The year was 1995 and a young Kevin Garnett was poised to become the first high school player to skip college and go straight to the NBA. It had been over twenty years since this had been attempted, the Late Darryl Dawkins, the late great hall of famer Moses Malone, and Bill Willoughby were the last players to make the jump. There has been a lot of discussion in recent months should high school players be allowed to go straight to the NBA. We are now over ten years into the one and done era of basketball, and many believe the rule needs to be revamped or done away with entirely.
While the NBA has seen little to no ill affects of the rule it has definitely hurt the college game. Many teams especially your blue blood programs find themselves with completely different teams from year to year. I would argue that for certain programs it can really set them back for years to come. Now for programs like Kentucky, Kansas, and Duke are still thriving under this current rule. Kentucky under coach John Calipari was the first to embrace the one and done rule. He has maintained a high level of success by winning one national title, and countless number of his players have went on to achieve high level of success in the league. Overall, the product on the court in College has not been good with many of the young talent moving on after only one year.
Now the NBA has had great success in my opinion some one and done guys do well some not so much. Names like Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis, John Wall, Demar Derozan, DeMarcus Cousins, Kevin Love, Karl Anthony- Townes, and you get the point the list can go on and on. Look at this past years draft class, which already looks like its going to be one for the history books. So the question is did one year of college really matter? Some the answer is yes, and for others no like Kevin Durant for example.
One may argue and I have heard some of the players say this, that the one year in college helped them with their growth as a man, and also helped them mature some before going to the NBA. While that maybe true one has to ask how did the NBA come to the conclusion that an one and done rule was needed in the first place. It has been this idea that the straight to the NBA from high school was a terrible idea and was not only ruining the NBA, but also the players who were making the jump lives as well. On the surface that may appear to be true, but once you dive into the numbers you quickly realize that idea could not be further from the truth. I will offer a disclaimer of sorts some of the guys that will be listed did not live up to their basketball potential, but at the end of the day playing in the NBA is a job.
The goal is not only to play as long as you can and be successful, but also make as much money as possible some these guys that will be named accomplished just that. There has been a total of 40 players in the modern era to go straight to the NBA from high school. Reggie Harding was the first to attempt to make the jump when he was drafted by the Detroit Pistons in 1962, but could not play because of the NBA's rule at the time. The rule stated that a player had had to wait one year after his high school class had graduated to be eligible to play.
It was not till 1971 when Spencer Haywood decided to test this rule. Haywood left college after his sophomore year and was drafted by the Denver Rockets of the ABA, but the following year he would sign a 6 year 1.5 million dollar deal with the Seattle Supersonics of the NBA. The rule prevented him from playing and signing this lucrative deal. In 1971 he decided to sue the NBA and the case made it all the way to the Supreme Court. They ruled in his favor 7-2 make him eligible to play in the NBA, and pave the way for those to make the jump directing to the league from high school. Legend and Hall Famer Moses Malone made the jump in 1974 joining the Utah Stars of the ABA. A year later Darryl Dawkins made the jump and was drafted 5th overall by Philadelphia 76ers.
As mentioned earlier KG was taken 5th overall and the only high school player taken in that draft. Next year's draft gave us Kobe Bryant taken 13th overall and Jermaine O'Neal taken 17th overall. Tracy McGrady was taken 9th overall in 97', and Al Harrington in 98' was taken 25th overall. These five players NBA success would range from All-time great and Hall Famer to long solid productive NBA careers. McGrady just got elected to the Hall of Fame KG and Kobe will be joining him shortly. Kobe finishes as the second best shooting guard, 5-time NBA champion, one league MVP, and third all-time in scoring. KG finishes as one of the best power forwards to ever play, one NBA championship, one league MVP, and one DOY(defensive player of the year) award. O'Neal makes 3 all-NBA teams, and was a 6 time all-star during his career. Al Harrington the same thing although not a star he played overall 18 seasons and was a starter and key contirbutor for the entirety of his career.
These were highly successful careers, but some guys were not so lucky and these guys are the poster-boys on why going straight to the NBA from high school is such a bad idea. Leon Smith played 14 games, James Lang never saw action, Ndudi Ebi played 19 games over 2 seasons, Robert Swift 97 games over 4 seasons, Ricky Sanchez never played, Ousmane Clsse 1 game, and Korleone Young 15 minutes over 4 games. Korleone Young is the name that always gets brought up when this topic is discussed. He was the obvious big failure that people love to point to when having this discussion. He suffered a back injury and the Piston Organization decided not to invest in him long term. The infrastructure for a lot of these guys was not in place for them to succeed. The talent of Kobe, KG, and T Mac was obvious, but many of these guys needed development the same way the one and done guys are developed now.
Nowadays there is more time, energy, and of course money invested in these young players which increases their odds of success this simply did not exist back then. With that being said out of forty players drafted only 7 of them were busts. That's over a 80 percent success rate, which in my books means that going straight to the NBA from high school was extremely successful. Now for the people that are going to point to the careers of Darius Miles, Eddy Curry, Jonathan Bender, and Kwame Brown and say they never lived up to their potential and had short live careers I would agree, but these gentlemen find themselves in another category. Their career earnings total over 226,713,965 million dollars. Darius Miles made 61,999,973; Eddy Curry made 70,050,993; Jonathan Bender made 30,670,146; and Kwame Brown made 63,992,853 million dollars over the span of their careers. It is often forgotten that this is a job ultimately while you want to have a long successful playing career you also want to earn a bunch of money as well. These players did just that so in my book they experienced success. Its been well documented that Miles and Curry would lose most if not all their fortunes, but someone like Bender who was forced to retire do to bad knees is a successful businessman.
Bottom line when you look at all the stats you have over 13 NBA titles, 5 finals MVP's, 6 league MVP's, 4 defensive players of the year, 75 all star appearances and counting, and well over 400 plus seasons played. Currently you still have several players playing Lou Williams, J.R. Smith, Amir Johnson, CJ Miles, Shaun Livingston, Tyson Chandler, Gerald Green, Dwight Howard and Lebron James who when he retires will be third all-time behind, Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. So the straight to the NBA from high school has been a success and this is a model the NBA needs to return to. This will help solve the one and done problem in college, and with the growth of the G League the development of the two-way contract and the new top prospect salary of 125’000. these players are finally being put into environments and situations where they can mature, develop, and ultimately have long prosperous NBA careers.