Tuck: Kobe Bryant Correct To Say College Not Needed For NBA Success

Kobe Bryant is correct when he recently said college is unnecessary for NBA success.  He is also correct in saying his decision to skip college and turn pro out of high school wasn’t a decision made on what was best for basketball, it was one made on what was best for him.

“I don’t really look at it from that perspective of what was good for the game of basketball,” Kobe said when asked about his impact on the NBA as a prep-to-pro player. “I think the reality is there’s been a lot of players who’ve come out of high school. If you do the numbers and you look at the count, you’ll probably see players who came out of high school that were much more successful on average than players who went to college for a year or two or however long. It seems like the system really isn’t teaching players anything, if you go to college. If you go to college, you play, you showcase, and you come to the pros. Well, that’s always been the big argument, as a player you have to go to college, you have to develop your skills and so forth and so on, and then you come to the league. So, we kind of got sold on that dream a little bit. Fortunately, I didn’t really listen much to it. Neither did KG. Neither did LeBron. I think that worked out pretty well for all three of us.”

“I’m always a firm believer in us being able to make our own decisions, especially as it pertains to going out and working and having a job. You should be able to go out there and make your own choices.”


Below is a list of all the players drafted directly out of high school from 1996-2005.  And you’ll see, it isn’t the disaster some NBA teams and fans made it seem like.  In fact, just the opposite.  The rate of success is incredibly high.

The player, the year they were drafted, and the position in which they were selected.
Kobe Bryant       1996    1-13    
Kevin Garnett       1995    1-5    
LeBron James        2003    1-1    
Dwight Howard       2004    1-1    
Tracy McGrady       1997    1-9    
Amare Stoudemire    2002    1-9    
All-Stars and obviously very good players
Josh Smith          2004    1-17    
Jermaine O'Neal     1996    1-17    
Andrew Bynum        2005    1-10    
Rashard Lewis       1998    2-32    
Tyson Chandler      2001    1-2    
Monta Ellis         2005    2-40    
Al Jefferson        2004    1-15    
J.R. Smith          2004    1-18    
Al Harrington       1998    1-25    
Louis Williams      2005    2-45    
Starters and players who had long, productive careers, even if disappointing
Eddy Curry          2001    1-4    
Dorell Wright       2004    1-19    
DeShawn Stevenson   2000    1-23    
Kendrick Perkins    2003    1-27    
Kwame Brown         2001    1-1    
Darius Miles        2000    1-3    
Shaun Livingston    2004    1-4    
Martell Webster     2005    1-6    
DeSagana Diop       2001    1-8    
Sebastian Telfair   2004    1-13    
Travis Outlaw       2003    1-23    
C.J. Miles          2005    2-34    
Andray Blatche      2005    2-49    
Amir Johnson        2005    2-56    
Jonathan Bender     1999    1-5    
Gerald Green        2005    1-18    
The misses

Robert Swift        2004    1-12    
Leon Smith          1999    1-25    
Ndudi Ebi           2003    1-26    
Korleone Young      1998    2-40    
James Lang          2003    2-48    
Ricky Sanchez       2005    2-35    
Ousmane Cisse       2001    2-46   


6 of the 39 became superstars and 5 of them are HOF players.  Only 7 were total busts, but 4 of those were second round picks.  Think of all the other first rounders during that 10 year span that never panned out and made it to a second contract.  32/39 guys were players in the league contributing somewhere.  Certainly some of the players who had long careers could still qualify as busts, but that doesn’t make them any different than the college players taken in similar spots and not producing the desired results for their draft slot.  The list doesn’t even include players like Moses Malone, Darryl Dawkins, and Shawn Kemp who never went to college and were ahead of the time the preps to pros trend began.

Instead of making a farce out of college, players should be able to make their own adult decisions on their job future.  NBA teams risk isn’t as great as it is made out to be.  They just have to be willing to practice patience as these players grow.  There is the NBDL now to help out with that process.  I am, and have always been for players to decide when they are ready.  The game of basketball was never hurt by high schoolers turning pro and wouldn’t be if the league shifted back to that.