All of your favorite NBA stars have a story. They had years of work that they put in to acquire the skills you see on the television, many of which were grueling and painful.
Players like Lebron and Kobe went straight to the NBA draft out of high school, but the other 99% have to pay their dues in college. In fact, unless you’re a diehard college basketball fan, you probably didn’t even get to see what the NBA stars looked like in their youth.
Magic Johnson Before He Was Dominating The NBA
Earvin “Magic” Johnson graduated from high school in Lansing, Michigan, and attended Michigan State, where he led his team to an NCAA championship. Interestingly enough, he was playing against Indiana State’s Larry Bird.
Johnson was the number one pick in the NBA’s 1979 draft and played for the Los Angeles Lakers for 13 seasons. He would go onto win five NBA championships, three MVP awards, and even snuck in an Olympic gold medal during his career.
Charles Barkley Still Holds Some Auburn Records
Before Charles Barkley was, well, Charles Barkley, he was a basketball star at Leeds High School in Alabama. He attended Auburn University where his career field goal percentage of 62.6% still holds the record at the school.
He was taken in the 1984 draft by the Philadelphia 76ers. He would also go on to play for the Phoenix Suns and the Houston Rockets during his career that saw 11 NBA All-Star appearances, an NBA MVP award, and an NBA All-Star Game MVP.
Kareem Lives And Breathes Championships
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar attended Power Memorial Academy in New York City before he dominated the college basketball world at UCLA. While playing for the university, his team won three NCAA championships and he was the first-overall pick in the 1969 draft.
He played center for the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers, and he earned six NBA MVP awards, 19 NBA All-Star selections, and six NBA championship rings (five of them with LA and one with Milwaukee).
Patrick Ewing Led Georgetown To Three NCAA Championship Games
Patrick Ewing went to Cambridge Rindge and Latin School in Massachusetts and Georgetown University. Ewing led Georgetown to three NCAA championship games, resulting in an NCAA title in 1984.
He was drafted first overall in the 1985 draft to the New York Knicks, the team for which he stayed until 2000. Ewing played in 11 All-Star games and won two Olympic gold medals during his career that also saw him with the Seattle Supersonics and the Orlando Magic.
Bill Walton Was The Surefire Number One Pick In 1974
Bill Walton went to high school in La Mesa, California, and then UCLA for college. He was extremely effective in college as he led his team to two NCAA championships. That was enough for NBA scouts to consider him the surefire number one pick in the 1974 draft.
He was drafted by the Portland Trailblazers and also played for the San Deigo Clippers and the Boston Celtics before retiring in 1990. He won two NBA championships, was an NBA Finals MVP award and won an NBA MVP award.
Chris Andersen Had Quite The Different Look In College
Chris Andersen had a very weird trajectory to the NBA. He wasn’t recruited by any division one or division two colleges out of high school, so he went and played one year at Binn College (which is a junior college).
He left to go play in the Chinese Basketball Association and then came back to America to play in the minors before actually getting a shot in the NBA. He played with the Denver Nuggets, New Orleans Hornets, and even won a championship with the Miami Heat in 2013. He’s known for his tattoos and spikey hair, both of which are absent from his college picture.
Gary Payton Set Records As A Point Guard
Gary Payton attended Skyline High School in Oakland before going to Oregon State University. While at Oregon State, he led his team to three NCAA championship appearances. He was the second-overall pick in the 1990 NBA draft and ended up spending most of his time with the Seattle SuperSonics.
Payton is the only point guard to ever be named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year. With that, he was also able to snag an NBA championship, nine All-Star selections, and two Olympic gold medals.
Christian Laettner’s Golden Years Were At Duke
Christian Laettner went to high school in Buffalo before going on to become one of the most iconic Duke basketball players of all time. He helped the Blue Devils win their first two NCAA championships.
In 1992 he was named the NCAA Player of the Year and he was the only college player to win an Olympic gold medal with the “Dream Team” in the same year. The Minnesota Timberwolves picked Laettner with the third-overall selection in the 1992 draft.
Scottie Pippen Went On To Win Six NBA Championship Rings
Scottie Pippen graduated from Hamburg High School in Arkansas before ending up committing to the University of Central Arkansas. Pippen was taken as the fifth overall pick after having a storied NCAA career.
He played for the Seattle SuperSonics, Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets, and the Portland Trail Blazers. He’s regarded as one of the best small forwards that has ever stepped foot in the NBA and holds six NBA championship rings. He also added seven NBA All-Star appearances, an NBA All-Star Game MVP award, and two Olympic gold medals.
Michael Jordan’s Legacy Speaks For Itself
Michael Jordan went to Emsley A. Laney High School in Wilmington, where he played basketball, baseball, and football. He was recruited by a lot of colleges but ultimately decided to accept a basketball scholarship to North Carolina.
Even though Jordan was the best player going into the 1984 NBA draft, he was taken third overall by the Chicago Bulls because the other two teams needed a center. Michael Jordan would go on to be the most dominant player in NBA history.
Lebron Created Some Serious Buzz Out Of High School
As a freshman at St.Vincent-St. Mary High School, he averaged 21 points and six rebounds. He led his team to a 27-0 record en route to the Division III state title in Ohio. As a sophomore, James averaged 25.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 3.8 steals. His team had to play many of their home games at the 6,000-seat gym for the University of Akron to satisfy ticket sales.
He didn’t end up going to college and went straight to the NBA with the hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. His accomplishments in the NBA often have him considered to be the greatest player of all-time.
Steph Curry Couldn’t Live The Virginia Tech Dream Like His Dad
Steph Curry enrolled at the Charlotte Christian School where he was named all-conference, all-state and led his team to three conference titles and three playoff state appearances. He wanted to play college ball at Virginia State where his dad played, but he was only offered a walk-on spot.
He chose Davidson College instead and broke the NCAA freshman season record with 113 three-pointers. He was selected as the seventh-overall pick in the 2009 draft to the Golden State Warriors and continued to set three-point records.
Kevin Durant Set College Freshmen Records Nationwide
Kevin Durant played his first two years of high school basketball at the National Christian Academy before playing one year at Oak Hill Academy. For his senior year, he played for Montrose Christian School where he shot up five inches during the season.
He committed to the University of Texas and ended up winning the National Player of the Year in his freshman season. This made Durant the first freshman to win any of the National Player of the Year awards. He was drafted second overall by the Seattle SuperSonics and has played for the Oklahoma City Thunder and Golden State Warriors.
Tim Duncan Almost Became An Olympic Swimmer
Tim Duncan was training to go to the 1992 Olympics for swimming (like his sister) before Hurricane Hugo destroyed the only Olympic size swimming pool in his area. He turned to basketball in his freshman year of high school at St. Dunstan’s Episcopal High School.
He made his way to Wake Forest and by the time he was a sophomore he was considered one of the best eligible NBA prospects. Duncan was selected first overall in the 1997 draft and would go on to be one of the best players to ever lace em’ up.
Kobe Bryant Was The First Guard To Be Drafted Out Of High School
Kobe Bryant earned national attention for his incredible career at Lower Merion High School. He became the first freshman in decades to start for the powerhouse Lower Merion team.
During his senior year, he was the Naismith High School Player of the Year as well as the Gatorade Men’s National Basketball Player of the Year, among many other awards. Bryant was the first guard ever drafted directly out of high school and was drafted 13th overall to the Charlotte Hornets before getting traded to the Los Angeles Lakers.
James Harden Has The Fourth Highest 3-Point Percentage For Players Under 21
James Harden attended Artesia High School in California. During his junior year, he led his high school team to a state championship with a record of 33-1.
Harden decided to take his talents to Arizona State. After finishing his sophomore campaign with averages of 20.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 4.2 assists, he declared for the NBA draft and was selected third overall by the Oklahoma City Thunder. He recorded the fourth highest 3-point percentage in NBA history for a player under the age of 21.
John Stockton Set Up Shop In Spokane, Washington
John Stockton bled Gonzaga throughout high school and college. He was a graduate of Gonzaga Preparatory School in Spokane, Washington, and then went on to attend Gonzaga University. Stockton was selected by the Utah Jazz as the 16th pick in the NBA’s 1984 draft.
He is generally understood to be one of the best point guards in history. He led the NBA nine times in assists and was a 10-time NBA All-Star, and even holds an Olympic gold medal.
Kawhi Leonard Rose To Become A Top 5 Player In The NBA
Kawhi Leonard attended Canyon Springs High School in California before transferring to Martin Luther King High School for his junior year. He was considered the 48th best player in the nation in 2009 for high school aged students.
He went to San Diego State and was named the Mountain West Conference Rookie of the Year and led the conference in rebounding. He was selected 15th overall in the 2011 draft by the San Antonio Spurs and has since been a Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in the NBA.
Larry Bird Led Indiana State University To Their First NCAA Championship Game
Larry Bird went to Springs Valley High School in Indiana before ultimately attending Indiana State. He led the school to its first-ever NCAA championship game and joined the Boston Celtics after getting picked sixth in the 1978 NBA draft.
He played with the Celtics for 13 seasons and would go on to win three NBA championships, three MVP awards, and an Olympic gold medal and was a 12-time NBA All-Star. After his playing career, he took up coaching and ended up winning Coach of the Year during the 1997-1998 season for the Indiana Pacers.
Oregon Has No Love For Kevin
Kevin Love played high school basketball for the Lake Oswego Lakers where he led the team to the state championship game. He was named the Gatorade National Male Athlete of the Year after his senior year and was a first-team Parade All-American.
He decided to go to UCLA to play his college ball which made his home state of Oregon very angry. Love’s family got garbage thrown at them, and Kevin’s cell phone number was blasted across the state. He had a very solid year in college before getting taken fifth overall by the Memphis Grizzlies in 2008.