Milk Carton Ballers: What Happened To Khalid El-Amin and Ed O’Bannon

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I haven’t written anything about sports in a minute and quite frankly I’m itching too put some good things down on paper. I used to do a segment called Milk Carton Ballers. It was for old school sports aficionados who always wondered where some guys who electrified us in college and went off the grid were today. Well today we locate Khalid El Amin and Ed O’Bannon.

There hasn’t been a guy like Khalid El Amin in the history of college basketball. He was every overweight kids dream player simply because he was short, stocky, and could get buckets on anyone. (I say this because I fit all of the descriptions you just read as a child and some would argue I still do today but I digress.) Rumor has it that he beat Michael Jordan in a game of one-on-one but I can’t prove it so I’ll leave it at that.

Following a successful college career that included a Big East Freshman of the Year award, a Big East All-First Team selection and winning a National Championship, Khalid El-Amin’s basketball career has taken him all across the world.

Bypassing his senior season, El-Amin was hoping to sneak into the first round of the 2000 NBA Draft, but unfortunately that never panned out. El-Amin was the last of 3 powerhouse 2nd round selections (the other two – AJ Guyton, Jake Voskuhl), by the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls drafted El-Amin 34th overall (by the way, Michael Redd was still on the draft board too and he proved to be a stellar NBA player).

El-Amin played just one season with the Bulls, before signing on with the Dallas Mavericks in 2001. His stay in Dallas didn’t last long, as he never even made it through the pre-season. El-Amin ended up playing the 2001 season in the CBA for the Dakota Wizards and Gary Steelheads.

Realizing that his most realistic chance to make a quality living on the basketball court was overseas, El-Amin packed up his things and headed to Europe. Despite another very brief stop in the NBA with the Miami Heat, El-Amin has been playing internationally ever since.

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He is currently playing in the Ukraine Superleague for Azovmash Mariupol. His team won the 2006 Ukranian Championship while earning MVP honors. He also won the MVP of the league during that season. He’s currently averaging 13.3 points and 5.6 assists this season.

Not that I ever thought Khalid El-Amin would turn into a legitimate pro player, but it’s quite interesting to see where the former UConn product landed. His husky frame, limited defensive skills and sub par jump shot were too much to overcome.

The other player that I am trying to locate is former UCLA standout Ed O’Bannon. Finding  Ed O’Bannon was pretty hard initially as his basketball career was short and simple. Usually when we do these segments we find ballers having a long history over seas. This was not the case for Ed.

When you pack in your NBA career after just two seasons and 634 points, and head off to play in Europe at the age of 26, you are pretty much conceding your legacy will never grow beyond what it already is — which, for O’Bannon, meant being known forever as the guy who scored 30 points with 17 rebounds in the 1995 NCAA championship game, and who won the Final Four most outstanding player award and the Wooden Award as the country’s best college player.

By 1998, having been traded twice in a little over a year, O’Bannon was sick of the NBA, sick of getting just 16 minutes of playing time per game, sick of the bump-and-grind Eastern Conference style, sick of coaches trying to make him into a shooting guard when all he had ever played was power forward.

In a way, by quitting the NBA he was merely fulfilling the destiny that, in hindsight, appeared unavoidable to him from the very day he was drafted. That spring day in Toronto in 1995, with his girlfriend (now his wife) sitting beside him, this L.A.-born, L.A.-raised and L.A.-forever kid watched the cameras swoop in on each prospect just before NBA Commissioner David Stern announced their names, and, as the Nets’ turn approached with the ninth pick, prayed they didn’t descend upon him.

Bad knees and trying to be something that he wasn’t took it’s toll on Ed O’Bannon. Now he works at a car dealership. O’Bannon is suing over royalties used in college basketball video games — which, ironically, EA Sports recently stopped making, probably because that game was always terrible — but the suit is far more important than that. At stake is the NCAA’s model, which grants the business rights to a player’s likeness in perpetuity, which can in turn be used for revenue-generating things like State Farm ads, CBS tournament spots, magazine spreads and, yes, video games. It’s not a minor suit over a few dollars O’Bannon would like to recoup. It’s an organized, class-action effort, and it’s about the $4 billion the NCAA makes off its athletes, and those athletes wanting a piece of the pie.

Who would have thought that a man with the gift of basketball and a smile like Ed O’Bannon’s would never really taste success in a sport that he loved so much.

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