|PROSPECT-CENTRAL (20 - 16)|
Written by: Prospect-Central
In 1891, the Canadian-American Dr. James Naismith invented the game of basketball at a YMCA training school in Springfield, Massachusetts. Given the cold Massachusetts winters, Naismith needed to find a recreational activity that could be played indoors. He preferred a sport that would develop skill as opposed to relying only on strength and thus the game we've all grown to love was created.
|Dr. James Naismith (1861-1939)|
On June 6th, 1946, the Basketball Association of America was founded. The BAA was an 11-team league that consisted of the Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, Philadelphia Warriors, and others. Three years later in 1949, the BAA and the NBL merged into the greatest basketball league in the world, the NBA.
Many leagues have formed since then, both nationally and abroad, but the best baller's in the world come to the NBA to play. There's been a number of exceptional players to put on NBA jerseys over the years, but this is the story about those that had the potential to play at the highest level, but for one reason or another never did.
|The First Basketball Court (Springfield, MA)|
In order for a player to be selected there were two pieces of criteria needed to be met. If a player was balling before the NBA's inception in 1949, they were ineligible for a selection. The same thing went for a player that currently has a chance to play in the NBA today.
With so many great players from the past, there were obviously some that didn't make the cut. Of all the names left off the list, former Harlem Globetrotter Medowlark Lemon has to be the biggest snub. When Wilt Chamberlain says your the greatest basketball player he's ever seen, there's no question your name should be among the very best to have never played in the NBA. Medowlark Lemon was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003, so he's probably better than a number of players that made the cut, but I wanted to tell the stories of some lesser known names. With that being said, here's Prospect-Central's Top 25 Baller's NEVER to Play in the NBA. * Prospect-Central's #20 - #16 baller's never to play in the NBA.
Since outside shooting was suspect at best during the 1930's & 40's, the most common offenses were motion offenses designed to open up players close to the hoop. Defenses countered by playing zones, which clogged the passing lanes and packed the paint. The player credited for revolutionizing the game during this era, none other than Robert "Bobby" McDermott. He could spread the floor like no other player before him and during his time period was considered the greatest long-distance shooter the game had ever seen. Even though McDermott used a two-handed set shot that was easy to block, he could score anywhere within the half court and his accuracy was uncanny. Born January 7, 1914 in Queens, New York, McDermott dropped out of high school after his freshman year and quickly made a name for himself on the playgrounds of The Big Apple. Shortly after, McDermott signed a contract with the Brooklyn Visitations of the ABL and helped them win the 1934-35 championship. This was at a time when teams commonly scored less than 30 points a game, but McDermott averaged 20 by himself and set a playoff record with 32.
(19) Nikos Galis pg/sg / 6'1'' 190 / International
Considered the greatest individual athlete from the country that created the Olympics, Nikos Galis inspired an entire nation to start playing basketball. If it wasn't for an injury suffered during a Boston Celtics training camp in 1979, Galis would have played in the NBA as well. Born July 23, 1957 in Union City, New Jersey, Galis' parents came to the States from Rhodes, Greece hoping to give Nikos an opportunity for a successful life. Little did they know he would become one of the greatest European basketball players of all-time. A versatile athlete, Nikos took up boxing in his early years, but eventually attended Seton Hall for hoops. During his senior year for the Pirates, Galis ranked third in the nation in scoring with 27.5 ppg, behind only Lawrence Butler and the legendary Larry Bird. Seton Hall's coach at the time, Bill Raftery, would later call Galis the best player he ever coached. He was projected as a first round pick in the 1979 NBA Draft, but due to poor representation by his agent, fell to the 4th round and was selected 68th overall by the Boston Celtics. Things got worse for Galis, as he suffered a severe injury in training camp and subsequently was never offered a contract by the Celtics. Red Auberbach would later say that not signing Galis was the single biggest mistake in his career. Galis eventually decided to pursue a professional career in Greece and the rest is history.
Galis played professionally from 1979-94, and is still considered the greatest scorer the European game has ever seen. Throughout his illustrious career, Nikos Galis won 8 Greek tittles, 7 Greek Cups, and a number of FIBA championships. From 1983 onwards, he was the top scorer in every major European and world international competition he competed in, and is still the Euroleague's all-time leading scorer. He's also a 4-time Greek Player of the Year, 2-time European Player of the Year, and 1-time EuroBasket MVP. Galis was named as one of FIBA's 50 Greatest Players of All-Time, Euroleague's 35 Greatest Players of All-Time, and was inducted into the Greek, Seton Hall, and FIBA Hall of Fame's as well. What's most impressive about Nikos Galis however, is what he did in 1983. Playing with the Greek national team against the North Carloina Tar Heels at Chapel Hill, Galis dropped a 50-piece on Michael Jordan!!! Obviously Galis had the skills to be a successful NBA player, but it's what basketball legend Drazen Petrovic said that sums up his career best. "If I'm the devil's son, then Galis is the devil himself." If Nikos Galis' basketball career was a movie, it appears it would've been "The Usual Suspects", and he no doubt would have played the devil himself Keyser Soze. Just like Soze before him, the greatest trick the devil ever pulled, was convincing the world he didn't exist...and like that...Galis was gone!!!
(18) James "Fly" Williams sg / 6'5'' 200 / Streetball
James Williams was so Fly, he once dribbled off the court during a game to hit up the water fountain. Now that's cold blooded. This is exactly what made Williams such a great player however, his flamboyant playing style and flair for the theatrics. Unfortunately for Williams, these same attributes are ultimately the reason he never made it to the NBA. Born February 18, 1953 in Brownsville, New York, Fly could score the rock with the best of them. He once dropped 63 points on NBA Hall-of-Famer Mosses Malone at the Dappar Don Classic, but really made a name for himself playing against streetball legends like World B. Free and Earl "The Goat" Manigault. Fly's college career was pretty impressive as well. He attended Austin Peay State University (Clarksville, TN) in 1972, and during his freshman year was fifth in the nation in scoring with 29.4 ppg. He helped the small school reach the NCAA tournament and despite loosing to Kentucky in the second round, Fly still lit up the scoreboards. His sophomore year was just as impressive as he once again led Austin Peay to the NCAA tournament and averaged 27.5 ppg in the process. After scoring over 1,500 points in two-years of college basketball, Fly decided to pursue a professional career.
Fly was selected in the first round of the 1974 ABA Draft by the Denver Nuggets, but was eventually sold to the Spirits of St. Louis. NBC's Bob Costas was actually announcing the Spirits games at the time. Fly's rookie season was somewhat disappointing, as he only averaged 9.4 ppg and was known more for his showmanship rather than his scoring prowess. The following year, the Spirits of St. Louis were one of two teams to fold as result of the ABA-NBA merger, and Fly was left without a team. He was selected by the Philadelphia 76ers in the ninth round of the 1976 NBA Draft, but was never signed. Fly bounced around from various leagues, but his attitude was ultimately the reason he never made it in the NBA. For a short time in the 70's though, you'd be hard pressed to find a player that could score the rock better than James "Fly" Williams. He once dropped 45 points in the first-half of a game, switched teams, then dropped 55 in the second. Fly's career was ultimately cut short due to an ill-fated robbery attempt. A bullet wound left him with decreased lung capacity and a scar on his back. Today he works with disadvantage youths, but make no mistake about it, James "Fly" Williams is one of the best baller's never to play in the NBA.
(17) Bob Netolicky pf / 6'9'' 225 / ABA
If Kim Kardashian was around in the 70's, she'd probably have Bob Netolicky on speed dial. Apparently Netolicky not only had game on the court, but he could score off it as well. Labeled the "Broadway Joe Namath" of the ABA, Netolicky was considered a sex symbol to many female fans. Now obviously that has no merit as far as his basketball skills were concerned, but he definitely could hoop, and was one of the smoothest shooting big men in his era. Born August 2, 1942 in San Francisco, California, Bob Netolicky gave new meaning to the Rice-A-Roni treat. He had an unstoppable hook going right, a sweet floater, and was a beast on the boards. Netolicky was an All-American at Drake University and averaged a double-double throughout his college career. He was selected 18th overall by the San Diego Rockets in the 1967 NBA Draft, and was actually taken right after the Zen Master himself Phil Jackson. Netolicky never played for the Rockets though, choosing to sign with the Indiana Pacers of the ABA instead. From 1967-76, Netolicky played for three ABA teams, but was mostly known for his time with the Pacers. He won 2 ABA Championships with the Pacers, made 4 ABA All-Star games, and is a member of the ABA's All-Time Team.
Netolicky finished his ABA career with some pretty impressive numbers. He ranks 5th all-time in rebounds with 5,518, and he scored 9,876 points for good measure. He's also the only professional basketball player to play for both teams in the same game. On November 14, 1973, Netolicky was playing for the San Antonio Spurs when they lost at home to the Indiana Pacers on a last-second shot The Spurs protested the loss and the ABA commissioner ruled in favor for San Antonio. The last-second basket was disallowed and the remaining 30 seconds of the game was to be replayed before the next Pacers-Spurs game on December 2, 1973. At that time however, Netolicky had been traded to Indiana, and played the last 30 seconds plus overtime with the Pacers. I'm not sure how significant that is in the scheme of things, but it's pretty interesting. Besides being an excellent basketball player, Bob Netolicky was an intriguing and charismatic person. He owned a number of exotic animals including a lion and an ocelot, and for a time ran one of most popular bars in Indiana, "Neto's". Obviously Netolicky made the choice not to play in the NBA, but he still could ball with the best of them.
(16) Schea Cotton sg / 6'5'' 220 / High School
There's been some pretty big names to emerge from the high school basketball scene in California over the years, and one of the first names mentioned when talking about some of the best of all-time has to be none other then the legendary Schea Cotton. Schea's high school career was of epic proportions, and during a time when there was no internet, his notoriety literally spread by word of mouth. To sum up his legacy, before LeBron James, there was Schea Cotton. Born May 20, 1978, Schea entered the public eye before he even stepped foot onto the high school hardwood. When he was in the 6th grade, ESPN's Scholastic Sports America was already doing stories on him, and by the time he entered high school, Schea Cotton was ranked the #1 freshman in the Class of 1997. With his mature game to match his 6-foot, 5-inch frame, Schea more than lived up to the hype. He averaged 20 ppg his freshman year for Mater Dei (Santa Clara, CA) and thus the legend began. Former NBA player Casey Jacobsen was in the 6th grade when Schea entered high school, but was still in awe of him like everyone else. Jacobsen recalls, "He was the first famous basketball player of my peers that I heard about and seen play. He looked like a man out there. The way he played was well beyond his years." Jacobsen actually wrote an excellent article for SLAM breaking down the reason Schea and others like him never made it to the highest level. Prior to his sophomore year in 1994, Schea was the focus of a memorable Sports Illustrated feature discussing his 42-inch vertical leap and proclaiming him the next phenom. With the secret out nationally, Schea still had an exceptional sophomore campaign. He lit up Stephon Marbury's Lincoln High School for 30-plus, out-dueled top senior Ron Mercer and the Oak Hill Warriors, and led Mater Dei to its second consecutive California State Championship. He was also the first-and only-sophomore ever named California State Player of the Year. Unfortunately for Schea, it was all downhill from here.
Schea Cotton transferred to St. John Bosco (Bellflower,CA) his junior year and suffered a broken hand which made him miss nearly the entire season. The following summer he hurt his shoulder and subsequently missed all of his senior year. While he was still considered among the nations best, he was no longer the consensus top prospect, as others crept up to him in athleticism, size, and stature. Baron Davis was actually the player who surpassed him as the top prospect from the state of California in the Class of 1997. After an injury plagued senior year, Schea committed to UCLA, but was ruled ineligible by the NCAA due to discrepancies involving his SAT's. He left the West Coast for Connecticut's prep school St. Thomas More (Andre Drummond's Alma mater), and teamed up with UNC alumni Ed Cotta. Current Los Angeles Laker Devin Ebanks went to St. Thomas More as well. As a 5th year senior, Schea was ranked #78 in the Class of 1998, and was still balling at a high level. He tried to commit to NC State, but once again the NCAA intervened, so Schea attended Long Beach City College, averaging 25.8 ppg during the 1998-99 season. The following year he went to Alabama and averaged 15.5 ppg & 4.6 rpg. At 22-years old, Schea entered the 2000 NBA Draft, but was never selected. Even though he never made it to the league, his brother James Cotton was actually drafted by the Denver Nuggets in 1997 NBA Draft. While Schea had a successful career overseas, never averaging less than 17 ppg, he obviously fell short of expectations. Perhaps one NBA executive summed it up best, "If I were a basketball coroner, it would be an easy cause of death: Too much, too soon, and he wasn't 6'11''. As he got older, other players matured and advanced their skills, but he was stuck in neutral with horrible habits." Since the NBA never saw the likes of Schea Cotton, he will always be known as the legend that never was.
PC's Top 25 Baller's Never to Play in NBA