O.J. Mayo was supposed to be the “Next LeBron James,” what happened?

Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images /

He was considered to be the next big thing in the NBA, but O.J. Mayo’s career fell short of expectations.

Next to LeBron James it didn’t get much bigger than high school O.J. Mayo. As a seventh grader he was putting up 23 points a game on a high school varsity team, but what happened to the one who was supposed to be “The Next LeBron“?

Mayo drew some of the largest crowds to high school basketball games, and had the type of self-confidence in his game that he actually thought he could beat Michael Jordan 1-on-1 at his own camp (Spoiler alert, it didn’t end well).

After a solid start to his NBA career — an All-Rookie team nod — Mayo went from shining star to eventually being banned from the league entirely. So what happened to the former high school standout who was on magazine covers and getting followed by local news stations as a 16-year-old?

Lets go back to a freshman in high school who averaged 29 points a game against some of the nation’s top players. Mayo was so popular that a record 16,000 people came to watch the NBA superstar-to be.

When Mayo decided to sign with USC, the LA scene only heightened his image. In his lone season as a Trojan, Mayo didn’t disappoint.  He averaged 20 points and was named first team All-Pac-10.

Nothing and no one was stopping — or going to stop — O.J. Mayo.

Despite receiving improper benefits while at USC, no one really cared. He still went third in the draft. He still got a Nike offer. He then lived up to the hype by averaging 19 points a night as a rookie.

But that’s was good as it would get.

Mayo’s production started to fall…fast. By his third year in the league Mayo lost his starting spot to Tony Allen averaging 11 points a game. Fights with teammates, not showing up to practices on time and a 10-game suspension from steroid use led to the Grizzlies and Mayo parting ways after four seasons.

A mini comeback happened in Dallas for a season when Mayo averaged 15 points and shot a career best 40% from three. He looked like he was back on track, but that was his final season as a full-time starter. A three-year deal with the Milwaukee Bucks began with Mayo losing playing time because he was out of shape.

Then, this happened.

Mayo got handed a two-year ban from the league for abusing prescribed painkillers. Although he can still apply for reinstatement, the more time goes by the more we realize we have seen the last of Mayo in the NBA.

Now, Mayo’s playing overseas. First in Puerto Rico, most recently in China where he’s putting up numbers everyone expected to see in the NBA. He might’ve found success abroad, but it’s not close to the expectations experts had for O.J. Mayo.