Most people who make a success of their basketball careers come through the draft system. Impressing coaches and scouts during your college career makes the franchises in the NBA sit up and take notice. Not everyone needs the draft system, and these top basketball stars found their way to the NBA by an alternative to the norm.
The lack of scoring ability that Ben Wallace had was possibly why he never went through the draft in the first place, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t play. Wallace wasn’t picked up by anyone in the 1996 draft, but he never stopped believing in himself. The big center never averaged double digits in scoring during his NBA career, but he was a legitimate candidate for the MVP anyway.
His importance on the team couldn’t be matched by anyone capable of getting the ball in the basket more often. Wallace won the NBA championship in 2004 with the Pistons and was named the Defensive Player of the Year four times.
Standing out in college can definitely get you noticed quicker, but if you’re a good player people will notice your talents eventually. Johnson went undrafted in 1988 but still found a regular spot on the Seattle Supersonics team. He eventually found stability in the league when he was picked up by the Spurs in 1992.
The point guard became an essential part of the championship-winning Spurs team of 1999 and Johnson’s number 6 shirt was retired by the franchise.
In 1998 nobody wanted to use a draft pick on Brad Miller, but he found his way to the Charlotte Hornets anyway. The 7-footer wasn’t just a big guy though, and he had some serious playmaking skills. He was so productive with the ball in his hands he became something of a novelty in the NBA. Miller’s court vision set him apart from other big guys in the league, and he even ended up on the All-Star roster a couple of times.
Bruce Bowen completed four years at college but went undrafted in 1993. He had good skills, but no one thought he was truly outstanding anywhere on the court. Bowen was looking like becoming a journeyman right out of college, but in the end, he became the guy that held the plays together in the NBA.
After playing in France for a while, Bowen became one of the most important players in the history of the San Antonio Spurs. He won three NBA championships in nine seasons with the Spurs, who later retired his number 12 jersey.
Apart from the unforgettable name, Bo Outlaw was a great player in the NBA for 15 seasons. He had more heart and hustle than most teams combined and helped glue many teams together with his energy. Outlaw was a part of the famous Heart & Hustle Orlando Magic team during the ‘90s.
These players proved that sometimes the unconventional route is better than following everyone else’s paths. They might have had the uncertainty of being undrafted, but they learned how to work hard and prove themselves through their play on the court rather than reputation.