In 1962, the Detroit Pistons selected Reggie Harding in the fourth round of the NBA Draft. However, Harding had to play in the minor leagues for a year before he could play for the Pistons. That’s because the NBA would not let players into the league until one year after graduating from high school. Since Harding never went to college, he had to wait and missed out on an extra year in the NBA.
Then, in 1971 the Supreme Court case of Haywood v. National Basketball Association determined that players could be allowed to enter the NBA straight out of high school if they could show evidence that they didn’t have the means to attend college. In 1974, Moses Malone became the first player in modern professional basketball to go from high school to the bigs as he signed with the ABA’s Utah Stars. Daryl Dawkins and Bill Willoughby followed suit a year later. Over the years 42 players were drafted straight from high school into the NBA.
Today the NBA no longer lets players into the NBA straight from high school. As it was in the 60s, players need to be out of high school for at least a year before becoming eligible for the NBA draft. This has created some controversy as certain people argue that some players who play one year of college and then leave for the NBA like Derrick Rose, Anthony Davis and John Wall have no desire to be in college in the first place. Others argue that people who skip college are not as mature as those who attend, even for as little as a year.
Teenagers can still get into the NBA if they are young enough after finishing one year of college or, in the case of Brandon Jennings, simply one year removed from high school. Jennings played in Italy instead of college for a year before being drafted in 2010.
Fortunate teenagers who are drafted in the NBA can start off their lives making loads of money. This list features the richest teenagers to ever play in the NBA. Each player is limited to being on the list only once; some played as teenagers for two years.
10. Kobe Bryant – 1996-97 – Age 18 – $1.167 Million
Kobe Bryant was drafted out of high school by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996 but was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers soon after. Since he was seventeen when he was drafted his parent had to cosign his contract. His first deal in the NBA paid him $1.167 million per year. Today he’s the highest-paid player in the NBA making $30.4 million in 2013-14. It’s a good total for a five-time NBA champion who has scored more than 31,000 points in his career.
9. Amar’e Stoudemire – 2002-03 – Age 19 – $1.76 Million
Amar’e Stoudemire was still 19 when he signed his deal with the Phoenix Suns in 2002 upon leaving high school in Orlando. He was only a teenager for two weeks during his NBA tenure but that’s good enough for this list. He’s now the third highest-paid player in the NBA making $21.7 million per year with the New York Knicks. He’s gotten $10 million or more per year since 2006 from the Suns and Knicks alike.
8. Andrew Bynum – 2005-06 – Age 18 – $1.88 Million
Andrew Bynum was a top ten pick in the NBA draft from the Los Angeles Lakers. While it took a year for his stock to really pick up, he still got a big payday with a $1.88 million salary in his first year. He’s earned at least $10 million a year since 2009 and is currently getting $12.2 million from the Cleveland Cavaliers, a salary that will continue heading into the next season.
7. Eddy Curry – 2001-02 – Age 19 – $2.7 Million
Eddy Curry was one of two players that the Chicago Bulls took in the top five of the 2001 NBA Draft. The Chicago-area native was pegged as one of the Baby Bulls and got $2.7 million in his rookie season. He struggled with the Bulls but found a bit of a niche with the New York Knicks a few years later. However, injuries prompted him to retire in 2013. He did manage to get an $11.5 million deal in 2010 with the Minnesota Timberwolves but lost it after another injury.
6. Carmelo Anthony – 2003-04 – Age 19 – $3.2 Million
Carmelo Anthony played for Syracuse when he was 18 and became the third overall draft pick in 2003 after leading the Orangemen to an NCAA title. The $3.2 million he earned from his first deal was less than what LeBron James (who came two picks earlier) got the same year. Still, it was the gateway to more money for Melo as he is earning $22 million with the New York Knicks today. However, Anthony still doesn’t have any NBA titles like King James does.
5. Tyson Chandler – 2001-02 – Age 19 – $3.3 Million
Tyson Chandler, like Eddy Curry, was one of the Baby Bulls of 2001. His $3.3 million rookie salary was big for a player out of high school. Chandler couldn’t even get more than ten points per game on average with the Bulls. He left in 2006 before the Bulls’ big rise but he’s still a prominent figure in the NBA. Chandler is getting $14 million with the New York Knicks this year.
4. LeBron James – 2003-04 – Age 19 – $4 Million
LeBron James was a highly coveted star at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio. He was so popular that some of his high school games were aired on pay-per-view in parts of Ohio. After being the first overall draft pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003, he got a $4 million contract. James took his talents to the Miami Heat in 2010 and today is getting $19 million per year after winning two NBA titles in a row.
3. Dwight Howard – 2004-05 – Age 19 – $4.18 Million
Dwight Howard was a highly popular star in Atlanta who got $4.18 million in his first year with the Orlando Magic. His salary has burst to new levels and today he’s one of the ten highest-paid players in the NBA. He’s getting $20.5 million this season as a member of the Houston Rockets. Howard has been averaging around 20 points per game for most of his career.
2. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist – 2012-13 – Age 19 – $4.6 Million
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist left the University of Kentucky one year after the Wildcats won the NCAA championship in 2012. He earned $4.6 million from the Charlotte Bobcats in his first year. In 2015 when the Bobcats will officially be known as the Hornets, MKG will be getting $6.3 million. Perhaps he could start a good rivalry with the number one person on this list as he played alongside him in Lexington.
1. Anthony Davis – 2012-13 – Age 19 – $5.15 Million
Anthony Davis played one year for Kentucky helping them win the national championship in 2012. He then left to become the top draft pick in 2012 by the New Orleans Hornets. He made the All-Rookie Team and had 13.5 points per game in his first year. The team, which is now known as the Pelicans, will pay him $7 million in 2015 as he starts to leave his mark on the league.
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