From 1962 to 2005, the NBA has seen players come out of high school straight to the draft. Skipping further seasoning in the college ranks, these players risk having their potential go to waste if not given the proper nurturing while some are simply too talented that they can become their own man in the grown man’s league by themselves. On that note, we have identified fifteen players who reaped the best benefits after taking the plunge by heading straight to the draft out of high school.
15 – Rashard Lewis
Alief Elsik High, 32nd pick in 1998, Seattle SuperSonics
Coming out of Alief Elsik High in Texas where he was named Mr. Basketball during his senior year, Rashard Lewis was selected 32nd overall by the Seattle SuperSonics. It took two excruciating years before Lewis finally found his niche in the NBA. His rare combination of length and shooting accuracy earned him 2 All Star game appearances.
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14 – Monta Ellis
Lanier High School, 40th pick in 2005, Golden State Warriors
Monta Ellis led Lanier High School to a 129-16 win-loss record during his four year stay and, at one point, scored 72 points in a single game. Ellis was named Mr. basketball for Mississippi and is also the state’s second all-time leading scorer. Ellis was drafted in the second round by the Golden State Warriors and despite not being selected in any All Star team as of yet, Ellis is recognized as one of the league’s most lethal offensive weapons.
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13 – Al Jefferson
Prentiss High School, 15th pick in 2004, Boston Celtics
Al Jefferson posted monstrous numbers in his senior year at Prentiss High School averaging 42.6 points, 18 rebounds, and 7 blocks per game. Jefferson was the number one ranked center and number four ranked player overall prior to entering the NBA draft. Big Al was drafted by the Celtics and played in Boston for three years until he got traded to Minnesota in a package for Kevin Garnett. Al Jeff went on to become the franchise player for his three teams (Minnesota, Utah, Charlotte) while also earning an All NBA Third Team citation along the way.
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12 – Darryl Dawkins
Maynard Evans High School, 5th pick in 1975 by Philadelphia 76ers
Darryl Dawkins holds the distinction of being the first player to transition from high school straight to the NBA (Moses Malone started in the ABA). He led Maynard Evans High School to a Florida State Championship earning high praises for his dominant play on the glass. As an NBA player, Dawkins was popular for his thunderous backboard-breaking dunks and his non-stop supply of catchy names [for his dunks] and phrases. His most popular nickname is probably “Chocolate Thunder” and he claims to be from the planet “Lovetron”.
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11 – Josh Smith
John McEachern High / Oak Hill Academy, 17th pick in 2004, Atlanta Hawks
J-Smoove initially played at John McEachern High then transferred to the highly touted Oak Hill Academy for his senior year where he started to gain a reputation for being an elite shot blocker. Smith led his team, alongside Rajon Rondo, to an immaculate 38-0 record while averaging 22 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, and 6 blocks per game. Smith went on to the NBA and maintained his all around display of talent while proving to be one of the game’s most versatile and exciting players during his best seasons in Atlanta.
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10 – Amar’e Stoudemire
Cypress Creek High School, 9th pick in 2002, Phoenix Suns
Due to family issues, Amar’e Stoudemire was forced to move from one high school to another a number of times. The prep phenom attended 5 different school and ended up playing his senior year at Cypress Creek High School. As a senior, he averaged 29.1 points, 15 rebounds, 2.1 steals, and 6.1 blocks dominating his way to being named Florida’s Mr. Basketball. Stoudemire was drafted by Phoenix and immediately made an impact by winning Rookie of the Year honors beating out a highly celebrated rookie in Houston’s Yao Ming. STAT (his nickname) was selected to 6 All Star teams and was also a member of the 2007 All NBA First Team.
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9 – Jermaine O’Neal
Eau Claire High School of the Arts, 17th pick in 1996, Portland Trail Blazers
Jermaine O’Neal started out as a 6’4” guard in high school before a late growth spurt that allowed him to focus on honing his big man skills. O’Neal idolized Bill Russell so he worked on his defense and, during his senior year, he posted gaudy numbers of 22.4 points, 12.4 rebounds, and 5.2 blocks per outing. Portland took notice and they quickly nabbed him as their first round pick. Although O’Neal had a rocky start to his professional career, he made up for lost time when he got traded to Indiana. The move paved the way for 6 All Star selections and a Most Improved Player award to name a few of his accomplishments.
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8 – Tyson Chandler
Dominguez High School, 2nd pick in 2001, Los Angeles Clippers (traded to Bulls)
A 2-time Mr. Basketball awardee for the state of California, Tyson Chandler was likened to Shaquille O’Neal in high school and fittingly so as he averaged 26 points, 15 rebounds, and 8 blocks per ball game while leading his team to a state championship. Chandler, however, became a different player in the pros as he eventually found his niche as an elite defensive player and a great team player. Still, he managed to enjoy a decorated NBA career boasting of an All Star appearance, a Defensive Player of the Year award, and an NBA championship thus far.
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7 – Shawn Kemp
Concord High School, 17th pick in 1989, Seattle SuperSonics
From being one of the most exciting players in the league to suffering personal issues left and right ultimately affecting his play on the court, Shawn Kemp’s NBA life has had its own peaks and valleys. However, there is no denying Kemp’s impact as a player especially to Seattle where he enjoyed his best year where the Reign Man was a 6-time NBA All Star (1 as a Cavalier) and 3-time member of the All NBA Second Team. Similar to his pro career, Kemp’s high school days also stirred with controversy after controversy but when it all boils down to basketball, Kemp was an absolute man-beast.
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6 – Tracy McGrady
Auburndale High School (first 3 years) / Mount Zion Christian Academy, 9th pick in 1997, Toronto Raptors
Tracy McGrady, during his good years, was among the most dominant forces in the league. He simply had all the physical gifts and talent and these enabled him to win 2 scoring titles and a couple of All NBA first team citation. But before he was all that, T-Mac strutted his stuff at Auburndale High School for three years before eventually transferring to Mount Zion Christian Academy. McGrady averaged 27.5 points, 8.7 rebounds, 7.7 assists, and 2.8 steals during his senior year where he was also named High School Player of the Year by USA Today.
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5 – Dwight Howard
Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy, 1st pick in 2004, Orlando Magic
Dwight Howard is one of the most athletic centers in NBA history and his journey started in Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy. Howard led his team to the state title during his senior year where he normed 25 points, 18 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 8.1 blocks per game. Howard won Gatorade National Player of the Year award and was also named Naismith Prep Player of the Year among other accolades in his senior year. He was then selected top overall by the Orlando Magic in 2004 and eventually evolved to become a dominant force down low and an elite defensive presence, winning 3 straight Defensive Player of the Year trophies from 2009 to 2011.
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4 – Kevin Garnett
Mauldin High School (first 3 years) / Farragut Career Academy, 5th pick in 1995, Minnesota Timberwolves
Kevin Garnett started playing high school ball at South Carolina’s Mauldin High where he was named Mr. Basketball for South Carolina. A incident outside the basketball court prompted Garnett to transfer to Chicago’s Farragut Career Academy for his senior year where he continued his dominant play, averaging 25.2 points, 17.9 rebounds, 6.7 assists, and 6.5 blocks en route to being named Illinois’ Mr. Basketball and USA Today’s National High School Player of the Year. Garnett entered the 1995 NBA draft and was drafted by Minnesota where he went on to win an MVP award in 2004 and become the best player in Timberwolves history. Towards his latter years, Garnett was traded to the Boston Celtics where he immediately won an NBA championship.
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3 – Moses Malone
Petersburg High School, 22nd pick in 1974, Utah Stars (ABA)
Moses Malone averaged 36 points, 26 rebounds, and 12 blocks in an immensely dominant senior year in high school resulting in a massive pursuit among colleges, more than 200, to secure his services. Malone had a very impressive high school career leading his team to back to back state titles and, at one point, a 50-game winning streak. Malone started his professional career in the now defunct ABA but eventually found himself dominating the NBA hardwood, winning 3 Most Valuable Player awards in a span of 21 playing years.
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2 – Kobe Bryant
Lower Merion High School, 13th pick in 1996, Charlotte Hornets (traded to Lakers)
As a high school senior, Kobe Bryant averaged 30.8 points, 12.0 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 4.0 steals, and 3.8 blocks leading his Aces team to the state championship. Bryant was also named Naismith High School Player of the Year and Gatorade Men’s National Basketball Player of the Year. To top it all off, he scored more career points than one particular Philly legend in the late great Wilt Chamberlain. When Bryant was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets, he was immediately, shipped to Los Angeles for Vlade Divac where he went on to become one of the Lakers’ all-time greats and eclipsing Michael Jordan’s career scoring total.
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1 – LeBron James
St. Vincent–St. Mary High School, 1st pick in 2003, Cleveland Cavaliers
LeBron James led his Fighting Irish squad to a 101-6 win-loss record over four seasons, being named Ohio’s Mr. Basketball in his senior year and attracting national attention. Even in his high school days, James has already impressed with his unique combination of physique, skills, and basketball IQ making him one of the best, if not the best, prospects to come out of high school. Upon stepping into the NBA, The King did not disappoint and has so far built one of the most decorated careers of all time, winning 4 Most Valuable Player awards and two World Championships to top everything else.