Draft night comes with a lot of expectations and hype over some players that are over scouted, over spotted and are constantly getting attention from fans and media, and that hurts other low profile guys more often than not.
Due to all the attention, some of the most scouted prospects get, other players get instantly cataloged as busts without even having a mere chance to prove their worth or why on earth NBA Gms trusted them with their so valuable Draft picks.
Gladly for them, if people don’t expect much out of you, you’re very likely to prove them wrong with great ease every time you have the rock in your hands, and that’s something that’s happened a lot of times through history.
Today, we’re going to let you know about 17 guys that were booed by fans the very night they were drafted, but wind up being quite solid players and bringing a lot of joy to those doubters after a couple of months.
17. Cody Zeller
Cody Zeller is one of the best players in the Charlotte Hornets nowadays, but that’s nothing to brag about considering how poor this team has fared, and fans were having none of him when he was drafted 4th overall back then in 2013.
Zeller is quite a productive guy and can be a major asset in the team’s second unit, and he’s quietly improved on a yearly basis, even being instrumental in the Hornets’ ending their playoff drought. Still, he wasn’t worthy of a 4th pick and we can agree with Charlotte fans there.
16. Iman Shumpert
The 17th overall pick of the 2011 NBA Draft wasn’t able to escape that good old New York Knicks boos, as most fans were expecting the team to go with Chris Singleton, who looked like a stud that could play lockdown defense against both forward spots and centers as well.
Still, Shumpert went on to become a 3 and D specialist during the last Knicks surge in the Eastern Conference, and even though he’s mightily struggling to get things going now in Cleveland, he wound up being way better than Singleton, whos’ not even in the league anymore.
15. Danilo Gallinari
European players are pretty much misfits for most American fans, as they’re often cataloged as slow, inconsistent, unidimensional and very bad defenders, and that was exactly Gallinari’s fame when he first arrived to the US.
Going as high as 6th, Knicks fans felt like the team’s front office was reaching and giving up a lot to land Gallo, but he’s proven to be a deadly scorer at both forward spots when healthy. Besides, he was a main piece in the trade that got Carmelo Anthony to the Big Apple.
14. Gordon Hayward
Well, if Jazz fans knew that Hayward was going to leave town to play for the Boston Celtics, perhaps they’d booed him even more. See, back then in 2010, Hayward wanted to stay put at Indy and play for the Pacers, but Utah decided to use their pick to fill a much-needed void in the wing, drafting Gordon.
Still, being as talented as he is an putting a lot of work in the gym, Hayward grew to become one of the best young talents in the league and made the Jazz a competitive team once again, and there’s no doubt that he’s going to bring a lot of joy to Boston fans when he’s able to return to the hardwood.
13. Chuck Person
The Indiana Pacers have constantly been shut down of the title, and back then in 1986, the team’s front office trusted a young guy that was completely crushing it at Auburn: Chuck Person, drafted 4th overall to become the team’s new star.
It was quite a surprise to see such a young star being booed so hard by the fans instead of bringing joy to them. Needless to say, even though Person didn’t bring a Championship home, he was one of the team’s historic deadliest shooters and scorers as well as an extremely capable defender.
12. Kristaps Porzingis
The New York Knicks fan base isn’t the most thoughtful or patient, and more often than not, their first rounders don’t get much love from fans in the building. Well, that was exactly the case with Kristaps Porzingis, a young big man that was pretty much unknown until the last week prior to the NBA Draft.
Kristaps got a lot of boos from fans that thought they were getting another Bargnani, but so far the Latvian unicorn has proven to be one of the best youngsters in the league and the team’s cornerstone or the future.
11. Dan Majerle
Dan Majerle was thrown into the pit when the Suns drafted him 14th overall in 1988, but his coach really saw things in him and stated that everybody was going to be sorry about that booing, and he wasn’t wrong by a long shot.
Majerle was a key piece in the famous Phoenix Suns squad that fell in the NBA Finals against Michael Jordan and his Bulls, and even though most of the highlights go to Kenny Johnson or Charles Barkley, his hustle and feel for the game granted him a spot in the heart of Phoenix’s fans, even having an award named out of him: the Dan Majerle Hustle Award, handed out to the most hard-working player of the season.
10. Kawhi Leonard
It’s crazy to think how much Kawhi Leonard’s has improved ever since his rookie year, and not even Gregg Popovich thought he could be this good when he decided to send George Hill to the Indiana Pacers in order to land the defensive standout.
Well, if Pop didn’t believe that much in Kawhi, what could you expect out of other San Antonio Spurs fans? Leonard was the team’s scapegoat not just during the Draft night, but also when the team traded Richard Jefferson and Pop threw him into the starting lineup. Needless to say, those days are far behind us and Leonard’s now the best two way player in the league.
9. Damon Stoudamire
Regardless of his team’s desires, Isiah Thomas decided to go with a tweener point guard in Damon Stoudamire despite the fact that most people wanted to go with Ed O’Bannon out of UCLA during Toronto’s first season in the NBA.
Getting a lot of hate from fans that didn’t want to see the second coming of Muggsy Bogues, “the Mighty Mouse” proved that he belongs in the NBA as a below the average defender and great facilitator, and he’s one of the most beloved players both by Raptors and Blazers fans up to date.
8. Peja Stojakovic
Peja Stojakovic was yet another case of the unknown foreigner that fans boo out of ignorance and prejudice, and Peja was no exception to that rule coming into the U.S at 19 years old to become the Sacramento Kings killer from distance on the very night Ray Allen, Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant were drafted.
Stojakovic was one of the best shooters from downtown in league history, and one of the main reasons why the Kings surged back to make it to the NBA Finals. Playing alongside Jason Williams, Vlade Divac and Chris Webber, those Kings were pretty much unstoppable.
7. Yao Ming
When the Houston Rockets decided to go with an unknown giant out of China with the 1st overall pick, fans and media just lost their class, booing the hell out of a guy that looked more like a circus freak than an actual basketball player.
Nevertheless, Yao became a great force out of the gate in Houston and brought the team back to relevance alongside Tracy McGrady. Sadly, he wasn’t as durable as expected and his career was constantly hurt by nagging pains. Still, he made it into the Hall of Fame as one of the game’s greatest ambassadors in Asia.
6. Anfernee Hardaway
When we talk about the best players of the past couple of decades, we tend to forget how dominant Penny Hardaway was during his Orlando Magic stint, and some fans even state that if the Magic retires the number 1 Jersey, it should be because of him and not because of Tracy McGrady.
Nonetheless, considering Chris Webber was the best prospect in that Draft, it came as a huge surprise to see the Magic trade Webber to the Golden State Warriors to get Hardaway, making fans go from joy to tears in a second. Gladly for them, Shaq and Penny developed an instant chemistry and even made a Finals run, but the team’s relevance fell apart when O’Neal decided to leave to the Lakers.
5. Stephen Curry
Stephen Curry was a fierce scorer out of the small Davidson University and Dell Curry’s older son, but none of them seemed to matter much to New York Knicks fans when they booed the hell out of Curry back then in 2009 as the 7th overall pick.
Steph was quite a late bloomer and struggled with injuries through the first years of his career. Nowadays, Knicks fans should be just eating their words after Curry became the best shooter in the history of the game, a 2 time NBA Champion, the first unanimous MVP ever and a deadly scorer from everywhere in the floor.
4. Reggie Miller
Once again the Indiana Pacers fans make our list, as Reggie Miller was a major disappointment for them when their team decided to trust him with the 11th overall pick because most of them were expecting to land Steve Alford as a standout prospect from the University of Indiana instead.
Booing the hell out of the pick, Miller didn’t miss a beat to put a lot of work in the gym and become one of the most influential players of his generation. Reggie became the first guy to use the three-point shoot as a consistent scoring option, was a scoring machine and a fierce trash talker, and he’s considered to be the best player in franchise history despite making just 1 trip to the Finals.
3. Steve Nash
To be fair, if you take a quick glance at Steve Nash, you wouldn’t think he’s a basketball player either. Still, the Phoenix Suns didn’t hesitate to get him 15th overall during the 1996 NBA Draft, making fans go out of their minds as they thought they were just wasting a pick on a skinny white guy from Canada.
Besides, with the Suns signing Jason Kidd, his career didn’t get off to the best of starts, but he immediately took the reins of the Mavericks alongside Dirk to form one of the most entertaining duos ever. Needless to say, Nash is now considered one of the best point guards in the history of the game, winning back to back MVPs at the desert.
2. Dirk Nowitzki
Dirk Nowitzki wasn’t considered to be an elite prospect back in the day, but with the Boston Celtics reportedly interested in the German, Doug Nelson didn’t hesitate to trade with the Milwaukee Bucks for the right to land the big man.
Gladly for them, Nowitzki proved all his doubters wrong and led the team to a Championship, as he was booed even during the first couple of his very successful NBA career due to his softness in the defensive end of the floor and obvious lack of athleticism. Now, he’s a first ballot hall of famer and one of the greatest scorers in the history of the game.
1. John Stockton
John Stockton is the definition of a late bloomer, and Utah fans weren’t exactly pleased when the team drafted him 16th overall after they saw their rivals land Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan, especially considering it took several seasons for John to actually make an impact on the court.
Gladly for them, John would go on to become the best pure point guard in the history of the game, the league’s all-time leader in assists and steals, with neither record in jeopardy of being broken for the time being. Sadly, he was never able to go past Jordan and his Bulls and win the title, but he created a hell of a duo alongside Karl Malone during the most competitive basketball era in history.