Can You Still Get Drafted In The NBA Out Of High School?

Can You Still Get Drafted In The NBA Out Of High School

Throughout the NBA’s history, some of the most dominant athletes have jumped to the NBA directly out of high school. Big names such as Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, and Dwight Howard skipped college and went straight to the big leagues. However, in 2005, the NBA made a rule change. Now, only players who are nineteen years old and at least one year removed from high school graduation are eligible for the NBA Draft.

The NBA’s Early Years

During its infant years, the NBA preferred players to go to college before getting drafted. Then, in 1962, the Detroit Pistons drafted Reggie Harding straight out of high school. Players had to wait one year after their high school class graduated before playing in the NBA during Harding’s time. Therefore, Harding spent his first year playing in minor leagues before he was allowed to step foot on the big courts.

To discourage the drafting of younger players like Harding, the NBA prohibited college players from being drafted until four years after they graduated high school. This rule caused such a stir that the case eventually made it all the way to the Supreme Court. In the case of Haywood v. National Basketball Association, such rules were deemed unconstitutional, and future young athletes were suddenly once again eligible for professional drafting.

After the Supreme Court case in 1971, players such as Moses Malone, Darryl Dawkins, and Bill Willoughby made it into the ABA or NBA directly out of high school in 1974 and 1975.

The Kevin Garnett Effect

After 1975, high schoolers did not grace the NBA Draft for 14 more years when Shawn Kemp joined the Seattle SuperSonics in 1989. Kemp would prove his worth by being selected for six All-Star games and three All-NBA teams during his career. Up until 1989, the drafting of high schoolers was a taboo subject. However, Shawn Kemp showed the NBA the value younger players could bring to the league.

In 1995, one high schooler would usher in a decade of young all-stars: Kevin Garnett. After completing high school, Garnett declared that he would head directly to the NBA. Although they did not like it, the NBA relented, allowing Garnett to be drafted by the Timberwolves.

Garnett’s success paved the way for high school players like Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, and Dwight Howard to join the NBA for the next decade. See the table below for a list of high school draftees chosen for at least one NBA All-Star Game from 1995 to 2005.

DraftRoundPickPlayerPositionDraft TeamHigh School
199515Kevin GarnettFMinnesota TimberwolvesFarragut Career Academy
1996113Kobe BryantGCharlotte HornetsLower Merion High School
1996117Jermaine O'NealF/CPortland Trail BlazersEau Claire High School
199719Tracy McGradyFToronto RaptorsMount Zion Christian Academy
1998232Rashard LewisFSeattle SuperSonicsAlief Elsik High School
200112Tyson ChandlerCLos Angeles ClippersDominguez High School
200219Amar'e StoudemireF/CPhoenix SunsCypress Creek High School
200311Lebron JamesFCleveland CavaliersSt. Vincent – St. Mary High School
200411Dwight HowardF/COrlando MagicSouthwest Atlanta Christian Academy
2005110Andrew BynumCLos Angeles LakersSt. Joseph High School

2005 Rule Change

In 2005, the players’ union and the NBA compromised on implementing an age requirement of 19 years old for new draftees. These prospective athletes must meet the age requirement and have graduated from high school at least one year prior to when they get drafted. Players who do not graduate high school must wait a year from when they would have graduated to be eligible for the NBA Draft. The rule has resulted in many players choosing to play one year of collegiate basketball or playing in the NBA G League before being drafted.

The 2005 age requirement has garnered much support but has also experienced plenty of backlash. Players like Andrew Bynum strongly opposed the ruling, whereas Spencer Haywood (the plaintiff of the Haywood v. National Basketball Association) agrees with an age minimum. Haywood thinks allowing players an appropriate amount of time to mature is a great idea for the well-being of the players and the integrity of the game.