The usual pattern NBA players follow during their careers is that they develop for a few years entering the league and work on their weakness in the early ’20s, rounding up their game and peaking between the ages of 25-30, which are widely considered to be the prime years for a basketball player. After that age, most players slowly fall off as it completes the cycle of an NBA career. But as always, there are exceptions to the matter, with a handful of players peaking at the very start of their career only to fall off instantly and never go back. Here is a list of a couple of players that completely fell off after great rookie seasons and never managed to be that good ever again:
Not only did MCW peak in his rookie season, but he also had the best game of his career in his NBA debut, when he led his Sixers to an impressive win over the defending champions in the Miami Heat. He flirted with a quadruple-double in that game scoring 22 points alongside 12 assists, 9 steals, and 7 rebounds. He won the Rookie of the Year award, averaging 16.7ppg, 6.3apg, 6.2rpg, and 1.9 spg, as he was projected the point guard of the future for the rebuilding Sixers. But it all went downhill after that.
People feel his inflated stats were the direct result of joining the Sixers when they were the league’s laughing stock, getting the chance to play a lot and getting his shots, causing him to produce empty stats. His size for the point guard position made him a mismatch problem and a good defensive player, but the lack of shooting and passing ability proved to be too much, as he never managed to live up to the expectations fans set out for him after that first season. The Sixers would give up on MCW already in his second season, as they traded him to the Bucks. They would prove to be correct, as Carter-Williams became a journeyman, currently playing a small role on the Orlando Magic.
Tyreke is one of the best examples, as the decline he had after his rookie season is one of a kind. He would finish the 2010 season averaging 20.1 ppg, 5.3 apg, and 5.1 rpg on 46% from the floor—an imposing stat line, especially for a rookie. A strong point guard with a 6’6”, 220 lbs frame, Tyreke was a cheat code on the court, as there is a strong belief his fall was caused by the Kings not using him correctly. As a natural-born point guard, Evans often found himself playing on the wing positions most of the time, causing his numbers and efficiency to dip. He looked to revive his career with the Grizzlies in 2017 and looking like the rookie version of himself, but after getting banned from the NBA in 2019 because of drug violations, Tyreke would find himself playing overseas. It would quickly end the hope of Tyreke becoming the player everybody thought he could be after his rookie year.
In his younger days, Jennings got a big following when he became the first American high school player to skip college and play professionally in Europe. He would start his career with a bang, scoring 55 points in only his seventh game and making history as the youngest player ever to score such an amount. It would only increase the hype Jennings already had around him, but it would turn out to be the best game of his career. He would finish his rookie season averaging 15.5 ppg and 5.7 apg, have a couple of solid seasons, but ultimately fall off after his trade to the Pistons. He had his flashes, but the inconsistency and non-efficiency stopped him from becoming the star people saw in him.
O.J. Mayo was once upon a time regarded as one of the best high school players ever, achieving legendary status at a young age. Everybody thought he would be the next great thing in the NBA. Mayo got drafted third in the 2008 Draft by the Grizzlies and immediately made an impact for his team, averaging 18.5 ppg and 3.2 apg. It would be a promising start to a career, but unfortunately, that ended up being his highest point average ever. After that, he slowly declined every year in Memphis, tried to revive his career in Dallas but never managed to sustain it, and eventually got suspended in 2016 as a 28-year-old by the NBA for a drug violation. Now he is eligible to return to the league, but it doesn’t seem likely as he moved on to play professionally in Europe and China.