These guys aren't living up to their hype

Originally Published: March 23, 2006
By John Hollinger | ESPN Insider
Nobody minds being called underrated. After Tuesday's column on the league's most underrated players, my in-box was full of compliments, with most following the "thank you for finally recognizing our wonderful Player X" format.

"Overrated," on the other hand, has a much different connotation. Nobody likes to be told he's overrated, and fans don't much like to hear their favorite player is overrated, either. Thus, it is with great trepidation that I undertake writing a column about the league's most overrated players. Few column ideas could provide more fertile flame bait.

Kobe Bryant
AP Photo/Alex BrandonOnce upon a time, even Kobe Bryant was a bit overrated.

Nonetheless, I forge bravely ahead. But before we get started, a few ground rules. Some people see the word "overrated" and think it means I'm saying all these players stink. Nothing could be further from the truth. A lot of the players on this list actually are pretty good -- in fact two of them are legitimately great -- but that doesn't change the fact they are perceived, by most, to be better players than they really are.

For a good example, think of Kobe Bryant a few years ago. He was awesome, one of the two vital cogs on a three-time champion team. At the same time, a lot of people were comparing him to Michael Jordan, and that was patently absurd. So even though he was a great player, he was clearly overrated. In Bryant's case, that has now shifted. He's playing better than he ever has, and the hype machine has died down a little, so he's no longer an All-Overrated candidate. But I use his example to illustrate a point: Great players still can be overrated.

In fact, guys can be overrated or underrated at different points in their career. Christian Laettner, for instance, was wildly overrated coming out of college, but was probably underrated toward the end of his career. Latrell Sprewell, on the other hand, was underrated as a Warrior (before that whole P.J. thing, anyway) but overrated as a Knick.

So for the purposes of this list, let's be clear that I'm talking about guys who are overrated today, and let's be especially clear that this isn't a list from three years ago. An easy cop-out would be to make an All-Overrated list of players who were already exposed, and put guys like Antoine Walker, Maurice Taylor and Michael Olowokandi on the list. I won't be doing that.

With that said, here it goes ... the All-Overrated Team for 2005-06:

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