For a 10-year stretch from 1995 to 2005, every NBA executive was looking for the next superstar to draft directly out of high school. Despite three players being drafted from high school prior to 1995, the trend didn’t gain much traction until Kevin Garnett was drafted in 1995. From that point on, five of the first six times a high schooler was taken in the draft, that player went on to be an All-Star. In fact, each one of those five players make this list. After that, the majority of high schoolers drafted into the NBA failed to live up to their potential, causing the NBA to establish a rule in 2006 that prohibited a player from entering the draft until he reached the age of 19. Of course, this meant that most high schoolers would not qualify and would need to spend one year playing basketball elsewhere. The NBA is getting set to revisit the age restriction pertaining to the draft, so in honor of that, here are the 10 best NBA players to be drafted out of high school.

It should be said that Darryl Dawkins was drafted out of high school in 1975 and was one of the best dunkers in NBA history; however, Dawkins never made an All-Star team in his career, which eliminated him from contention. Also, Moses Malone was drafted into the ABA directly out of high school. He would be an obvious choice to make the list, as he is one of the greatest players of all-time, but he was not drafted into the NBA.

10. Rashard Lewis (1998)

Rashard Lewis was drafted out of Elsik High School in Houston by the Seattle SuperSonics in the second round of the 1998 draft. Despite being the last player in the “green room,” Lewis went on to become a two-time All-Star. He spent his first nine seasons in Seattle before playing for the Magic, Wizards, and Heat to finish out his career. He also happens to be the all-time leader in 3-point field goals for the SuperSonics. Lewis played in the NBA Finals three times, winning a ring in 2013 as a member of the Miami Heat.

9. Andrew Bynum (2005)

This 7-footer was drafted 10th overall out of St. Joseph High School in New Jersey by the Los Angeles Lakers in 2005. Andrew Bynum had an injury-plagued career that limited him to just 10 years in the NBA, but when he was healthy, he was hard to stop. Playing a majority of his career with the Lakers, Bynum was an integral part of two championship teams in 2009 and 2010. In 2012, Bynum was named an All-Star and made the All-NBA Second Team. He averaged nearly 19 points and 12 rebounds per game that season.

8. Tyson Chandler (2001)

Tyson Chandler was selected second overall by the Los Angeles Clippers in 2001 but was immediately traded to the Chicago Bulls for veteran Elton Brand. Chandler played at Dominguez High School in Compton, California. Despite already having been in the league for 10 years, Chandler’s career really took off in 2011, as a member of the Dallas Mavericks. From 2011-2013, he won an NBA title, a Defensive Player of the Year award, was named an All-Star, and was named to the NBA All-Defensive Team twice and the All-NBA Third Team once. Chandler currently plays for the Phoenix Suns.

7. Jermaine O’Neal (1996)

Selected 17th overall by the Portland Trail Blazers in 1996, Jermaine O’Neal attended Eau Claire High School in Columbia, South Carolina. O’Neal played a majority of his career with the Indiana Pacers, where he made six straight All-Star games from 2002-2007. In addition to being named the NBA’s Most Improved Player in 2002, O’Neal was named to the All-NBA Third Team in 2002 and 2003. In 2004, he made the jump to the All-NBA Second Team. During that stretch, O’Neal was consider one of the best big men in the game.

6. Amar’e Stoudemire (2002)

Amar’e Stoudemire was selected by the Phoenix Suns with the 9th overall pick in 2002 out of Cypress Creek High School in Orlando. Unlike many of the afore-mentioned players, it took Stoudemire no time to become acclimated with the NBA. He won Rookie of the Year in 2003 and was named an NBA All-Star two seasons later in 2005. In addition to making six All-Star teams and being named to the All-NBA Second Team four times, Stoudemire made the All-NBA First Team in 2007. He currently plays in Israel, where his team just won the Israeli League Championship. Stoudemire averaged 18.9 points and 7.8 rebounds per game during his NBA career.

5. Dwight Howard (2004)

Drafted first overall out of Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy in 2004, Dwight Howard joined the Orlando Magic as a skinny 7-footer that did not look ready for the league. He quickly proved everyone wrong, making the All-Rookie First Team. Howard is an 8-time All-Star, 8-time All-NBA performer (5 First Team), 5-time All-Defensive performer (4 First Team), and 3-time Defensive Player of the Year, which is tied for the most in NBA History. In addition, he led the league in rebounding five times, blocks two times, and won the NBA Slam Dunk Contest in 2008. Back problems have hindered him as of late, but career averages of 17.5 points, 12.7 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks per game makes Howard one of the best big men of his era. In fact, He has averaged a double-double in each of his 13 seasons in the NBA.

4. Tracy McGrady (1997)

Tracy McGrady was drafted 9th overall in the 1997 NBA Draft by the Toronto Raptors. He attended Auburndale High School in Florida for three years before transferring to Mount Zion Christian Academy in North Carolina for his senior season. McGrady has successful stints with Toronto, Orlando, and Houston before bouncing around the league for a few years. His accolades include 7 All-Star appearances, 8 All-NBA selections (2 First Team), 2 scoring titles, and a Most Improved Player award in 2001. This past year, McGrady was inducted into the Naismith Pro Basketball Hall of Fame, making him the only current Hall of Famer on the list.

3. Kevin Garnett (1995)

Kevin Garnett is arguably the best power forward of all-time, although don’t tell Tim Duncan or Karl Malone that. He was drafted 5th overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1995, after attending high school at Farragut Academy in Chicago. In his 21-year career, Garnett racked up 15 All-Star selections, 9 All-NBA Selections (4 First Team), 12 All-Defensive selections (9 First Team), 4 rebounding titles, an All-Star Game MVP, a Defensive Player of the Year award, an NBA title, and was named NBA Most Valuable Player in 2004. In addition, he is the only player in NBA history to reach 25,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, 5,000 assists, 1,500 steals, and 1,500 blocks.

Los Angeles Lakers

Kobe Bryant Played His Entire Career For The Los Angeles Lakers

2. Kobe Bryant (1996)

Kobe Bryant is a top-5 player of all-time. He was drafted out of Lower Marion High School in Philadelphia in 1996 by the Charlotte Hornets but was immediately traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, where he spent his entire career. As a rookie, Bryant won the NBA Slam Dunk Contest and made the All-Rookie Second Team. Get ready, because here are his career accolades:

  • 5x NBA Champion
  • 2x NBA Finals MVP
  • 2008 NBA MVP
  • 18x NBA All-Star
  • 4x All-Star Game MVP (Record)
  • 11x All-NBA First Team
  • 2x All-NBA Second Team
  • 2x All-NBA Third Team
  • 9x All-Defensive First Team
  • 3x All-Defensive Second Team
  • 2 Scoring Titles
  • 2x Olympic Gold Medalist
  • 3rd All-Time in Scoring

1. LeBron James (2003)

There’s not much to say here folks. This guy is rivaling Michael Jordan as the greatest basketball player of all-time.

Anyways, LeBron James was drafted first overall out of St. Mary-St. Vincent in Ohio in 2003 by his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. His accolades go as follows:

  • 3x NBA Champion
  • 3x NBA Finals MVP
  • 4x NBA MVP
  • 13x NBA All-Star
  • 2x All-Star Game MVP
  • 11x All-NBA First Team
  • 2x All-NBA Second Team
  • 5x All-Defensive First Team
  • 1x All-Defensive Second Team
  • 2004 NBA Rookie of the Year
  • 2008 Scoring Champion
  • 2x AP Athlete of the Year
  • 2x SI Sportsperson of the Year
  • 2012 USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year
  • 2x Olympic Gold Medalist
  • 7th All-Time in Scoring
  • 12th All-Time in Assists
  • 18th All-Time in Steals
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