Rank 'Em: Cursed No. 1 Overall Picks

Created: January 14, 2010, 9:36 AM

Where would a healthy Bo Jackson's career rank?

Which No. 1 overall picks would have enjoyed the greatest careers if not for the injuries that slowed them?

News that Blake Griffin is out for the season has Clippers fans understandably worried that the team's No. 1 pick could join a long list of players picked first in a draft who never got an opportunity to live up to their potential.How great would Danny Manning's career have been without injuries? What about a healthy decade or two from Ralph Sampson or Bo Jackson?

The 10 candidates below were all No. 1 overall picks in the last 30 years and all showed enough, however briefly, to make a lot of people believe good health was all that stood between them and legendary status. How do you rank them?

  • Steve Emtman
    No. 1 pick in 1992

    Knee injuries to both knees and a neck injury effectively ended the former Washington star's NFL career. Colts fans will always remember the 90-yard TD return against the Dolphins and wonder what if ...
  • Bo Jackson
    No. 1 pick in 1986

    Perhaps the best-know case, Jackson never played for the team that made him the No. 1 pick. But all football fans, and particularly Raiders fans, will wonder what kind of numbers he might have put up if not for that hip injury against the Bengals.
  • Larry Johnson
    No. 1 pick in 1991

    The UNLV stud had a very respectable NBA career (including one of the most generous four-point plays in the history of officiating), but how good could a guy who averaged a double-double his first two seasons have been without those back injuries?
  • Eric Lindros
    No. 1 pick in 1991

    Like some others on this list, Lindros still made his mark in the NHL -- once he finally found a home after a contentious holdout when the Quebec Nordiques drafted him. But the list of injuries that slowed him, including a series of concussions, may have been longer than his career accolades.
  • Danny Manning
    No. 1 pick in 1988

    The guy scored more than 12,000 points in the NBA and played for more than a decade, so maybe there are worse career mirrors for Blake Griffin. Nevertheless, the knee injuries never let us see the full Manning arsenal.
  • Ben McDonald
    No. 1 pick in 1989

    Stephen Strasburg before Stephen Strasburg, McDonald was a golden ticket coming out of college baseball. His first MLB start was a shutout and he posted a 2.43 ERA in his first extensive duty. But just as he was reaching his presumed prime in his late 20s, shoulder injuries derailed his career.
  • Yao Ming
    No. 1 pick in 2002

    Rockets fans are certainly among those hoping Ming makes a full recovery and regains the form that helped him average 25 points per game in the 2006-07 season. Of course, that was a season cut short by injury, as increasingly seems to be his annual fate.
  • Greg Oden
    No. 1 pick in 2007

    Nobody is writing Oden off completely yet -- all right, a few are -- but it's not looking good for a big man who can't seem to stay healthy. Left knee, right knee, the whole foundation seems in peril.
  • Ralph Sampson
    No. 1 pick in 1983

    Now a name used largely as a cautionary tale of unfulfilled potential, Sampson played all 82 games in each of his first two seasons and averaged more than 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. Then came numerous knee surgeries and other ailments.
  • Billy Sims
    No. 1 pick in 1980

    The Heisman winner at Oklahoma in 1978 was Barry Sanders before Barry Sanders in Detroit. Sims made three Pro Bowl appearances in five seasons with the Lions, but he was out of the league in 1985 after a knee injury.