Stardom in the NBA: Who are the best one-season wonders in recent history?

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Stardom is the NBA is fickle and no one really knows how long they have in the spotlight. Some players explode from the get-go while some break out from the masses.

But being a superstar requires consistency over multiple years. Injuries might reduce the shine of some stars, as in Derrick Rose, but plenty of other players find success only for a short time.

So who are the NBA’s best one-season wonders in recent years?

Jeremy Lin

Jeremy Lin is perhaps the most famous one-season wonder of recent years, although he has enjoyed a strong season with the Charlotte Hornets.

Lin took the road less travelled to the NBA via Harvard and has had to work endlessly to make it. He went undrafted in 2010 but was given a start with Golden State. His time in California was something of a struggle and expectations were lowered by the Warriors brass.

After the 2011 lockout, Lin was waived and had a 12-day stint in Houston before joining New York. Lin put on that famous Knicks jersey and never looked back. He only played 35 times for the franchise but became a sensation.

Explosive performances on the court saw ‘Linsanity’ sweep the nation. Lin put up 14.6 points, 6.2 assists and 1.6 steals per game and became one of the most popular athletes in the Big Apple.

After the California native charmed many at the All-star weekend, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today said: “It's a testament to Lin's level head in the face of a life-changing three weeks and unprecedented coverage since the NBA's first American-born player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent injected the league with an insanely popular and positive story."

The offseason saw some drama with Houston waiting to reclaim Lin and the Knicks’ intentions unclear but the guard eventually put on the Rockets’ red for the next season and, to be fair, he did not do badly.

The now-27-year-old started every game and his numbers were almost identical, but lost his starting place in the 2013-14 campaign, and could not reclaim it the next year, even on the tanking Lakers roster.

Still, Lin was effective, averaging over 10 points in every season since his second and he has found a role for himself on the improving Charlotte Hornets team. Lin never reclaimed his past numbers, nor ‘Linsanity’, but he has always been a good rotation player.

Mike James

A point guard who also went undrafted in 1998, Mike James only made the journey to the NBA in 2001.Between then and 2005, James played for five different teams, as he carved out a niche for himself as an effective bench player.

The 2005-06 season, however, was one few could have predicted. At Toronto, the New York native became a starter and erupted for 20.3 points and 5.8 assists per game while being the NBA’s third best shooter from behind the arc.

Toronto was a good fit for Mike and he was the first Raptor to score 30 or more points in four consecutive games. There were still plenty of doubters but the numbers speak for themselves. If they didn’t though, the pundits did.

John Schuhmann of analysed James’ season like this: “James gave them some scoring punch on the perimeter to compliment Chris Bosh down low. He… has hit countless big shots this season, never afraid to step up in a key moment. It has been a breakout year for Mike James.”

He joined the Timberwolves for the next season but his numbers nearly halved. Nothing went right and nothing would really go right again for the rest of his career.

The point guard played on until 2014 but never again eclipsed 10 points per game and grew increasingly insignificant in the league. After that, he joined the D-League where, even at 40 years old, James was a very good player as he once was in the Raptors’ red.

Jamaal Magloire

In fairness to Jamaal Magloire, the main reason he is here is a certain accolade he earnt. Drafted by the Charlotte Hornets in 2000, the center spent his first two years as a rotation option before his fortunes changed when the team relocated.

In New Orleans, Magloire started every game of his first two seasons and his performances improved a lot. In 2003-04, his second season in NOLA, and his fourth overall, the University of Kentucky product averaged a double-double with 13.6 points, 10.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game, while also putting up a career-high in free-throw percentage.

Magloire’s solid contributions saw him named to and thrive on the Eastern Conference All-Star team, becoming only the second Canadian All-Star, after Steve Nash. His stock was at a high and remained so for a while.

“[Jamaal] will be a strong addition to our ballclub and hopefully help us win more games,” then-Trail Blazers head coach Nate McMillan told

The next year started well but was disrupted by injuries. He was traded to Milwaukee for the 2005-06 campaign, where his productivity fell only slightly, and then became something of a journeyman.

The Center played for six teams in eight seasons after leaving New Orleans and his role was gradually reduced, never starting more than 23 games in a season again, and rarely averaging more than three points. Magloire retired in 2012, never again coming close to the All-Star campaign he had in 2003-04.

Greivis Vasquez

Vasquez was drafted in 2010’s first round by the Memphis Grizzlies but failed to make an impact and was traded to New Orleans after just one season.In his sophomore campaign, Greivis proved to be quite efficient and became a starter in his second year as a Hornet.

In this 2012-13 campaign, Greivis was the league’s top assister with 704 and finished second in the Most Improved award, setting career highs with 13.9 points per game, nine assists, and 4.3 rebounds.

Vasquez was his “team’s unquestioned MVP”, according to Jeff Duncan of, and the bargain of the season. Indeed, it seemed as though his “old-school game” would carry him to greatness.

"He's one of the most improved players in the league," then-Pistons coach Lawrence Frank said to Duncan. "He's got great court vision, plus he shoots it well enough where you have to respect his shot. He has good size, and plays with a lot of confidence and flare. He has a lot of toughness and is a very good player."

Before the next season started, though, Greivis was traded to Sacramento and replaced by Jrue Holiday two days later. Vasquez played only 18 times as a King before being traded to Toronto for Rudy Gay and, in Canada, he lost his starting role.

The Venezuelan's points fell, never averaging double-digit since, and his assists almost halved immediately. Now in Milwaukee, Greivis faces an uphill battle to recover his old form, which had him on the verge of elite.

Lance Stephenson

Maybe this is early, but at this point, Lance is a one season wonder. He was a second round pick back in 2010 but did very little of note for years. In 2012-13, though, an injury to Danny Granger gave Lance a starting spot and he started to show promise.

The Brooklyn native impressed greatly in the playoffs and these performances were a hint of things to come. The 2013-14 season was the one when the Cincinnati product leapt forward.

The shooting guard scored nearly 14 points per game, 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists proving to be a versatile and valuable starter, finishing as the runner-up to Goran Dragic in the Most Improved award. Lance was a star and TNT analyst Charles Barkley called his All-Star snub a “travesty”, via David Woods of

Woods also told of how then-Pacers coach Frank Vogel spoke of Lance’s rise. "When he started last season, we weren't even sure he was going to be in the rotation. (Now) he's a triple-double threat every night."

Indiana needed to re-sign him but, in the offseason, he signed a three-year contract with Charlotte. This, however, was a bad fit for all involved and Lance was a rare starter. His numbers fell drastically and it was only a matter of time before Lance was on the trade block.

He was moved on after a year to the Clippers but his numbers fell even further before he was again traded with a first-round pick to Memphis for the ever-inconsistent Jeff Green, showing just how far his stock had fallen.

Lance’s scoring seemed to be rekindled in 26 games with the Grizzlies, but if he wants to avoid being just another one season wonder, he needs to keep improving to once more become the player he can be.

Charlotte Hornets
Southeast Division
Eastern Conference
New York Knicks
Atlantic Division
Toronto Raptors
New Orleans Pelicans
Southwest Division
Western Conference
Indiana Pacers
Central Division
Jeremy Lin

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