#ForgottenFridays – Von Wafer

Revisiting players who have quietly disappeared from the league.

In this series, we revisit players who were once valuable contributors at some point during their NBA careers, but have quietly disappeared from the league.

In this weekly series, we revisit players who were once valuable contributors and maybe even well known during their NBA careers, but have since quietly disappeared from the league. The kind of players who make you go “Oh yeah! I remember that guy”.

This week, we will cover Houston Rockets fan favorite – Von Wafer.


Von Wafer was picked 39th overall in the 2005 draft and bounced around the League & D-League his first three years. His breakout moment came when the Houston Rockets signed him during the 2008-09 season because of injuries to Tracy McGrady. Von quickly became an invaluable scorer off the bench during the second half of that season. He was extremely athletic, a good slasher, 3PT shooter, and driver. While his defense, passing and rebounding were mediocre, he was a key cog of the Yao Ming led Rockets team that finally made it out of the 1st round by beating the Portland Trailblazers.

Von Wafer played with extreme emotion, which was both good and bad. As a fan, you never questioned his heart and desire to win. However, Von’s failure to control his emotions often got him into trouble with his coaches and teammates, and is one of the biggest reasons why he doesn’t play in the League today.

Career Highlight

I will always remember Von Wafer’s game against the Lakers on January 13th, 2009. Starting in place of an injured McGrady, Von played 39 minutes and scored 23 points on 10-14 shooting. It wasn’t just the points though, it was how FEARLESS he played. Defensively, Von hounded reigning MVP Kobe all night, harassing him into 13-32 (40%) shooting and collecting two steals. On offense, he wasn’t afraid to go right at the Black Mamba, throwing in a dazzling array of drives, dunks, crossovers, 3PTM, and step-backs. Yao Ming, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Luis Scola, Shane Battier and Lamar Odom all played that game, but for one night, Von Wafer was better than all of them.

Turning Point

“He could be a factor. He’s got the quickness and athletic ability, but the concentration wasn’t always there.”

Von’s magical run from January to May in 2009 would be the prime of his career. In a playoff game against the Lakers, he vehemently argued with Rick Adelman about his playing time and was subsequently banished to the locker room. As Adelman later put it: “He could be a factor. He’s got the quickness and athletic ability, but the concentration wasn’t always there.” Interestingly, the same thing could have been said of J.R. Smith a few years back.

It was all downhill for Wafer after that. He bounced around in Europe before forgettable stints with the Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic. He started making the news for the wrong reasons: getting into a fight with teammate Delonte West, and this infamous Shaqtin’ moment.

Current Status

After being waived by the Magic in 2012, Wafer bounced around Europe and China, never staying in the same place for more than a year. As expected, he was a superstar in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA), but still could not control his emotions. He ended his CBA career by punching a Chinese player in the groin and throwing a chair into the stands.

Now realizing his basketball career could soon be coming to an end, Von Wafer is back in the U.S. and desperately seeking another chance at the NBA, claiming he has settled down and matured.

At 31 years old with all that extra baggage on him, it’s unlikely Von gets the second chance he’s looking for. Even so, I’m happy he has seemingly turned around his personal life.

Best of luck to you Von. I hope you get that opportunity you’re working so hard for.

Author: Jasper Wu

Jasper is a consultant in New York City and founder of BallAndOne.com and Wu Advisory. He graduated from Cornell University.

2 thoughts on “#ForgottenFridays – Von Wafer”

  1. With God all things are possible…the odds said he wouldn’t make it the first time. Von has grown tremendously and life has taken it’s course with this young man. The question now… will his talent shake hands with opportunity again? I say YES!!! I am , of course, his biggest fan. I hope to see this passion again.

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