Players Bet Lost
Dennis Schröder’s rejection of an $84 million deal is certainly a gamble, but where does it rank among players who bet on themselves and lost? (MARK J. REBILAS-USA TODAY SPORTS)

Five NBA Players Who Bet on Themselves and Lost

The Lakers are officially out of the 2021 NBA Playoffs, in large part because of various injuries and a lack of consistent scoring from the bench and starters alike. 2020 offseason signee Dennis Schröder was one such inconsistent player. The guard got a ton of flack in Game 5 for his scoreless outing despite playing 26 minutes, and rightfully so. Schröder’s addition last summer was a step toward lessening the scoring load on stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and his production was so beneficial earlier in the season that the Lakers offered him a four-year, $84 million extension, but Schröder rejected it. In light of his recent struggles, however, Schröder finds himself among the list of players who bet on themselves and lost.

Schröder’s goose egg in Game 5 saw the 2-seed Phoenix Suns take a 3-2 series lead against the Lakers, with Devin Booker and the Suns ensemble ending the Lakers season last night. The point guard scored 20 point in the series ending defeat, but that doesn’t make up for the previous two games, where he totaled eight points, eight rebounds and four assists in 58 minutes of action. His struggles have even raised questions about whether the Lakers will move on from him entirely this summer.

As I mentioned, Schröder rejected a four-year, $84 million deal in March, believing that he was worth closer to $100 million this offseason. His postseason efforts are not going to help his cause, and while the degree to which he tanked his value is unknown, a question remains: where does Schröder’s gamble rank all-time with NBA players who bet on themselves and lost?

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5. Bonzi Wells

The 1998 #11 overall pick is on this list because he rejected a five-year, $36 million deal with the Sacramento Kings in 2006. Wells proceeded to sign a two-year, $5 million contract with the Houston Rockets after the Kings swiftly moved on and replaced him on the roster sheet. By my amateur calculations, that’s nearly a $4.7 million loss per year after the deals were done. I’m all for athletes betting on themselves and more players being in control of their destinies, but that is a ton of money left on the table.

4. Dennis Schröder

I put Schröder above Wells because $84 million is a lot to gamble. While Schröder has enough of a track record to compensate for a few poor playoff games, his overall value has undeniably tanked. Ultimately, he could end up seeing some eight-figure deals from teams in need of point guard depth but for now, that $100 million evaluation is definitely off the table.

3. Nerlens Noel

The big man who was a defensive stalwart for the New York Knicks this season has certainly rebooted his career, but it was not long ago that the former Kentucky Wildcat turned down a four-year, $70 million extension from the Dallas Mavericks, but he later signed a one-year deal with the team worth $4.1 million. He now has a significant role with the Knicks and can maybe sign for some more money in the future, but a $66 million rejection looks foolish now.

2. Latrell Sprewell

The infamous “I have a family to feed” argument was used by Sprewell when he rejected a three-year, $21 million deal from the Timberwolves in 2004. But, after his level of play dropped in the final season of his contract with the T-Wolves, he fizzled out of the NBA. He never played another minute in the league, with his agent even saying that the four-time all-star would refuse any deal that was not similar to the one-year, $7 million contracts he had previously negotiated. Sprewell will still be remembered as a walking bucket and he had a great 13 year career, but his turning down of the Minnesota deal and choking coach P.J. Carlesimo at a Warriors practice are probably what most fans remember him for.

1. Joe Smith

I’m sorry, but as much as I wanted to put Sprewell here at first, rejecting an $80 million extension in hopes of signing an illegal deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves of all teams has to take the cake. Smith intended to sign three one-year deals, each less than $3 million, and then sign an $86 million extension after the final one-year deal was over. The shady negotiation was eventually brought to light and the Timberwolves suffered severe punishments, while Smith was released and then signed a $1.75 million deal with the Detroit Pistons. This series of unfortunate events is beyond tough and is why Smith ranks first on this list of players who bet on themselves and lost.

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