By: Julio Olmo
Kevin Garnett blazed the trail for players to skip college – guys like Tracy McGrady, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwight Howard…among others ripped the benefits, before the NBA’s One And Done Rule.
Much has been said and written about Kevin Garnett’s career-jump from high school straight into the NBA, but I always felt his decision was a lot more significant and how it eventually affected the NBA and needed to be explained in detail.
There were pro scouts in the stands throughout his senior year at the Farragut Academy, and the hype peaked in the spring of 1995, when he held a workout at the University of Illinois-Chicago in front of 13 lottery teams and a few more representatives from franchises that weren’t even invited.
The league was expecting to welcome him in a year or two, but then scouts realized that the kid already belonged in the NBA ranks.
Sports Illustrated ran a cover story and compared him to a cross between Reggie Miller and Alonzo Mourning.
Even at age 19, his skill set was undeniable.
“He’s a genetic freak,” said back then, Pistons head coach Doug Collins.
After his UIC workout, head coaches Flip Saunders and Kevin McHale also said,
“There’s no risk in drafting Garnett in the top five. He has too much talent to fail.”
His only shortcomings as a prospect?
“No college experience”
Though it was, for the most part, accepted as a perfectly practical decision — why play for free at North Carolina when you could make good money in the pros? — it brought also tons of arrogantly-negative media panelist views, which eventually brought down the NBA’s One And Done Rule.
Obviously, if Garnett had curbed his ambition and spent a couple of years proving himself against Duke and Villanova, some media types would have felt more comfortable with him, but the reality is that any NBA-Pro scout can tell within a few months if the prospect is ready to make the jump or if needs play college basketball – scouting departments personnel get paid to obtain that data.
For decades, the best high school players in the country could hope for was to join a big program and get chewed out on national TV and maintaining a C-plus GPA.
Garnett wanted to skip all that noise.
Why not just focus on basketball?
Convention was the only thing holding the gifted K.G. back.
It took him all of a season-and-a-half to make his first All-Star team and he qualified for 14 more after that.
Along with Kobe Bryant, Garnett would be credited with inspiring an entire generation’s worth of preps-to-pros triumphs and flameouts.
Darius Miles and J.R. Smith, Kwame Brown and Amar’e Stoudemire, Sebastian Telfair and LeBron James — entered the league before the NBA instituted it’s lamented One And Done law in 2005.
Some high school phenoms thrived, some sucked, some bloomed late. Some went broke shortly after retirement.
In other words, drafting is and will never be an exact science, go figure!
It seems likely that the NBA will soon change its eligibility rules, and Garnett’s route will reopen for the basketball world’s eager and exceptional teenagers.
Garnett made the transition look easy because he was just that good, and many who followed him struggled or even failed completely.
But he proved a point that we’re arriving at again some 25 years later.
He wanted to play at the highest level, and a large number of NBA executives thought he was capable of it.
So why not go ahead and give it another try, NBA?