7 Athletes Whose Careers Ended Before They Started

With baseball in full swing, we can’t help but veg out to some classic baseball flicks. One of the greatest is Field of Dreams.

Although Kevin Costner is the lead, it’s still damn good. While many of us remember the voice in the field saying “If you build it, he will come,” one of the best scenes is when Archibald “Moonlight” Graham has the chance to finally play ball with some of the greatest players ever.

But, life doesn’t always have those happy endings. Here’s seven athletes whose careers ended before they began.

7. Maurice Clarett

Maurice Clarett is the epitome of what not to do when switching from college to the pros.

As a running back for Ohio State, he was a pivotal part in the Buckeyes national championship against the Miami Hurricanes.

Clarett realized after his freshman year that he could have a future in the NFL. Instead of waiting for the mandatory NFL rule that a player must be out of high school for at least three years, he challenged the rule and attempted to enter the draft.

His plan backfired and he was barred from entering the 2004 NFL draft.

After sitting out for a year, Clarett was taken by the Denver Broncos in the 2005 draft. He was released by the Broncos on August 28, 2005, following a weak training camp, signing a four year contract and problems with the coaching staff.

No other team signed him after his release. He never played a single down in the league. And turned to crime, which landed him in the big joint.

Maybe if Clarett played another year in college he would be in the NFL today.

If you’re ever curious as to what he’s up to, check out his blog from the pen.

6. Jay Burson

Jay Burson scored 2,958 points while in high school from 1981-1985, a record in Ohio until 2007.

Burson stayed in state when heading off to college. He played for Ohio State from 1986-1989. Unfortunately, his college career ended when he broke his neck during the NCAA tournament.

He made a comeback when he signed a contract with the Houston Rockets, but after only four preseason games, his NBA days were behind him.

Jay still managed to play some basketball in the Continental Basketball Association with the Columbus Horizon, but never had the chance to enjoy a career in the NBA.

He now spends his days as a motivational speaker and helping kids on and off the court.

5. Earl “The Goat” Manigault

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar called Earl Manigault the greatest basketball he had ever seen.

So, why didn’t he ever make it to the NBA?

It seems that Earl surrounded himself with a bad group of people.

Despite sitting a record 57 point game for New York City junior high schools, he began smoking weed and was kicked out of school.

After finishing private school in North Carolina, he completed only one year of college. The Goat perfected street basketball, playing against some NBA greats like Kareem and Earl Monroe. But, he never made it the pros himself.

He developed a heroin addiction, which resulted in him serving several jail terms in the 70’s. He eventually cleaned himself up and worked with kids to help them prevent the mistakes he made.

Manigault died of congestive heart failure in 1998, just two years after HBO released a TV movie about his life.

4. Hank Gathers

In high school, Hank Gathers took his school to the Philadelphia City Championship.

He was recruited by the University of Southern California, but left after the 1985-86 season. He transferred to Loyola Marymount, where he became the second player in NCAA Division I history to lead in scoring and rebounding during the 1988-89 season.

It was discovered that Gathers had an abnormal heartbeat, but refused to take his meds because it altered his game.

On March 4, 1990, he collapsed during a game. He soon stopped breathing and was pronounced dead on arrival when he was brought to the hospital.

3. Travis Roy

Here’s a kid that played hockey his entire life. After getting a scholarship to Boston University to play the game he loved, the future certainly looked bright for Travis Roy.

Then tragedy. Eleven seconds into his first shift for BU, Roy went head first into the boards. He ended up cracking his fourth and fifth vertebra, which resulted in him becoming a quadriplegic.

It was such an unfortunate event that the school renamed their arena after him. Roy is also the only BU player to have have his number retired at the school.

Since that day on October 20, 1995, Roy has written his autobiography and has set up a foundation for spinal cord research.

2. Ernie Davis

Ernie Davis was the first African-American to win the Heisman while at Syracuse University.

In the 1962 NFL draft, he was the first overall pick by the Washington Redskins. He the first African American to ever be taken first.

His rights were traded to the Cleveland Browns, where he would have been running the ball with the great Jim Brown.

But, the awesome possibilities never happened.

Davis was diagnosed with leukemia during the 1962 College All-Star Game. The only time he got to suit up for the Browns was during a pre-season, when he got to run out onto the field.

Davis passed away on May 18, 1963 at the young age of 23.

Following his death, the Browns retired his number 45. He was also inducted into the College Hall of Fame in 1979. In 2008, a major motion picture biography about him, The Express, was released.

1. Len Bias

Len Bias was an All American basketball player while at the University of Maryland. And, NBA scouts were noticing. Some even compared his skills to that of Michael Jordan.

The Boston Celtics, who were the defending champs, picked Bias second overall in the 1986 draft. His potential was so great the he apparently inked a $3 million contract with Reebok.

Bias returned to campus after meeting with the Celtics on June 18. At some point, Bias got his hands on some coke. In the wee hours of the morning of June 19, he went into a cardiac arrhythmia as a result of a cocaine overdose.

All attempts to revive the future star’s life failed and he was pronounced dead at 8:55 a.m.

The University of Maryland, Boston, and all sports fans were shocked at the untimely death.

Leave a Comment

  1. Lee Vardo says:

    I'd like to see a list that includes just athletes that screwed up their careers due to their own stupid mistakes. You have some that would qualify for that list here but you'll need to take out all those that suffered unforeseen and tragic events. Under that list only 7, 5, 4 and 1 would qualify.

  2. Elba Davis says:

    my God, i assumed you have been going to chip in with some decisive insght at the end there, not go away it with ‘we leave it to you to determine’.