Last week, Neil Paine had a post on the Basketball-Reference blog looking at the greatest winners and losers among individual players in NBA history. It reminded me of Jamal Crawford. The Hawks’ guard had missed the playoffs every season of his nine-year NBA campaign entering 2009-10. Crawford’s postseason drought is not only the longest active one in the NBA but has climbed to fourth in league history to start a career at 655 games and counting. Crawford trails three-time All-Star Tom Van Arsdale, who never reached the playoffs (929 games), Shareef Abdur-Rahim (744) and Otto Moore (688).
Fortunately, Crawford’s story will have a happy ending. Barring an unprecedented collapse, he’ll reach the playoffs with the Hawks this season. Still, he’s seen a lot of losses. Earlier this season, I looked up the worst career records (minimum five seasons) for players who were active in 2008-09. Note that this is the record of the team with which the player ended the season, so Crawford is credited entirely for the Golden State Warriors last year and not at all for his time with the New York Knicks (in this case, it wouldn’t have changed things much if at all).
Player TW TL Win% Sebastian Telfair 118 292 .288 Jamal Crawford 230 508 .312 Royal Ivey 136 274 .332 Darius Miles 200 374 .348 Emeka Okafor 144 266 .351 Eddy Curry 232 424 .354 Marko Jaric 203 371 .354 Al Jefferson 148 262 .361 Chris Wilcox 210 364 .366 Josh Smith 153 257 .373
Crawford and Telfair have both seen their luck change this season, but Okafor’s playoff drought continues on and Jefferson has enjoyed little more success. On the other end of the spectrum:
Player TW TL Win% DJ Mbenga 307 103 .749 Manu Ginobili 407 167 .709 Tony Parker 465 191 .709 Tim Duncan 669 283 .703 Josh Howard 338 154 .687 Bruce Bowen 683 351 .661 Shaquille O'Neal 899 463 .660 Kobe Bryant 678 356 .656 Derek Fisher 676 358 .654 Dirk Nowitzki 567 303 .652
I mentioned Mbenga’s amazing team success in Pro Basketball Prospectus 2009-10; he’s been to three NBA Finals in his career and has a chance at another this season. This list is pretty much entirely Spurs, Mavericks and Lakers. Consider this: O’Neal has been a part of fewer losses in his 18-year NBA career than Crawford has experienced in 10 years.