On first glance, this may seem like a preposterous question. Andrew Bynum is a physically gifted 7 footer who helped the Los Angeles Lakers win two NBA titles and has made as much as $16 million in a single season to play basketball. Every team in the league carries a number of journeymen who make the league minimum salary and rarely have a chance to step on the court. Even though his career his career has gone downhill in recent years due to a mixture of injuries and questionable work ethic, most people would consider it absurd to call him the worst player of all time.
I should point out that when I call him the worst player of all time, I am not commenting on the totality of his career; I am talking about the post-Lakers version of Andrew Bynum. I do believe that the current version of Andrew Bynum is quite literally the worst player in NBA history, much worse than the scores of players that only managed a brief 10-day contract and never scored more than two baskets in their career. The reason that circa-2014 Andrew Bynum is worse than those players is that while all those Joe Wassisnames never made their teams better, they at least didn’t make them worse. No NBA team could ever say the reason they had a losing season was because of the 12th man on the roster who played 18 minutes over the course of the season. The reason Andrew Bynum can stake a claim as the worst player in league history is that he actually does significant harm to his team.
After the Lakers exercises a $16 million dollar option on Bynum in 2012, they were then part of a multi-team trade in which the 76ers gave up their star player Andrew Iguodala in exchange for Bynum. Despite being on the hook for Bynum’s $16 million salary, knee injuries prevented him from playing a single game for the 76ers, and the team went into a tailspin the culminated with the longest losing streak in NBA history this year.
Bynum signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers this past off season, but only managed to make it as far as December before being suspended indefinitely for conduct detrimental to the team. It is difficult to imagine anything as humiliating for a supposedly star basketball player than getting kicked off the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Up to this point, Bynum had only ever damaged a team by causing them to trade away star players for him or for chewing up millions of dollars in money and cap space without contributing on the court. But when the Indiana Pacers signed him February, he lowered his game to a whole other level.
The Pacers didn’t trade anyone for Bynum and they didn’t sign him for a lot of money by NBA standards. After they signed him, he only played in two games before going on the injured list with a sore knee. Despite only nominally being a member of the Pacers, Bynum’s aura of awfulness seems to have somehow magically destroyed what was once one of the favourites to win the NBA title.
Some may argue that Rudy Gay may rival Bynum in that every team that gets rid of him seems to experience a remarkable improvement in performance. That is certainly true, but Rudy Gay has never actually managed to truly set a successful franchise back several years, and whatever harm he does, he at least does it on the court. It is Andrew Bynum’s ability to wreck a team without even playing for them that secures his position as the worst player of all time.