15. Yao Ming (2002):
It’s not that Yao Ming was a novelty. But the fact that you had a kid who stood a legitimate 7-foot-6, was trained to be a professional basketball player since he was 13 years old, played at a “professional” level overseas as a teenager (averaging almost 40 points per game in his final season in China), and showed the ability to hit shots as far out as behind the three-point line was literally unprecedented.
The obvious questions about whether Yao would able to handle the physical rigors of the NBA, and how long his 7’6 body would hold up amidst the nightly punishment he’d put on his lower body were there, but the intrigue of “how high is Yao’s ceiling” all had teams lining up to take him over Jay Williams of Duke University, the reigning two-time college basketball player of the year.