10.Jermaine-ONeal— 7 Years, $127 Million
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Jermaine O’Neal made four straight All-Star games after signing his massive extension with the Indiana Pacers in 2003, but the volume of his production and the statistical decline in the latter portion of his deal mark his max contract as the best of the worst on our list.
O’Neal was suspended for 15 games following the Malice in the Palace in November 2004, then missed 31 more games due to injury in 2005-06. He recovered to play 69 games in 2006-07, the fourth year of his contract, but was already showing signs of slippage.
He shot just 43.6 percent from the field that season, and then missed another 40 games the following year.
A trade sent O’Neal to the Toronto Raptors in 2009 before another landed him in Miami. His averages hovered around 13 points and seven rebounds in those two stops, far cries from what he was producing early on with Indiana—though, to O’Neal’s credit, he remained an intelligent defender and stayed relatively healthy toward the end of his huge deal.
The Pacers paid for a no-questions-asked superstar cornerstone and got something far less: a once-suspended, chronically injured big man who missed 126 games in five years with the team and eventually had to be unloaded at a discount.
It’s important to note something that’ll apply to most of the contracts here. It’s the team’s responsibility to consider player health when paying max money. Injury makes for a bad deal, but it doesn’t make the injured party a bad guy.
O’Neal and the rest of these players (with limited exceptions) aren’t to blame for landing on this list.