Favre type quarterback, fitting into that gunslinger type role. This has been what kept him out of the top-tier of quarterbacks. However, when it comes to consistency, Rivers at the top of the league. Rivers has started in played in every regular season game since 2006, that is 176 games. Each season he is hovering around 30 touchdowns and has had eight seasons with over 4,000 passing yards. Unfortunately, his time to get that Super Bowl is running out.
14- Andrew McCutchen
McCutchen had an off year in terms of his overall production. It was the first year that he missed the All-Star game since 2011. It was also the first time in four years he was not a part of the MVP talk. Despite the down year, McCutchen has been a top player in the league for quite some time. His career batting average is .292, and is always in the mid-twenties for home run totals. He also is a solid outfield option on defense. The Pirates do not give hi a viable shot to win a World Series. They made the playoffs three straight seasons between 2013 and 2015. The 2013 season saw them make it out of the Wild Card round, but fall to division rivals, St. Louis Cardinals. This was also the season that McCutchen won the MVP award. With the roster of the Cubs, McCutchen needs to join a roster with stronger players to have a chance at winning a championship.
13- Chris Paul
CP3 is possibly one of the greatest two-way point guards of all-time, and for sure of this current generation. In 12 seasons, Paul has averaged 18.7 PPG, 9.9 APG, and 2.3 SPG. In the current era of point guards he has kind of fallen out of the conversation of being elite. This is because he is not flashy in the same way that Curry, Westbrook, Harden, or Irving are. However, Paul is along the lines of a reincarnated John Stockton. He is more of a pure point guard compared to the others listed. When Paul joined the Clippers, they were taking the league by storm and have been considered a perennial favorite to contend in the Western Conference. They have not lived up to that potential though. As injuries have hampered hopes of playoff runs, and the lack of a decent bench have kept them from making that next jump. This doesn’t seem like a trend that will end anytime soon. Even with a 30-18 record currently, they are not discussed as a contender. Paul will never get the NBA championship that could make him one of the best all time as long as he remains with the Clippers.
12- Blake Griffin
Blake Griffin is another Clipper that will never get that title. The reasons are the same as they are for Chris Paul. Griffin has been a freak of an athlete his entire NBA career. Very few big men in the league can stop him from getting points or rebounds. He is also a decent passer. Through all of the athleticism, he was criticized for not having much of a shot, however, he has developed one of the best shooting touches amongst NBA big men. Griffin shoots approximately 41 percent from mid range (not bad for a guy who can “only dunk”). The odds of the Clippers losing both Griffin and Paul are very slim, but for the sake of both of them, let’s hope the Clippers give them a little more help.
11- DeMarcus Cousins
The torch for best center in the NBA has always been held by some large, athletic guys. Whether that was Shaq, Dwight Howard, or now DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins is one of the most enigmatic players in the NBA. He has constantly been labeled the thorn in the Kings side. Whether it is his temper on the court or disrespect for coaches. Can you blame the guy? He played on a college team at Kentucky with Calipari as the coach, and John Wall and Eric Bledsoe as teammates. Their team had five first round draft picks. The best players Cousins has had in the NBA are Rudy Gay, Rajon Rondo, and Isaiah Thomas. Unfortunately, they traded Thomas before his potential was fully realized, and they decided not to bring back Rondo who averaged almost 12 APG for them. Unless the Kings organization can commit to bringing help for Cousins, he may never win a title. He has been quoted as saying it is “a personal vendetta” for him to get this team back to prominence.
10- Jimmy Butler
Butler has evolved into one of the premier shooting guards/small forwards in the league the past few years. In 2013-14 he averaged just over 13 PPG. The following season he cracked into the 20 PPG range. Since then he has continued to go up. As he has grown as a player, so has the drama around him in Chicago. For a while, there were questions about whether him and Derrick Rose could thrive together. Then when Rose was gone, there were questions as to whether he could lead a team. Now the question is whether he is even in the future plans for the Bulls. With so many questions about Butler’s future with the team, it seems unlikely that the Bulls will get him the necessary pieces to become a championship squad.
9- Paul George
When Paul George was younger, the Pacers were supposed to be a yearly force in the Eastern Conference. They made the Conference Finals back-to-back years, and fell both times to the Miami Heat. Then there was Paul George’s leg injury. The Pacers then missed the playoffs. Last season, they got in as the 7th seed, but fell to the Raptors. The Pacers are currently the 6th seed in the Eastern Conference, and Paul George is averaging career highs (or very close) in almost every category, including points, field goal percentage, and three-point percentage. Perhaps if Myles Turner develops into a second bona fide star for this team, they could have a shot at a title, but currently, Paul George is just wasting his prime.
8- Joe Thomas
The point could be made that anybody playing for the Cleveland Browns is wasting their career. However, Joe Thomas is the largest case for that claim. Thomas has been in the NFL for 10 seasons, all of which have been spent in Cleveland. Not only has Thomas spent all 10 seasons there, but has started all 160 games in that time. If that wasn’t impressive enough, he has also been selected to the Pro Bowl every single season. The downside for this great player is that he will never win a Super Bowl. He confirmed this past season that he intends to stay with the Browns until they can be a steady, successful team. The Browns have only had one winning season in his 10 years, and that was his rookie season. As long as Thomas is content, then I suppose that is all that matters.
7- DeAndre Hopkins
Hopkins is one of the best wide receivers in the NFL right now, but he could be even better. Brock Osweiler didn’t have a season that was worth his contract, which saw Hopkins numbers suffer a little bit. In 2015 Hopkins finished with 1,500 yards and 11 touchdowns. That was followed this year with 954 yards and four touchdowns. Owen Daniels expressed faith in Osweiler that he would get better, but whether that will be good enough to get the Texans to the Super Bowl is unlikely.
6- J.J. Watt
Watt is stuck in the same boat as Hopkins in Houston. Watt has been possibly the best defensive lineman in the NFL for the last five years. The other issue facing Watt is his injury history. His most recent being his herniated disc. In a position that requires so much mobility and use of his back, Watt may not have the same explosiveness he once had. If he is not the player he was before this injury, the career of a great could have been wasted.
5- Hassan Whiteside
After spending time overseas in the Chinese NBL, Whiteside has made a name for himself the last three seasons in Miami. Whiteside has become a top-five center, especially when it comes to rebounding. Whiteside is having a breakout season with 16.7 PPG and 13.8 RPG. This is a Miami team that has many trade rumors swirling around which makes it appear that they could enter a rebuilding mode soon. Having just signed a contract for four years this past summer, it seems that Whiteside will be the key piece of the roster. However, can they get him enough talent to make deep playoff runs before his prime is up?
4- Matthew Stafford
Much like his star receiver, Calvin Johnson, Matt Stafford is wasting his career trying to take the Lions to the promised land for the first time. Stafford has thrown for over 4,200 yards the past six seasons, including over 5,000 in 2011. The Lions have not been supplying him with much help on either side of the ball. The defense is consistently mediocre, and the running game continues to be riddled with injuries. All of this forces Stafford to throw more passes than many other quarterbacks in the NFL. It also leads to a lot of shoot out and comeback potential, which Stafford has become the best in the league at. He finished this past season with eight game-winning drives. Unfortunately, as long as he is in Detroit, Stafford will not be guiding a team to a Super Bowl.
3- Carmelo Anthony
By now you have probably heard about the turmoil that is happening around Anthony and the Knicks. There is a lot of drama surrounding Madison Square Garden. Despite the fact that Anthony has a no trade clause, he has stated that he would waive that for the right situation. Anthony has stated that all of the rumors around him are growing tiring. Anthony has been one of the most capable scorers and jump shooters of the current generation. It has been a championship at the NBA level that has kept him from being considered one of the best. As long as he is in this current situation in New York, he will not get to an NBA Finals.
2- Anthony Davis
Davis is widely considered one of the best players in the NBA, and at one point the predecessor to LeBron’s throne. Various injuries have hampered him overall, but he has still had a very impressive career. Unfortunately, the Pelicans have not given him much help to make their team successful. Davis is averaging career high in both points (28.0 PPG) and rebounds (12.2 RPG). Despite these numbers, the Pelicans are currently 19-29. They hardly have any other viable threats on offense, let alone coming off the bench. Davis could be one of the best big men of this generation, but not win a title.
1- Adrian Peterson
Peterson has easily been the best running back in the NFL since Barry Sanders. If you take out his injury seasons, he has only had two seasons that he has not cleared 1,500 all-purpose yards. He has never had less than 10 rushing touchdowns in a season that he wasn’t out. There have been seasons that he has carried the Vikings on his back. However, that time could be coming to an end, depending on what happens this offseason. Despite the fact that Peterson feels he still has a few good years yet, the Vikings may have drained the best of him and his chance at being a champion.
Malachi David is a sports contributor for MFST. You can follow him on Twitter: @SportReportMD