Despite the league instituting a rule to keep players from entering the NBA straight out of high school, there have been more than a few players who have stepped onto the court and played at a high level when they were still teenagers. Obviously, youngsters like Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, and others went off to have incredible careers. But of that exclusive group, who stood out the most while they were still a teenager? Let’s search for the answer to that question while we look at the best teenagers in NBA history?
5. Dwight Howard
Unfortunately for Zion Williamson, the pandemic cut his time in the NBA as a teenager a little short. That allows Howard to hold him off for a top-5 spot on our list. Keep in mind that Howard was physically ready for the NBA as a teenager, which isn’t always the case for a big man.
He averaged a double-double as a teenager and also averaged 1.6 blocks per game before turning 20. Other teens went on to have better careers, but few were as productive as Howard right away.
4. Carmelo Anthony
Not only did Anthony win a national championship at Syracuse when he was still a teenager, but he also stepped right into the NBA and averaged 21 points per game before his 20th birthday.
It’s important to remember that in any other year, he would have been the obvious first overall pick and the clear choice for Rookie of the Year. He just happened to enter the league the same year as some guy named LeBron James.
3. Luka Doncic
It’s safe to say that the league wasn’t ready for a player like Doncic, who did things no other teenager has ever done. For starters, he had four triple-doubles before the age of 20. Only one player has so much as one triple-double as a teenager, and that’s Markelle Fultz.
He’s also the first teenager to average 20 points and seven rebounds per game, and Doncic managed to do that while essentially playing as his team’s point guard and also averaging more than five assists per game.
2. Moses Malone
Back in the day, Malone was the gold standard for teenagers in the NBA. He was the first to make the jump from high school to the NBA, and until Kobe Bryant came along, he was the only teenager ever selected to the All-Star Game.
Malone would eventually have an amazing career over 21 seasons that landed him in the Hall of Fame. But he’s also one of the elite teenagers in NBA history.
1. LeBron James
Like it or not, nobody is going to top what this guy did as a teenager in the NBA. After all, he was the “chosen one.” James played 108 games before his 20th birthday, averaging close to 22 points, six rebounds, and six assists per game.
He was ready for the NBA from the first game of his rookie season. Among teenagers in NBA history, he’s the all-time leader in points, assists, and steals, all of which are records that are unlikely to ever be broken.