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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#13. Jerome James: 5 years, $30 million

Few people probably remember journeyman center Jerome James, but he is a legend at the bank after fleecing the New York Knicks. James started his NBA career in 1998 with the Sacramento Kings but played just 16 games for them. He missed the entire following season before joining the Seattle Supersonics.

There, he carved out a role for himself over four seasons, even starting 80 games during the 2004–05 season. Despite that and being 7’1, James wasn’t all that productive. That season, he averaged 4.9 points and 3 rebounds per game, but that changed in the playoffs. In 11 games against the Kings and San Antonio Spurs, James increased his production to 12.5 points and 6.8 rebounds.

James played well, but it seemed clear to everyone but the Knicks that it was a flash-in-the-pan playoff run. That summer, New York offered him a big 5-year, $30 million contract, which he quickly accepted. Although that doesn’t seem like a lot now compared to modern deals, his $6 million per season ate up about 11% of the cap.

For comparison, that same percentage of the salary cap would equal about $13.4 million. Just imagine your favorite team tripping over themselves to sign a mediocre center who played over his head to a five-year contract. That’s exactly what the Knicks did, and it was a big mistake.

Over the next five seasons, James played a total of 90 games out of a possible 410, and only some of that was due to injury. James struggled with his weight (who hasn’t?) and showed up to training camp completely out of shape. The extra weight likely contributed to his missing 27 games due to injury and averaging just 3.1 points per game in his first season as a Knick.

It was all downhill from there. He played 41 games the following season and a total of four games over the final three seasons of his deal (and his career). Imagine making at least $16 million over three years just to play 15 minutes of basketball. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: legend at the bank.