Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal, left, is among the best NBA players in points scored per game. The Wizards, however, aren’t having a good season. Being a very good player on a losing team isn’t rare in sports. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards was not named to the all-star team last week even though he is playing like an all-star. Beal is averaging 29.2 points per game, that’s tied for fourth best in the National Basketball Association (NBA). Beal was upset at not being selected.

Although not an all-star, Beal is something more common at all levels of sports: a great player on a losing team. The Wizards are just 16-31 (16 wins, 31 losses) this season despite Beal’s heroics.

Even kids experience what Beal is going through. Or think they do. When I go to schools to talk about the writing process, I often ask, “Who has ever been the best player on a bad team?” A forest of hands goes up.

Let’s take a look at some other great athletes who have been stuck on bad teams.

Mike Trout just finished his eighth full Major League Baseball (MLB) season with the California Angels. The center fielder has been named the most valuable player (MVP) in the American League three times. He finished second four more times.

Trout does everything a player can do on a baseball field. He hits for average. He hits for power. He steals bases and is a terrific fielder.

In his eight full seasons with California, the Angels have gone to the playoffs only once. And they lost all three games. Last season, the Angels were 72-90. Maybe Trout’s new teammate, former Washington Nationals player Anthony Rendon, will make the Angels better.

But there have been even unluckier players than Trout.


Ernie Banks of the Chicago Cubs was one of baseball’s top players from 1954 to 1960. Twice he won the National League MVP award, but the Cubs had losing seasons during that time. Banks maintained a positive attitude. (AP)

Football linebacker Dick Butkus played nine seasons (1965 to 1973) for the Chicago Bears as one of the most ferocious competitors in the history of the National Football League. He was named to the Pro Bowl eight times. But Butkus never played in the postseason.

Another Chicago great was Ernie Banks. From 1954 to 1960, Banks was one of the greatest players in major league history. He played shortstop for the Cubs and blasted more than 40 home runs in five seasons. He was named the National League MVP in 1958 and 1959.

Injuries slowed Banks and forced him to move to first base. He played a total of 19 seasons for Chicago. Banks was named to 14 all-star teams, but the Cubs had mostly losing seasons and never made it to the World Series.

Still, Banks stayed cheerful. He would say, “It’s a great day for a ballgame; let’s play two.” Not a bad attitude for young athletes to remember when they feel that they’re stuck on a losing team.