What kind of kid doesn’t dream about being an NBA star? As youngsters grow up watching their biggest idols reach the sky, millions of children from all over the world are desperate to become the world’s next superstar, working their butts off from day one to become better and better and fight for their dream.
Nevertheless, not all great players have the opportunity to play for a good college with a solid basketball program and actual exposure, or they’re just overlooked or not taken seriously by scouts before the NBA Draft, so they don’t get the actual chance to prove what they’re worth.
Furthermore, looking at inspiring stories such as Jonathon Simmons’ from the San Antonio Spurs or Seth Curry and Yogi Ferrell from the Dallas Mavericks, it’s pretty clear that even undrafted players can actually be successful in the association, so let’s take a look at the 10 best undrafted players in NBA history.
10. Brad Miller
Miller had to try his luck overseas during the first years of his professional career after not being picked by any team in the 1998 NBA draft after spending four years as the starting center at the University of Purdue.
After a couple of seasons in Italy, Miller finally found his way to the NBA with the Hornets, starting a 13 year career where he played with the Bulls, the Pacers, the Kings, the Rockets and the Timberwolves; earning career averages of 11.2 points and 7.1 rebounds per game, as well as earning a couple of bronze medals with Team USA in the 1998 and 2006 basketball World Cup.
9. Udonis Haslem
Haslem is one of the most important players in Miami Heat history, earning all his 3 rings with the South Beach institution alongside Dwyane Wade. Nevertheless, Haslem’s journey was quite difficult at first, going undrafted in 2002 after spending 4 years under the current Oklahoma City Thunder coach, Billy Donovan; with his Florida Gators.
After spending one year in France, U.D signed a one-year deal as a free agent with the Heat and the rest is history, becoming the franchise’s leading rebounder and winning three rings. Over his 13 year career, Haslem has averaged 7.9 points and 7 rebounds, being a great leader and mentor on and off the court for Pat Riley’s squad.
8. Jose Calderon
The veteran arrived at Toronto in 2005 after being a complete sensation on his native ACB, becoming an instant leader through eight years up north before playing for the Pistons, the Mavericks, the Knicks, the Lakers and the Hawks.
He’s also one of the most important players in Spanish basketball history, earning 2 bronze medals, 4 silver medals and even a couple of golden prizes alongside other Spanish legends like Juan Carlos Navarro, Pau Gasol and Felipe Reyes, averaging 9.7 points and 6.3 assists per game and becoming the first Spanish player to ever win an NBA Playoffs game, as well as becoming the league-leading 3 point percentage shooter in the 2012-2013 campaign.
7. Wesley Matthews
It’s hard to believe it, but the two-way sharp-shooting shooting guard wasn’t drafted in the 2009 NBA draft after 4 full seasons with the Marquette Golden Eagles, earning his spot in the Association thanks to his great performances with the Utah Jazz over the summer league.
Now, after becoming a key piece in Portland’s resurgence alongside Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge, “Wes” expects to take his game to a whole new level with Rick Carlisle and his Dallas Mavericks, earning career averages of 14 points, 3.1 rebounds and a couple of assists per game on .381 shooting from downtown.
6. Bruce Bowen
The 13-year NBA veteran had to work very hard to find a spot in the NBA after spending his college career on the roster for Cal State Fullerton, a very small basketball program, having to play a couple of years in France before and in the NBA Development League before earning the chance to be a part of the Miami Heat roster.
Afterwards, the small forward had some stints with the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers, but it was Gregg Popovich who got the best out of him, as Bowen was a key piece in the Spurs’ 2001 championship run alongside Manu Ginobili and Fabricio Oberto, winning a couple of rings since then and even having his number 12 jersey retired by the Spurs.
5. Avery Johnson
The Little General and former coach of the year was also a very successful basketball player not to be drafted by any NBA team. The current Alabama Crimson Tide coach played as a point guard for New Mexico, Cameron and Southern University, never being able to find consistency and exposure.
Nevertheless, thanks to an outstanding Summer League performance, the Seattle Supersonics took a leap of faith on him, starting a 16-year career, where he played for the Nuggets, Spurs, Warriors, Mavericks and Rockets, earning career averages of 8.4 points and 5.5 assists per game.
4. John Starks
The former Oklahoma State point guard was also undrafted in the 1987 NBA Draft despite his 15.4 points per game on 49.7 shooting through his senior year, after spending his 3 prior years playing for 3 different basketball programs.
After spending some time in the CBA and the WBL, Starks got the chance to play for the Golden State Warriors, but his time with the Knicks was actually his most successful stint. After injuring his knee trying to dunk on Pat Ewing, the New York institution couldn’t cut him due to a clause on his contract, but that wound up working just fine for everybody, as Starks actually flourished into a very decent player.
With career averages of 12.6 points and 3.6 assists through his career, Starks was even an All-Star and the NBA Sixth Man of the Year, spending his 14-year NBA career with the Knicks, the Bulls, the Warriors and the Jazz.
3. Darrell Armstrong
The astronaut (and current Dallas Maverick assistant) earned a spot on this list thanks to his amazing 13-year NBA Career with the Orlando Magic, the Hornets, the Mavericks, the Pacers and the Nets as a point guard, where he averaged 9.2 points and 4 assists per game.
Armstrong started playing basketball when he was a senior in high school, but he quit until he was a junior at Fayetteville State, so he wasn’t taken seriously by any scout and wasn’t drafted in 1993, so he was forced to play in some minor leagues in USA and Cyprus before playing for the Magic, where he was a part of the 1995 dunk contest. In 1998, the point guard even earned the Most Improved Player and Sixth Man of the Year awards in the very same season.
2. David Wesley
The former Baylor point guard was constantly being overlooked for his height by NBA scouts, so he wasn’t picked in the 1993 draft, so he had to go overseas to Venezuela to play for Trotamundos before earning the chance to become an NBA Player.
In 1995, the prolific scorer finally got his opportunity with the New Jersey Nets, before having some stints with the Boston Celtics, the Hornets, the Rockets and the Cleveland Cavaliers, becoming one of the biggest scorers in NBA history despite not being drafted.
1. Ben Wallace
Obviously, Big Ben earned the top spot on this list, as the ultimate bad boy wasn’t drafted in 1996. But that didn’t stop him from becoming an NBA Champion and one of the league’s most talented defenders, being tied with Dikembe Mutombo with his 4 Defensive Player of the Year awards.
Big Ben played with the Wizards, the Orlando Magic, the Chicago Bulls, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Pistons, where he thrived the most with his bad-ass attitude and his physical style of play, being one of the most feared players in the entire NBA.
The 4-time All-Star and 2001 leading shot blocker of the league averaged 5.7 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 2 blocks per game through his 16-year career, becoming one of the league’s most fierce players and earning the heart of the fans thanks to his fearless style of play.