The debate about whether professional athletes in leagues like the NFL and the NBA should attend college has been brewing for a while. Arguments for and against have been discussed between sports fans and announcers alike, and there’s still no definitive answer.
Some believe that if an athlete hasn’t attended college, it makes them less prepared to engage in a higher level of their sport. Things like work ethic, maturity level, and overall experience are all factors that could potentially put them at a disadvantage. People who fall on the other side of the line argue that true talent exists from birth and many athletes don’t need four extra years to prove their worth. Especially because sometimes playing in college means there’s a higher chance of a potential injury complicating or dissolving the athlete’s entire career.
Whatever side you stand on, some especially gifted NBA players, have shown that playing in college or obtaining a university degree made no difference whatsoever. Let’s take a look at some of the greatest NBA giants who never set their 32 sized foot on a college basketball court.
What better way to begin than by honoring “The Black Mamba,” the one and only, late Kobe Bryant. The NBA star entered the league in a similar way as Kevin Garrett who will be discussed later on this list: straight out of high school. Both of them won big awards during that time which allowed them to become points of interest for recruiters. Bryant’s time in the NBA kicked off with him becoming the youngest athlete in the league to win the prestigious Slam Dunk title. From that point, until his tragic sudden passing at the beginning of this year, Kobe Bryant has proved to be an invaluable asset in his sport. A giant in stature and skill, he has won 5 NBA titles, 2 NBA finals, and 1 MVP award, among many other achievements.
The winner of four NBA championships, four MVP awards (not to mention an additional two Olympic gold medals), Lebron James possesses a list of achievements that rival nearly all other professional basketball players. During the majority of his 17-year career, Lebron James’ talent has helped him time and again, demonstrating that he is one of the best players of all time, even drawing comparisons to basketball icon Michael Jordan. His team, the Los Angeles Lakers are even favored in early NBA odds for 2021. Whenever this gigantic star decides to hang up his jersey, Lebron James’ basketball career is sure to leave an unmatchable legacy on the history of the association.
The drafting of Kevin Garnett in 1995 propelled the argument against high school players entering the professional leagues without college experience. Nevertheless, Garnett was chosen by the Minnesota Timberwolves and would spend 12 overall seasons as a valuable member. A rookie straight out of high school, some believe Garnett to be among the best power forwards of his time with a 12-time all-Defense award to prove it. Additionally, he’s been on 15 All-Star teams and won an All-Star MVP, and that’s just a few of his accolades.
All the way back in the late 1970s, a fierce competitor named Moses Malone was drafted straight out of high school into the Utah Stars. His absence in college had no impact whatsoever on his player performance in the big league, as Malone’s career spanned 19 years and saw an entire list of successes. After he retired, he looked back on 3 MVP awards, an NBA title, and a whopping 12 All-Star selections. A nearly two-decade long player of the NBA, he was later inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
Last but not least, German native Dirk Nowitzki never went to college but rather entered the league in 1998 when he was 20 years old. Picked by the Milwaukee Bucks but directly traded to the Dallas Mavericks, Nowitzki spent 21 years in the NBA and just retired last year. Many consider him to be one of the greatest international players to ever set foot on a court, a 7-foot powerhouse who left the Mavs with a great legacy. Currently, his alumni team is making waves in the NBA with some new superstar players.