Growing up there are millions of kids who either dream of playing in the NBA and then a slightly smaller group of kids get to compete and only something like the top one percent of the top one percent actually play in the NBA. Keep in mind there are only 32 while each player has somewhere in the neighborhood of 12-15 players a piece.
There are some who have the talent but due to some circumstance don’t make it to the league for one reason or another. Sometimes it can be getting in with the wrong crowds and sometimes it can be for legal reasons, although the latter is rare. While there is an extensive list today we are going to talk about five of them.
For those who live near Harlem, New York, and enjoy playing basketball, chances are you’ve heard of the tournament played since the 1950s at Rucker Park and while NBA greats such as Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul Jabbar played there, others did not quite get to experience any taste of the NBA for one reason or another.
The first two that we are going to talk about today come from the tournament at Rucker Park. When reading about these players, one thing to keep in mind is that since some of them did not play in official leagues some of them do not have hard, concrete statistics as those that played in organized leagues such as the NBA did and height and weights may not always be officially recorded as this was not a requirement to play in a league such as the one in Rucker Park.
5 Amazing Basketball Players To Never Play in the NBA
Pee Wee Kirkland
One article, that talks about Pee Wee Kirkland, said that if someone were to write a scouting report for him, they would say he is a two-way player (meaning he can be an asset on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court) and his ball handling skills were second to none.
Kirkland did play high school basketball at Charles Evans High School, then went on to play college basketball at Kittrell College, a school in North Carolina, and the same article as above states he averaged 41 points a game. After college Kirkland was drafted at the 20th pick of the NBA draft but unfortunately chose not to go that route as he found he could make far more money by staying on the streets and selling drugs.
Joe “the destroyer” Hammond
Much like Kirkland, Joe Hammond also came out of the Rucker Park league in New York. While there is plenty of superior talent in the Rucker Park League, there was nobody that was feared more than Hammond. Some players would literally run when they saw he was on the other team and the New York Daily News dubbed him as “the greatest street baller who ever lived”.
Hammond currently has the top two scoring records for the Rucker park league to the tune of 74 points in one game and 73 in the other. While Hammond was never offered to play in the NBA he did get an offer to play in the ABA and is still popular among Rucker park league enthusiasts today.
In a matter of fact, on Facebook Hammond even has his own fan club and was offered a contract to play in the ABA for $105,000 over three years, but legal circumstances prevented him from joining the team.
There is one thing unique about Larry Brown – he is a hall-of-fame coach for the NBA but he was never a player in the NBA. However, this certainly does not mean he had any playing experience at all.
Brown played six seasons in the ABA and had numerous accomplishments, considering he was only there six years which included making the All-Star team three times, winning an ABA championship with the Oakland Oaks in 1969 which was the pinnacle of his career as he led the league in assists from 1967-1970.
Before going to the NBA Brown played in the ABA and was also an ABA coach where he won the coach of the year every year from 1972-1976 and was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame as a coach in the NBA where he had a record 1327-1011.
Outside of playing in the NBA Bill Spivey had another version of basketball dreams of some kids – he played for the Washington Generals a team that would often be played by the Harlem Globetrotters.
The 7′ 230-pound center has his number 77 retired at the University of Kentucky and was named the national player of the year in 1950-1951 and also ranked number one by numerous publications such as the AP, UPI, NABC, Converse, Helms, Look, Sporting News, Colliers, and the International News Service.
While Spivey clearly had a superior career at Kentucky his next season is something that would shake him to his core when he was accused of being in a point-shaving scandal for 86 games in 23 cities, something that he denies to this day and that was a part of the reason why he ended up missing the entire 1951-1952 season. The other reason he missed the season was due to a knee injury.
Another implication of Spivey being accused is he was banned from playing in the NBA, however, they settled out of court for $10,000.
Note all information for Bill Spivey came from this article: https://www.nytimes.com/1995/05/10/obituaries/bill-spivey-66-kentucky-star-implicated-in-scandal-of-1950-s.html
For somebody who came straight out of college with a rough childhood, this is every person’s nightmare. While Len Bias was the first pick for the Celtics was the second pick in the first round of the NBA draft and on the night Bias got drafted he overdosed on drugs causing his imminent death.
The 6 ‘8, 210-pound center played four years at the University of Maryland, where he averaged 16.4 points per game, the best being his senior year when he averaged 23.2 points and 7.2 rebounds.
Bias’ overdose ended up having unintended consequences as it started to rile up a lingering problem that had crept up in the justice system over the years. Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski once told the Washington Post “During my years as a coach, the two most dominant players we’ve faced were Michael Jordan and Len Bias”.
It can be safely assumed that when you are being put in the same class as Michael Jordan then you are definitely in a dominant class all by yourself.
So what are the lessons that can be learned from these five players if you want to play in the NBA? Stay off illegal drugs, surround yourself people who won’t tempt you with drugs, be mindful of who you spend your time with (in Bill Spivey’s case there were teammates who were also accused in the point shaving scandal) and to start out in the league try to accept whatever offer your going to get your rookie year.
There are plenty of stars who played four years of college and busted but who those players are are a different article for a different day. So just remember. Don’t do drugs.