Though they look like they're 30 years old most of the time, high school players have created a name for themselves in the sport the world loved to watch. From the time Tony Kappen stepped into the BAA floor in 1946, pools of cagers have absented themselves from attending college to go straight into the big show.
Amidst controversy and doubt, players entering the NBA out of high school have not failed to impress the league and its legions of fans all around the globe. Though some went crashing down and ended up in the NBA D-League or in the international scene, it is undeniable that this particular group of big boys have compiled legacies that the world never failed to see. Some of them just really stood above the rest, and here they are...
Enjoying being part of this list isn't like enjoying embracing the Larry O'Brien Trophy on the night he and his Dallas Mavericks erased the Miami Heat and were crowned champions. Drafted second overall by the Los Angeles Clippers in 2001, the Dominguez High School standout took years to finally earn a name for himself.
His times with the Chicago Bulls, New Orleans Hornets and the Charlotte Bobcats were not paid off simply because of his absence of a ring. It was in his stint with the Mavs that Chandler made a career out of dominance and maturity. Leading his team in rebounds with 10 per night and swatting two balls each contest, Chandler was a significant part of the 2011 championship drama that brought him his first ring.
With great athleticism embodying in his 7'1" frame, each night is a highlight night from this mega big man, who still has some years left in his tank.
Drafted 17th overall by the Portland Trail Blazers in 1996, Jermaine O'Neal was the second-youngest player ever to play in the NBA (surpassed by the Lakers' Andrew Bynum). Unable to find a place in the world of veterans, O'Neal was traded to the Indiana Pacers where he built his own identity as the team's most powerful force.
In 2002, he was named the NBA's Most Improved Player by hitting 19 points and grabbing 10.5 rebounds per game. That marked the creation of a ferocious beast who was named to the All-Star team six times and lifted the lowly Indiana Pacers right after the Reggie Miller era.
In the 2004-2005 season, O'Neal punched in his best scoring season at 24.5 points per game. In 2008, the loss of spark from his engine forced the Pacers to send him to Toronto which saw his upcoming regression. Despite being one of those players who foresees retirement fairly soon, O'Neal built a mark that every Indiana citizen would remember.
Moses Malone was one of the pillars of the 1970s and '80s in the NBA. He holds the record for most offensive rebounds in a season with 587. He is a Hall of Fame inductee, an NBA champion, a three-time NBA MVP and a member of the NBA All-Time team. These are just tangible golds that made him part of this list.
Coming into the league fresh from Cypress Creek High School in Orlando, Amar'e grabbed the Rookie of the Year plum in 2002-2003 after showing dominance for the team that brought him ninth overall in 2002, the Phoenix Suns. Stoudemire transcribed a career-high 29.4 points per game in the 2005 season that saw him and Steve Nash dominate the NBA.
A championship was the one thing that was missing throughout the near-perfect season. Amare was a six-time NBA All-Star and was a part of the 2007 All-NBA team. Now playing with the New York Knicks, the future still shines as gold for this big man who wouldn't leave the NBA without a ring.
T-Mac is one of the most exciting basketball players in the league's history. Drafted by the Toronto Raptors ninth overall in 1997, he and his cousin Vince Carter brought in some electricity in lethargic arenas all around the NBA.
His being named the NBA's Most Improved Player in 2001 after an electrifying stint with the Orlando Magic sparked McGrady's explosion into the spotlight. He was a seven-time All-Star and a back-to-back scoring champion in 2002 and 2003 seasons, averaging 32.1 and 28 points per game, respectively. In 2004, McGrady brought the electricity to the Toyota Center in Houston after signing a multimillion-dollar contract with the Rockets.
T-Mac was one of the most celebrated players of that time, leading his team to multiple playoff appearances. Despite early exits, T-Mac received respect for his offensive game that made the game of basketball so much more exciting. Unfortunately, McGrady became a victim of devastating injuries that cut his shining moment short. He played for the Detroit Pistons last year and is currently a free agent.
The father of the chalk toss. The Franchise. The Big Ticket. NBA champion. Words are not enough to describe what Kevin Garnett has given to the NBA.
Drafted fifth overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1995, KG dominated the post with his pure power and athleticism. He led the Wolves to the promised land that took years to be discovered. Besides being named MVP in 2004, he led his team to the Western Conference finals just to be defeated by the soaring Lakers.
He was a four-time rebounding champion (2004-2007), a 14-time All-Star, four-time All-NBA and nine- time All-Defensive team standout. Despite all these accolades, KG always comes to a game with fiery eyes and the desire to hunt for more.
True to his Superman gimmick, Dwight Howard is the hero of the current Orlando Magic team. He is one of the most dominant, most powerful and funniest dudes in the league today. Drafted first overall by the Magic in 2004, Howard flew on his way to the top. He was a vital cog in their 2009 finals run which was ended by the Lakers in five games.
He is a three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year and a five-time All-Star. In 2008, Superman conquered New Orleans to bag him the slam dunk crown, in a contest like no other. It might be a little bit cliche to say that Howard has been one of the best when, in reality, Superman is just one of the guys who continues to improve.
Coming from one of the most talented draft classes in history, LeBron James immediately became the face of the league. His dominance made him a back-to-back MVP (2009 and 2010), a seven-time All-Star, five-time All-NBA and a scoring champion in 2008 when he averaged 30 points per ballgame. His fantastic showing in the 2007 Eastern Conference finals against Detroit earned his Cleveland Cavaliers a spot in a showdown with the Spurs for the chip. Worse things came, however, and they were swept along the way.
Many consider James to be the greatest of all time, but his inability to bring a championship is the last seal for that claim. Despite this, and with the controversies that surfaced after his exceptional talents were brought to South Beach, LeBron is one of the most exciting NBA players in history. Everything was already seen in James, and it's almost time to see him hugging an NBA championship.
Let his five Larry O'Briens and two Bill Russels do the talking.