The NBA use to allow high school players to declare for the draft straight out of high school during my generation. During the 2006 (year I graduated high school) NBA Draft they reverted back to the old rule without the stipulation that was once allowed before. Before 1971 a player had to be one year removed from his graduating class before he was eligible for the NBA draft. Which is essentially the rule now with the added requirement in today’s NBA that the player be at least 19 years of age. In 1971 things altered a bit thanks to the US Supreme Court decision in Haywood v. National Basketball Association. They ruled 7-2 against the NBA stating that a player can be drafted into the league out of high school if the prospect presented evidence of hardship. During this era in the NBA all players went through four years of college before entering the NBA Draft.
In the case of Haywood v. National Basketball Association Spencer Haywood turned pro after his sophomore year at the University of Detroit. He joined the ABA’s Denver Rockets franchise and lead the ABA in both scoring (30.0 ppg) and rebounds (19.5 rbpg) in the 1969-70 season. The next year the Seattle Supersonic owner, Sam Schulman, inked the 6’8 forward to a 6 year deal worth 1.5 million. The league took exception because players had to be four years removed from high school before they could play in the NBA. The league then disallowed the contract and imposed punitive sanctions on the Seattle Supersonics. When Haywood and Schulman took them to court they won the case. Spencer Haywood was only able to play 33 games that season while the legal process took its course. Haywood was a superstar at that time and led the USA to a gold medal in ’68. In the years following after the case Haywood was an all star player being selected 4 times for the event. He also won an NBA championship with the Lakers in 1980 with Magic Johnson & Kareem Abdul Jabbar.
Before Spencer Haywood, 7’0 center Reggie Harding was able to enter the draft unaccosted in the 1962 NBA Draft. He graduated from Eastern High School in Detroit, Michigan in 1961. Even though the Pistons drafted him they stated he needed to be a year removed from high school. So he played minor league basketball for a year and in 1963 he was drafted again by the Pistons and freely played for the team that season. which raises eyebrows cause Spencer Haywood essentially did the same thing but was given the third degree. Either way Haywood opened the door for prep stars to jump into the NBA. After Haywood NBA hall of famer Moses Malone was the first player to be drafted into professional basketball DIRECTLY out of high school in the 1974 ABA Draft by the Utah Stars out of Petersburg HS. Moses Malone stood 6’10 and 220lbs. The ABA would soon dissolve in 1976 and merge with the far superior NBA. Malone would go on to enjoy a productive and lucrative career. He won the MVP for the NBA three times(79,82,83) and captured a NBA title with the Sixers in 1983. In his best season he averaged 31.1 points, 14.7 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, and 0.9 steals in 1981 with the Houston Rockets.
A year after Moses Malone Darryl “Chocolate Thunder” Dawkins and Bill Willoughby both filed for hardship and where able to join the NBA Draft straight out of high school. Dawkins was more successful but in the grand scheme of things a role playing starter who was known for breaking backboards with his thunderous dunks. He was the reason the NBA structured their hoops differently. 20 years past before another high school prep star would be taken again until Kevin Garnett was selected 5th overall in the 1995 NBA draft out of Farragut Academy HS. A lot of hoopla surrounded Garnett cause at the time pundits and basketball officials felt players out of high school were not physically or emotionally ready for the NBA. Looking back at the ’95 draft Garnett’s presence saved it from being the all time worst draft ever. Soon after high school prep stars followed Garnett’s lead and declared for the draft after their senior years. Garnett has garnered many accolades and is one of the best big men to play the game.
A lot of the NBA’s greatest stars today and in recent years skipped college ball and made a great impact in the NBA! At the same time some of the prep stars that made the jump needed the college tutelage. Who is to even say that college basketball would have saved them from being busts. That may have just delayed the inevitable. Three and Four year college prospects picked in the top 10 have flopped as well so it may all depend on the work ethic of the individual and lifestyle they lead away from the game. Notable basketball stars that made the jump are Jermaine O’Neal (Eau Claire HS), Kobe Bryant (Lower Merion HS), Tracy McGrady (Mount Zion Christian Academy), Tyson Chandler (Dominguez HS), Amare Stoudemire (Cypress Creek HS), Lebron James (St.Vincent-St. Mary), Dwight Howard (Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy), Al Jefferson (Prentiss HS), Josh Smith (Oak Hill Academy), JR Smith(St. Benedick’s Prep HS), Andrew Bynum (St.Joseph HS), Gerald Green (Gulf Shores Academy), Monta Ellis (Lanier HS), and Louis Williams (South Gwinnett HS). Along the way their have been prep stars that failed such as the infamous Kwame Brown, Darius Miles, Jonathan Bender, and Eddy Curry. Tyson Chandler is a prep star that seem to be a bust his first five years in the league but quickly found his niche and became a productive player and X factor on the court. After the 2006 Draft players were able to play overseas directly after high school then enter the draft. Brandon Jennings was the first to do this out of Oak Hill Academy, he played overseas in Italy for a season then entered the 2009 draft and selected 10th overall. In this years draft Emmanuel Mudiay grauduated Prime Prep in Dallas, TX then played in China during 2014. In the 2015 NBA Draft he was selected 7th overall by the Denver Nuggets.
I’m not saying every freakishly talented prep star should make the leap, but I feel as an adult you should have the right to play professional sports if you so choose. The pros for going straight into the NBA are you get developed by better staff members and high level trainers. You also get compensated for your efforts. If you just go to college as a freshman for one year what is the point? Still no degree and if you are like an Anthony Davis or Kyrie Irving then it isn’t really a challenge. I think if you jump right into the belly of the beast and are competing against the best the world has to offer then you will do well. Sometimes its better to be 18 and be the worst than be 18 and be the face of your campus’ basketball team. Everyone worships the ground you walk on and it is a false sense of dominance in the grand scheme of things. Players such as Kobe Bryant and Lebron James benefited greatly from learning on the fly. Now the NBA has the D-League to help get you more seasoned so I feel there are more benefits than not and really the biggest stars of today/yesteryear made that faithful leap. A guy like Russell Westbrook needed the college game to mature whereas a Kevin Durant might have valued the weight room more if he got pushed around early on from high school. Either way going from prep star to pro is not the best decision for every high school monster but for a select few it can make them greater players than they would be without that exposure. -BoSo
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Moses Malone Tribute March 23, 1955-September 13, 2015 RIP Big fella. All members of freshtakesports.com salute you sir and thank you for the memories and for paving the path for the stars we enjoy watching today.