Before the NBA instituted its “one-and-done” rule, there was a rash of players who chose to make the leap from high school to the NBA. After all, if the likes of Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, and LeBron James could do, how hard could it be? Of course, countless players made the mistake of thinking they could be as good as those players. Just in case you’ve forgotten these players, here are some of the biggest busts who tried to go from high school to the NBA.
Swift was 7’1’’ and a lot more athletic than he looked, making some think he could be the NBA’s next great big man. However, big men are notoriously slow to develop and Swift wasn’t anywhere close to ready for the NBA out of high school after being selected 12th overall in the 2004 Draft. He barely played as a rookie and didn’t make much of an impact in his second season. Swift then tore his ACL during the preseason of the 2006-07 season, and it was all downhill from there.
Born in London but raised in Nigeria, Ebi had plenty of upside but was raw and unpolished when the Timberwolves took him 26th overall in the 2003 Draft. After Ebi played sparingly for his first two seasons, Minnesota lost an argument with the NBA over sending him to the D-League. When the T’Wolves couldn’t get him to the D-League, they released him, ending his NBA career after 19 games. However, Ebi did have a long career playing overseas.
As a skilled and athletic 7-footer, there was a massive hype train for Bender when he was the fifth overall pick in the 1999 Draft. He was actually the first player drafted out of high school to score double figures in his NBA debut. But that was more or less the high point of his career. Bender never lived up to the hype, in part because of knee injuries. To his credit, Bender made a comeback during the 2009-10 season after being out of the league for more than three years. However, 262 games, 28 starts, and 5.5 points per game is nothing for the fifth overall pick.
Brown was the first overall pick in the 2001 Draft, selected by the Wizards when Michael Jordan was Team President. However, Jordan and the Wizards swung and missed on Brown because he was far from the superstar they envisioned. In his defense, if Brown were a second-round pick, we’d say that he carved out a solid career. He stayed in the league for 12 years, averaging 6.6 points per game. But that’s just not enough for the first overall pick.
If you’re an undersized point guard with a spotty jump shot, you shouldn’t be in a rush to get to the NBA, even if Stephon Marbury is your cousin. For what it’s worth, Telfair was a stud while attending high school in Brooklyn, which is no joke. But in college, he would have learned how to succeed despite a lack of size, strength, and consistent jump shot. After being the 13th overall pick in 2004, Telfair was nothing more than a reserve at the end of the bench for most of his NBA career.