The Unaccompanied Minors of the NBA

If you give it some thought, the most prominent marquee superstars of the NBA for the last decade, have ironically enough, primarily come from straight out of high school.  Whether by coincidence or fate, these players have managed to sculpt tremendous professional careers, some more than others of course.  Regardless, the proof is in the pudding.

Kobe Bryant:
The most imposing figure in this discussion would obviously be four-time champion, former league MVP and 12-time All-Star, Kobe Bryant.  From the onset, Bryant was heavily criticized and dubbed as being “arrogant” for bypassing college basketball and taking his talent straight into the Association.  However, to date, the Black Mamba has earned a reputation as the hardest working, most dedicated player since Michael Jordan and perhaps even all-time, which in itself speaks volumes about his commitment to mastering the game of basketball. He’s obviously been nothing but a winner, already having played in six NBA Finals, winning four of them and currently vying for a seventh appearance in a 14-year career. For this man at least, NCAA basketball would have essentially been a waste of his time.

Kevin Garnett:
Right behind Kobe, you’ve got NBA champion, former MVP and 13-time All-Star, Kevin Garnett, who essentially set the modern day trend of skipping college for the pros.  Garnett immediately silenced all of his own critics by displaying awe-inspiring talent and playing with a brand of intensity seldom seen in the NBA, especially as a rookie. KG spent a long 12 years as the unquestioned best player and leader in Minnesota with very little in the way of a supporting cast. Granted he was able to carry his team to the Western Conference Finals just one time, but it was not until he joined the Boston Celtics that he became a defensive anchor, winning both Defensive Player of the Year honors and his first NBA title in 2008.

LeBron James:
No other high school player in the history of sports received more national coverage and hype than two-time NBA league MVP and six-time All-Star, LeBron James. Even as a junior at St. Vincent-St. Mary high school in Akron, OH, James scored an unprecedented front cover on Sports Illustrated’s legendary monthly magazine. In his first game on the road against the Sacramento Kings, LeBron filled the stat sheet with 25 points on 60% shooting, 6 boards and 4 steals. While he has yet to win an NBA championship in seven seasons, at the age of 25, you’ve got to think that his best days are still ahead of him.  His talent is simply too out of this world to think otherwise.

Other Studs:
Dwight Howard, Amare Stoudemire, Tracy McGrady, Jermaine O’Neal, Rashard Lewis, Al Harrington, Andrew Bynum, Monta Ellis and Josh Smith are all straight out of high school as well. While Dwight and Amare definitely stand heads and shoulders above the others, players like T-Mac and Jermaine were unfortunate victims of major injuries that derailed what was looking to be long, fruitful careers as top stars in the league. Regardless, all of the aforementioned players earned multi-million dollar NBA contracts before they even graduated from high school and grew into their bodies.

While all of these players are highly-prized diamonds and gems in the NBA, we must give credence to the fact that they are just as well, needles in a haystack. You do not come by a Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett or a LeBron James every other year. Superstars who have the talent to back up a furious work ethic, the total package so to speak, only come through once or twice in an era. It’s easy to get caught up in their sensational abilities, but just because a player may be “good enough” to make the early jump right into the NBA, their success is in no form or manner preemptively guaranteed.

NEXT: One and Done
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