NBA Players That Didn’t Go to College: Who Are They?

Have you ever wondered if there are NBA players that didn't go to college? Or are you curious to know these players? Do you want to know why these players got a spot in the NBA without going to college?

If that's the case, then this article is specifically for you. We've provided you with rich information on these questions. You will find out these players' names and career history, starting from the early years right to recent times.

  1. Reggie Harding

Reggie Harding was an American professional basketball player who was chosen by the Detroit Pistons in 1962. Thus, he became the first player to have ever been drafted into the NBA without playing basketball at the collegiate level.

However, it was prohibited for any high school player to play in the league less than one year after his class graduated, according to the NBA rules. Hence, Harding played in a minor basketball league before being drafted again by the Detroit Pistons in 1963.

Additionally, during Harding's junior season in high school, he was considered the greatest high school player ever produced in Detroit's Public School League.

Also, he had a great rebounding ability, and his stature of 7 ft 0 was an added advantage for him. Harding's grades were too low to enter college, so he skipped it.

  1. Moses Malone

Malone was the first American basketball player to go directly from high school to a professional league without a year's interval. This transition occurred when he was drafted by the American Basketball Association (ABA) in 1974 and instantly signed by the Utah Stars.

He immediately became highly popular in the sport and was named an ABA All-Star. This was after he had hit an average of 18 points and 14 rebounds per game during his seasons as a rookie.

All of this happened before ABA merged with NBA in 1976. In addition, he later played 19 successful seasons with 7 NBA teams, bagging many achievements.

  1. Darryl Dawkins

Dawkins was an American basketball player recognized for his crazy dunks and shattering the backboard. Moreover, during his senior high school seasons at Maynard Evans High School in Orlando, Florida, he hit an average of 32 points and 21 rebounds per game.

Also, Dawkins decided to enter the NBA draft out of high school to finance his family instead of attending college. He applied for hardship in the 1975 draft and was found eligible to start earning from this sport.

He was selected 5th by Philadelphia and played 14 seasons, averaging 14 points and six rebounds.

  1. Bill Willoughby

Willoughby was also an American professional basketball player who did not go to college. He got drafted into the NBA at the same period as Darryl Dawkins in 1975 and got selected by the Atlanta Hawks.

He averaged 6 points per game, having played eight seasons with six different teams.

  1. Shawn Kemp

Shawn is a former American professional basketball player who made the 17th pick in the NBA 1989 draft by the Seattle Supersonics. This was barely a year after his high school graduation from Concord High School.

He was one of the 5 top players at the national level during his senior seasons at high school. Also, he was a three-time All-NBA Second Team member and a six-time NBA All-Star.

In addition, during his best season, he hit an average of 19.6 points, 1.6 blocks, and 11.4 rebounds per game. 

  1. Kevin Garnett

Garnett is an NBA superstar known for his flexibility, defensive ability, strength, and power. He rose to fame at high school when he led Farragut Career Academy to a 28–2 record. And he is considered one of the best power forwards of all time.

Furthermore, he bagged the coveted National High School Player of the Year award by USA Today. Also, they named him Mr. Basketball for the state of Illinois after hitting an average of 25.2 points.

Additionally, he knocked off 17.9 rebounds, 6.7 assists, and a total of 6.5 blocks while shooting 66.8% from the field. In 1995, Kevin Garnett announced to SuperSport magazine that he would skip college. He then declared himself eligible for the 1995 NBA draft. 

  1. Kobe Bryant

In 1996, Kobe Bryant moved from high school to the NBA by declaring for the draft that year. Further, he made the 13th pick by the Charlotte Hornets but was instantly transferred to the Los Angeles Lakers. He was an American professional basketball player who was a shooting guard for the Los Angeles Lakers.

kobe-bryant-did not go to college

Kobe was considered one of the greatest basketball players. Bryant clinched a total of five NBA championships. In addition, he also had the honor of being an 18-time All-Star. Bryant was a 15-time member of the All-NBA Team and a 12-time member of the All-Defensive Team.

Other achievements include bagging the 2008 NBA Most Valuable Player award and winning the NBA Finals MVP twice. Bryant has led his NBA team to many victories and ranks fourth in the league all-time season and postseason scoreline. 

  1. Jermaine O'Neal

O'Neal was the 17th pick by the Trail Blazers in 1996. He was traded to the Indiana Pacers in 2000, where he was voted an NBA All-Star six times. He made the All-NBA teams three times and was voted the NBA Most Improved Player in the 2001–02 season.

In his senior season in high school at Eau Claire, O'Neal hit an average of 22.4 points, 12.4 rebounds, and 5.2 blocks per game. This score earned him the awards of First Team All-State, South Carolina's Player of the Year, and "Mr. Basketball."

  1. Tracy McGrady

In 1997, McGrady was the 9th pick by the Toronto Raptors during the NBA draft for that year. Also, during his final year in the senior season at Auburndale, McGrady posted averages of 23.1 points, 12.2 rebounds, four assists, and 4.9 blocks per game.

Furthermore, McGrady won NBA All-Star seven times, in addition to seven-time All-NBA selection. He was a two-time NBA scoring champion, and winner of the NBA Most Improved Player Award in 2001.

In addition, he also made it into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2017.

  1. Brandon Jennings

Brandon Jennings decided to skip college to play in a professional basketball league in Lottomatica Roma in Italy. He was the first player who skipped college to play professional basketball in Europe to be drafted to an NBA team.

Furthermore, later in 2009, he applied for the NBA draft and was the 10th overall pick by the Milwaukee Bucks.

In addition, Jennings was part of an exchange to the Detroit Pistons in 2013 after playing four seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Also, in 2016 he was traded to the Orlando Magic. Brandon Jennings made the First-team Parade All-American in his final year at high school. Also, he was Naismith Male Player of the year, and McDonald's All-American.

  1. LeBron James

Lebron James is considered the most famous NBA player to have ever skipped college. He has been a great player since high school, St. Vincent-Saint Mary High School in Akron, Ohio.

The Cleveland NBA team selected him as the 1st pick in the 2003 NBA draft. This was where he got recognition for being the "Rookie of the Year" for that season. In 2010, he left Cleveland for the Miami Heat, where he won his first-ever two NBA championships in 2012 and 2013. 

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In 2014, James left for the Cavalier, leading them to their first-ever championship in 2016. James sealed a deal in 2018 with the Los Angeles Lakers to win the 2020 championship. His accomplishments include four NBA championships, four NBA MVP awards, four NBA Finals MVP awards, and two Olympic gold medals.

In his 18-year career, James has a record for all-time playoffs points; he is 3rd in all-time points and 8th in career assists. He has made the NBA All-Defensive First Team 5 times and has been named an All-Star 17 times.

LeBron has had three All-Star MVP selections and an All-NBA Team a record 17 times. In 2021, he was selected to the NBA 75th Anniversary Team.

  1. Emmanuel Mudiay

Mudiay is an American professional basketball player who spurred into stardom when he played in high school basketball for Grace Preparatory Academy and Prime Prep Academy in Texas.

Subsequently, he was rated the second-best recruit by during the bright season. Then he decided to skip college and play for the Guangdong Southern Tigers in China.

Also, during the 2015 NBA draft, he was selected with the 7th pick by the Denver Nuggets. 

  1. Anfernee Simons

Simons played prep basketball at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. In his second year in Edgewater High School in Orlando, Florida, he averaged 17.8 points, 4.6 assists, and 2.4 rebounds. Also, he had one steal per game in 30 games.

Further, Simon graduated in 2017 with an average of 23.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 1.8 steals. Additionally, he had 0.5 blocks per game in 20 games played in his last year.

In 2018, Simons attended the IMG Academy in Bradenton, where he spent his postgraduate year. Thereafter, he made the 24th pick by the Portland Trail Blazers in the 2018 NBA draft. And, in 2021, he won the year Slam Dunk Champion which went down in a 3-2 decision.

Conclusion: NBA Players That Didn't Go to College

Now, you can see that there are many NBA players who have never been to college. However, they are highly famous and have been thriving well in this sport.

In this article, we've been able to talk about a good number of them while providing some historical background. Therefore, regardless of whether you went to college or not, you can still become a top shot in the NBA; ask LeBron James!

Joshua Bast

My name is Joshua Bast and I have been playing basketball ever since I was 7 years old. I love the game play, I love the feeling whenever I score a basket, but what made me fell in love was the camaraderie with my team mates. This blog is dedicated to help any up-and-coming basketball players maximize their potential.

Joshua Bast