There has been a never-ending debate about high school players jumping straight to the NBA. While some of the greatest players in league history have never played a single college game, there are also quite a number of high schoolers who failed at the pros. The competition at the next level is much faster, stronger and older. Many are reluctant to skip college because of these concerns.
With former high school stars like Kwame Brown, Robert Swift, Jonathan Bender and Sebastian Telfair failing in the league, it’s understandable that the practice has been shut down since 2005. But with every failure, there are a few who found tremendous success in the pros despite being so young. Today, we will list the top 10 high schoolers who became stars in the league.
10. Andrew Bynum
Bynum still holds the record of being the youngest player ever to be drafted and to appear in an NBA game. Although it took him time to develop, Bynum was the Lakers’ starting center during their back-to-back titles from 2009 to 2010.
He was even named an All-star and a second-team All-NBA member in 2012. Sadly, the 7-footer suffered multiple knee injuries before his prime years and retired at the young age of 27.
9. Al Jefferson
It took a while for Jefferson to get acclimated to the physicality of the NBA but when he figured things out how to contribute, the former high school star instantly became a nightly double-double threat.
Although Big Al wasn’t named an all-star during his 14 seasons in the league, he was named a member of the All-NBA Third Team in 2014 and went on to score over 14,000 in his NBA career.
8. Monta Ellis
Most analysts were skeptical about Ellis’ leap from high school to the NBA as he was a bit undersized as a shooting guard at just 6’3″.
But the diminutive Ellis became a legitimate scoring threat in just his second season and went on to win the Most Improved Player award in 2007. He averaged 17.8 PPG in his career and scored 14,858 points from 2004 to 2017.
7. Jermaine O'Neal
Selected as the 17th overall pick in the 1996 NBA draft by Portland, O’Neal enjoyed a fairly successful career in the league before injuries robbed him of his talents.
He was named a six-time All-star, made three All-NBA teams and won a Most Improved Player award in 2002. O’Neal was once considered one of the best power forwards of the game during the early 2000s.
6. Amar'e Stoudemire
Unlike most prep-to-pro players, Stoudemire was NBA-ready out of the gate. He was named Rookie of the Year in 2003 and quickly established himself as a future star in the NBA.
For most of his time in the league, Stoudemire was a beast on the court. He was named a six-time All-star, and five-time All-NBA team member, mostly in his time with the Suns and the Knicks.
5. Tracy McGrady
If it wasn’t for injuries, T-Mac would have been one of the greatest scorers in the history of the game. McGrady was one of the NBA’s top players for nearly a decade but injuries degraded his abilities to perform on a high level in the latter part of his career.
Aside from being named an All-star seven times, McGrady was a member of seven All-NBA teams and was the league’s scoring champion from 2003 to 2004.
4. Dwight Howard
Dwight played like a grown man against kids when he was in high school so it was a no-brainer for him to skip college and jump directly to the pros.
Howard was considered as one of the top centers for most of his career and was a defensive force down the block en route to winning three Defensive Player of the Year awards.
In addition, he was named an eight-time All-star, a member of eight All-NBA teams, a four-time member of NBA Defensive teams and contributed to the Lakers’ 2020 title run.
3. Kevin Garnett
Garnett’s name is often included in the top 5 power forwards in the history of the league. By looking at his career accomplishments, it’s easy to understand why.
The Big Ticket was named league MVP in 2004, a member of fifteen All-star teams and nine All-NBA teams and won the Defensive Player of the Year in 2008.
Garnett scored over 26,000 points and grabbed nearly 15,000 rebounds in his career in the league. Plus, he was named one of the NBA’s 75 Greatest Players.
2. Kobe Bryant
Where do we begin? Fans and analysts alike overwhelmingly agree that Kobe was one of the best players to ever play the game. The impact he left on the game only rivals Jordan’s, if we are being honest about it.
He was a five-time NBA champion, an eighteen-time All-star, a member of the NBA All-NBA team fifteen times, a twelve-time member of the NBA’s All-Defensive teams and a league MVP in 2008.
The Black Mamba scored over 33,000 points in his NBA career, all in a Laker uniform. Even after his untimely death in 2020, Kobe continues to be a beloved figure worldwide.
1. LeBron James
Arguably the most hyped high school player in the history of the game, LeBron more than held his own to become one of the greatest players who ever held a basketball.
The bar was set so high with LeBron and it was essentially on the level of if he won’t make the Hall of Fame, he’ll be considered a bust.
But the self-proclaimed “King” was way more than the NBA could handle as he was a dominant force from the get-go. There was no transition phase for him coming from high school to the pros as he immediately became a once-in-a-lifetime player from the start to this day.
He has won every major award in the process and is currently the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. By the time he decides to retire, there won’t be another player like him.
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