We all know Kobe Bryant. We all know Kevin Garnett. We adore the LeBron James's and the Chris Paul's. But for every NBA superstar, there is a man or boy who had as much potential as any of the stars listed above. However, these men don't make it.
These guys are the urban legends that exist mainly in the memories of the ones that were fortunate to watch them.
These are the greatest players never to make it to the NBA.
Probably the most famous player never to make it to the NBA. Len Bias is an example of how one bad decision, one mistake can have irreversible and horrible consequences.
Len Bias was a freakishly athletic combo-forward that had very few weaknesses in his game. ACC player of the year, Len Bias averaged 23 pts and 7 rebounds his senior year at Maryland.
Apart from his skill on the basketball court, Bias was loved by an entire community. He was a Maryland native and was loved on campus and in his neighborhood. That is why the sting of his death was so strong. He was a nice guy.
Bias was selected 2nd overall in the 1986 NBA Draft. He was to join Kevin McHale, Robert Parish and Larry Bird. They were to form one of the greatest front courts in NBA history. Unfortunately, Bias died two days after the draft from a cocaine overdose.
Whether it was his first time doing cocaine is still up in the air. However, we do know that soon after doing a line he went into convulsion and was dead within 24 hours. 11,000 people attended his memorial service.
Red Auerbach, Legendary Coach/GM/President of the Celtics said this of Bias:
"He was our guy. He was going to be a perennial All-Star. He had it all. He could shoot, he could run, he could rebound and he could defend. He was big. And he loved the game and played with passion...Christ, Len was really something. He was a hell of a player."
We can only imagine.
Before you read anything, watch the first 1:52 of this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OsIynRdcTKY
Yes, it's a real video.
In the 1960s, New York was the center of the basketball ball world. The center of New York was none other than Rucker Park, located in Harlem. Future NBA players like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Connie Hawkins, and Earl "The Pearl" Monroe. The best of them all, is widely believed to be Earl "The Goat" Manigault.
Mentored by Halcombe Rucker himself, Manigault's legend started as early as junior high, when he scored 57 points in a single game. His legend continued to grow with signature dunks like the double dunk. The double dunk was when he would dunked the ball with one hand, take the ball from under the net with his other hand, and dunk the ball again...all in one leap.
He is also known for being able to jump and take dollar bills from the top of the backboard. Also, Manigault was known for being an exceptional 3-point shooter. He was a freak.
Unfortunately, in his high school years, Manigault started hanging with the wrong crowd. He was kicked out of school after he was caught smoking marijuana. Because of this, he moved out of New York to go to a private school in North Carolina. It was discovered that Manigault didn't know how to read. He still received scholarship offers from 75 colleges and decided to attend Johnson C. Smith University.
Manigault only lasted one semester due to a combination of poor grades and disagreements with the coaches. He returned to New York and developed a heroine addiction. Due to his addiction, he served two prison sentences that totaled around 3 years prison time.
After his second stint in prison, The Goat founded the "Walk away from Drugs" basketball tournament. The tournament, which is held at Rucker Park, was his way of encouraging kids not to make his mistakes.
In 1988, Earl Manigault died of congestive heart failure. His legend lives on.
Ronnie Fields was Vince Carter before Vince Carter. He was the high-flying, jaw dropping player of the new generation that we now love so much. A high-school teammate of Kevin Garnett, Ronnie Fields was only a junior when KG made the leap to the NBA.
During his senior season, Fields averaged 34 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals, and 4 blocks a game. He also finished his high school career as the third highest scorer in Chicago Public School League history with 2,619.
He was on top of his game. However, tragedy struck when the 3 time Parade All-American got into a car accident in which he broke his neck. He neck would eventually heal with the help of a protective "halo". However, he would later be ruled academically ineligible by the NCAA.
The Chicago legend would later get drafted in 1996 by the Continetal Basketball Association. He put his name in the 1997 NBA Draft, but later withdrew his name. He put his name in again in the 1998 NBA Draft but went undrafted.
Ronnie Fields later went to play in Greece, Venezuela, and many other countries. His videos continue to amplify his legend on Youtube. Check them out.
When people lament of the effects of urban violence in Chicago, Ben Wilson is the poster boy.
Described as "Magic Johnson with a jump shot", 6 ft 8" Ben Wilson was the #1 rated prospect in America after his junior year at Simeon Vocational High School in 1984. During his junior year, he had led Simeon to the Illinois State Championship. A repeat was imminent.
Along with his high school success, Ben Wilson was being scouted by several NBA teams. However, he decided to accept a scholarship from the University of Illinois.
Only days after receiving a scholarship, while on a lunch break with his friends, Ben Wilson was gunned down. The details of the shooting are documented in court. According to Wilson's girlfriend, they were walking down the sidewalk when two gangsters confronted them. The gangsters were 16 year old William Moore and 15 year old Omar Dixon. Ben said "excuse me" as he attempted to walk around the two gangers (Moore says Ben bumped them). It was then that the Moore and Dixon attempted to rob Wilson. When Ben didn't allow them to go through his pockets, they shot him. Ben Wilson was dead the next day.
William Moore was later sentenced to 40 years in prison; Dixon to 30.
In the bleak streets of Chicago, Ben Wilson was a beacon of light. At 17, he was a role model. He was proof that someone could come from the streets and make it big. Ben touched everyone he met...and many that he didn't meet.
When Kevin Garnett moved to Chicago as a boy, he was so moved by Ben Wilson's story that he wrote "BW" on his shoes throughout high school. Ben's teammate and future NBA player, Nick Anderson wore "25" his whole career to honor Ben Wilson.
Simeon High never forgot Ben Wilson either. Every year after his death, they gave #25 to the team's best basketball player. This tradition continued until 2009 when they retired the jersey. This was soon after a player named Derrick Rose led Simeon to back to back state titles.
Raymond Lewis is LA's greatest basketball legend. Lewis was a lightning quick point guard who led his high school team to 3 California State titles ('69, '70, '71). He also won California Player of the year as a junior and a senior.
After receiving dozens of college scholarships, Lewis decided to attend Los Angeles State University. In his freshman year, Lewis averaged 39 points a game (without a 3-pt line). As a sophmore, he averaged 32 points a game and decided to enter the NBA Draft where he was picked 18th by the sixer.
At the time, Lewis was the youngest player ever drafted into the NBA. The hype around him grew when he scored 60 points in a half against the #1 overall pick Doug Collins during a scrimmage.
It was soon after this that Lewis got into a nasty contract dispute with the Sixers. As a result of this dispute the Sixers told Lewis that he had to mature and would not be allowed to play with them that season.
Lewis then attempted to play in the ABA, however the SIxers threatened to file a lawsuit against any ABA team that tried to sign him. Lewis never played for the Sixers and it is widely believed that he was blacklisted by the NBA.
Though he never made it to the NBA, Lewis' legend continued. In an 1983 summer pro league game, Lewis scored 60 point in three quarters against LA Laker and Defensive Player of the Year Michael Cooper. This was confirmed by Cooper in 2006 on Colin Cowherd's radio show.
Raymond Lewis letter died due to an infection in his leg caused by an amputation.