Before Kobe and LeBron and KG and T-Mac, Malone made a successful leap from high school to the pros. The Petersburg (Va.) High product was selected by the Utah Stars in the third round of the 1974 ABA draft. Malone spent two seasons in the ABA before transitioning to the NBA, where he was a dominant rebounder and 20-point scorer over 19 seasons. Malone, a champion with the 1982-83 76ers, won three MVP awards.
2 of 19John W. McDonough/SI
Kobe has won three championships and one MVP award since jumping to the NBA after a record-setting run at Lower Merion High in Philadelphia. The 12th-year veteran already ranks 18th on the all-time scoring list with more than 23,000 points.
3 of 19John Biever/SI
One of the most celebrated high school athletes ever, the Akron, Ohio, native made an immediate impact in the NBA by averaging 20.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists as a 19-year-old rookie. He has since joined Oscar Robertson as the only players to average 27-6-6 for four consecutive seasons. James is considered the favorite to win his first MVP award in 2008-09.
4 of 19John Biever/SI
The Timberwolves picked the 6-11 phenom from Farragut Academy (Chicago) with the fifth pick in the 1995 draft. Garnett became the first player to jump directly from high school to the NBA since Darryl Dawkins and Bill Willoughby in 1975. The Big Ticket -- who became a league MVP, Defensive Player of the Year and NBA champion -- sparked a trend, as prep stars Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady and LeBron James, among others, would follow in subsequent years before the NBA instituted an age restriction for the draft in 2005.
5 of 19Greg Nelson/SI
T-Mac has made the All-NBA first team twice, played in seven All-Star Games and won back-to-back scoring titles. But the 12-year veteran is still searching for his first playoff-series victory. That breakthrough won't happen in 2008-09, as the injury-plagued McGrady had season-ending knee surgery after struggling through the first half of the season.
6 of 19Greg Nelson/SI
The polished collegian (Emeka Okafor) or the raw Georgia prep star (Howard) at No. 1? That was the debate leading up to the 2004 draft. In hindsight, the Magic made the right call in picking Howard, who is blossoming into a superstar for an up-and-coming Eastern Conference contender.
7 of 19John W. McDonough/SI
After attending six high schools, Stoudemire landed in Phoenix as the No. 9 pick in the 2002 draft. He has averaged more than 20 points in five of the last six seasons, the only exception being 2005-06, when he played only three games after having microfracture surgery. Stoudemire started the 2009 All-Star Game, but his season ended less than a week later when he had surgery to repair a partially detached retina in his right eye.
8 of 19John W. McDonough/SI
The caveat: Kemp didn't jump directly from high school to the NBA. But he hadn't played a college game when the SuperSonics selected the 19-year-old forward with the 17th pick of the 1989 draft. In his prime, the Reign Man was an explosive finisher who appeared in six All-Star Games and helped Seattle reach the 1996 NBA Finals.
9 of 19Icon SMI
O'Neal, a prep star in Columbia, S.C., spent four seasons as a seldom-used Trail Blazers reserve before a 2000 trade to Indiana jump-started his career. The 6-foot-11 forward-center averaged at least 19 points and 8.8 rebounds in six consecutive seasons for the Pacers, appearing in five All-Star Games. O'Neal's production has dropped as he has struggled with injuries over the last few seasons, and he's been traded twice since July 2008.
10 of 19Bob Rosato/SI
Lewis was in tears on draft night in 1998 after languishing in the green room through the first round and watching his hometown Houston Rockets pass on him three times. But the No. 32 pick has developed into a two-time All-Star who has averaged at least 20 points a game in three seasons.
11 of 19Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Big Al, a high school standout in Mississippi, has established himself as one of the best players never to make the All-Star team. The 6-10 forward-center joined Dwight Howard, Antawn Jamison and Carlos Boozer as the only players to average 20 points and 10 rebounds in 2007-08, and he was averaging 23.1 points and 11.0 rebounds in 2008-09 when he sustained a season-ending knee injury in February.
12 of 19Manny Millan/SI
A year after Moses Malone went from high school to the pros, Dawkins (along with Bill Willoughby) did the same. The colorful Dawkins, the 76ers' first-round pick in 1975, was known best for inhabiting his own planet (Lovetron), creating nicknames for his backboard-breaking dunks and making up countless monikers for himself (Chocolate Thunder stuck). Dawkins averaged 12.0 points, mostly off the bench, in 13 NBA seasons, peaking at 16.8 with the Nets in 1983-84.
13 of 19David E. Klutho/SI
His scoring average jumped from 6.8 to 16.5 to 20.2 in his first three seasons, an improvement that earned him a six-year, $66 million contract in August 2008. But Ellis injured his ankle in a moped accident weeks after signing his new deal. The injury cost him the first half of the 2008-09 season and led to some friction between the 6-3 guard and the Warriors.
14 of 19Greg Nelson/SI
The 7-footer from New Jersey has shown flashes of brilliance over four seasons, but injuries have complicated his development. He averaged 13.1 points and 10.2 rebounds in 2007-08 and was at 14.0 and 8.2 in 46 games in 2008-09 when he tore a ligament in his right knee.
15 of 19Nick Laham/Getty Images
Harrington, the No. 25 pick in the 1998 draft, averaged 13.0 points in his first 10 seasons divided among Indiana, Atlanta and Golden State. In November 2008, the Warriors traded the New Jersey native to the Knicks, with whom Harrington is averaging more than 20 points.
16 of 19Bob Rosato/SI
The 6-9 forward can score, rebound, block shots and finish as spectacularly as anyone on the break. He's also had several run-ins with Hawks coach Mike Woodson since entering the NBA as the 17th pick in the 2004 draft.
17 of 19John W. McDonough/SI
Jackson -- like Shawn Kemp -- wasn't drafted directly out of high school; he didn't play at Butler County (Kan.) Community College. The Suns selected Jackson at No. 43 in the 1997 draft, but he spent time in the CBA and in Venezuela before sticking in the NBA with New Jersey in 2000-01. Jackson has had his share of ups and downs: He won a championship with the 2002-03 Spurs, was part of the infamous 2004 Palace brawl, wore out his welcome in Indiana and revived his career as team captain of the Warriors. Jackson is averaging more than 20 points for the second consecutive season.
18 of 19Greg Nelson/SI
The Bulls thought so highly of the 7-1 Chandler that they traded Elton Brand for him on draft night in 2001. Chandler spent five pedestrian seasons in Chicago before being traded to New Orleans, where he averaged career highs of 11.8 points and 11.7 rebounds in 2007-08.
19 of 19AP
Curry joined with Chandler in 2001 to give the Bulls two teenaged building blocks. Chicago, however, won an average of 22 games in their four seasons together, and Curry was dealt to New York in 2005. He's never been a good rebounder, and the 2008-09 season has been a wash, but Curry has proved to be a capable low-post scorer. He averaged a career-high 19.5 points (on 57.6 percent shooting) with the Knicks in 2006-07.
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