The 20 worst free agent signings in NBA history

Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls NBA (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls NBA (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /
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NBA #20. Jermaine O’Neal 7 years, $126 million

Few players can say that they had as interesting of a career as Jermaine O’Neal. O’Neal was drafted out of high school by the Portland Trail Blazers and spent four seasons there but barely played. He didn’t make much of an impact until his fifth season after being traded to the Indiana Pacers.

There, he quickly emerged as a star. After making the all-star team in 2001–02 and 2002–03, the Pacers re-signed O’Neal to a massive 7-year, $126 million contract. Initially, it looked like a good deal for the Pacers, with O’Neal leading the team in scoring and rebounding while finishing third in MVP voting en route to 61 wins. There were high hopes the following season, only for the Malice at the Palace to derail the Pacers’ year.

O’Neal served a 15-game suspension for punching a fan and then missed time after spraining his shoulder. As a result, he missed 38 games, and Indiana was eliminated in the second round. He would make another two all-star games, but he showed a sharp drop-off in the 2007-08 season, averaging just 13.6 points on 43.9% shooting.

Rather than pay a declining O’Neal, Indiana traded him to Toronto, and then he was dealt to Miami less than half a season later, with his numbers dropping with each stop. By the time his deal was up, O’Neal had gone from an MVP candidate to a role player. Over the seven-season contract, O’Neal averaged a solid 17.6 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks. While that is far from bad, he ultimately didn’t live up to that massive contract after a promising start.