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20 Most Talented Players Who Never Realized Their True Potential

20 Most Talented Players Who Never Reached Their Full Potential

Ryan Leaf Booking Photo - March 30, 2012
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When a player seems destined for greatness in professional sports, the expectations on that player can be overwhelming. When they fail, that can make it even more frustrating. Whether it be by underachievement or a rash of injuries, these 20 players never became as great as they could've been.

20. Stephon Marbury

Philadelphia 76ers v New York Knicks
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20. Stephon Marbury

Philadelphia 76ers v New York Knicks
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Complete with his own shoe line, Marbury seemed right on the cusp of greatness. However, it never got beyond that cusp and he actually had a relatively short career. While he was a solid role player, he never became the star it seemed like he could one day be.

19. Braylon Edwards

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19. Braylon Edwards

Jacksonville Jaguars v New York Jets
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After Edwards broke out with the Browns, he seemed ready to put himself in the discussion for best receiver in the NFL. Unfortunately, after his breakout season, he was never able to duplicate his high production again.

18. Adam "Pac Man" Jones

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18. Adam "Pac Man" Jones

Chicago Bulls v Atlanta Hawks
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At times, Pac Man Jones seemed like he was ready to be the premier cornerback in all of football. However, a lot of his off-the-field issues found their way onto the football field, and he was never able to consistently perform at a high level.

17. Eddy Curry

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17. Eddy Curry

Dallas Mavericks v Los Angeles Lakers
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When Curry was young and on the Bulls, he was about ready to be an above average center in the league. Once he had a scare with a heart condition, he was never the same. He still got other gigs in the league, but he never quite became the above average starter he seemed like he could be.

16. Carlos Zambrano

World Baseball Classic - Pool C - Puerto Rico v Venezuela
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16. Carlos Zambrano

World Baseball Classic - Pool C - Puerto Rico v Venezuela
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For several years Zambrano was the ace of the Cubs' staff. He could've been one of the top pitchers in all of baseball if he wouldn't continue to let his emotions get in the way. His fiery attitude sometimes got in the way of his talent and kept him from being a premier pitcher in MLB.

15. Kwame Brown

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15. Kwame Brown

Philadelphia 76ers v Dallas Mavericks
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One of the most notable busts in NBA history, Brown never came close to his potential. He was taken with the No. 1 overall pick and was never even an impact player. Sometimes it's a mystery why certain players totally flop.

14. Grant Hill

2014 NBA Finals Game Five
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14. Grant Hill

2014 NBA Finals Game Five
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Even though he made All-Star appearances during his career, Grant Hill could've been one of the best players of his generation. Instead, injuries derailed his career, and he will always be remembered as the talent that could've been.

13. Freddy Adu

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13. Freddy Adu

Real Salt Lake v Philadelphia Union
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Playing professional soccer by the age of 14, everyone thought Adu was destined to be the next Pele. While he's still involved in soccer, he's not nearly the player he looked like he would be and ended up not being a soccer savant after all.

12. Todd Marinovich

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12. Todd Marinovich

Milwaukee Mustangs v Los Angeles Avengers
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Documented in a great 30-for-30 film, Marinovich's fall from grace was historic. His overbearing father tried to train him to be the best quarterback possible from day one. His dad's overbearing attitude eventually sent him into controlled substances and derailed what could've been a promising NFL career.

11. Eric Lindros

Rangers v Sabres
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11. Eric Lindros

Rangers v Sabres
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After being taken No. 1 overall, Lindros went to work. He took plenty of abuse on his head and continued to play through injuries. However, they began to take a toll on him and he never became the great player he seemed like he would.

10. Barry Sanders

2014 NFL Draft
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10. Barry Sanders

2014 NFL Draft
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It's scary to think that Sanders was one of the best running backs of all time and still didn't realize his full potential. If he hadn't retired so early in his career, he likely would've shattered every record for running backs in the NFL. Luckily for him, unlike the other players on this list, he's in the Hall of Fame.

9. Andrew Bynum

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9. Andrew Bynum

Boston Celtics v Indiana Pacers
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For the Lakers, a young Bynum was right up there as one of the best centers in basketball. Whether it be because of his injuries or off-the-court issues, Bynum has been incapable of staying on the court. Since he's still young he could rebound from his early troubles, but as of right now he's one of the biggest disappointments in basketball.

8. JaMarcus Russell

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8. JaMarcus Russell

Baltimore Ravens v Oakland Raiders
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One of the most notable quarterback busts in NFL history, Russell couldn't handle the next level. He seemed like a talent destined to do great things in the NFL, but he folded under the pressure and isn't even in the league anymore.

7. Tony Mandarich

Tony Mandarich
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7. Tony Mandarich

Tony Mandarich
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Thought to be the best offensive lineman in a generation, Mandarich was taken in the first round by the Packers. With his massive frame, it should've seemed obvious that something was up. He was using steroids regularly and the injuries stemming from that steroid use are what ultimately did his career in.

6. Vince Young

Green Bay Packers v Kansas City Chiefs
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6. Vince Young

Green Bay Packers v Kansas City Chiefs
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His career got off to such a great start in Tennessee, but some personal problems majorly set Young's career back. He went on a potentially suicidal runaway trip during one season, which showed he was clearly having some personal struggles. He's still trying to crack his way back into the league, but based on his college success, his NFL career has been disappointing.

5. Len Bias

Len Bias shakes pumps fist
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5. Len Bias

Len Bias shakes pumps fist
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Len Bias is probably the most tragic case of talent wasted. He went in the first round to the defending champion Boston Celtics and his outlook was extremely bright. However, before he played in a single NBA game, he died of a drug overdose and became one of the most tragic stories in sports history.

4. Greg Oden

Miami Heat v San Antonio Spurs - 2014 NBA Finals Game Three
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4. Greg Oden

Miami Heat v San Antonio Spurs - 2014 NBA Finals Game Three
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An absolute beast at Ohio State, Oden looked like a sure thing in the NBA. With his big body came plenty of injuries, though, and Oden is just now getting his career back on track. He should've been a star by now, but he's just trying to establish himself with a team as a role player.

3. Ryan Leaf

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3. Ryan Leaf

Broncos v Cowboys  X
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The biggest quarterback bust in NFL history, Leaf's life slowly spun out of control. At one point, the Colts debated between making him or Peyton Manning their new franchise quarterback. It seems like they made the right choice. Manning is still playing and is possibly the best quarterback of all time, while Leaf has been arrested multiple times and never amounted to anything in the NFL.

2. Ricky Williams

Ricky Wiliams #34
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2. Ricky Williams

Ricky Wiliams #34
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At times, Williams was one of the most elusive backs in the NFL. His off-the-field issues, like so many others, pushed his career off track though. His comeback with the Dolphins was inspiring, but he still never ended up being the legendary back he could've been.

1. Maurice Clarett

Denver Broncos 2005 Headshots
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1. Maurice Clarett

Denver Broncos 2005 Headshots
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At Ohio State, Clarett showed that he had the potential to be one of the NFL greats. His mission to reach the NFL early first made him unpopular and then his run-ins with the law made that dream even harder to realize. For someone with so much pure talent to not get a chance to show off that talent in the NFL is a shame.