“The Birdman” didn’t even know he had to apply for the NBA draft. Anderson definitely didn’t come from a traditional basketball background. First of all, he played in China before bouncing around the minor leagues. He finally made it to the NBA with the Denver Nuggets.
An NBA Championship winner with the Miami Heat, Anderson has experienced good and bad in his career. The league suspended and reinstated him after a drug battle. One of only two Binn students to ever play in the NBA, he’s currently playing with Power in the Big3 league.
To say that Evans was not a prolific attacker is an understatement. Over a 13-year NBA career, he averaged just 4.1 points per game. In short, that’s an atrocious record. But it’s also important to note that he played for a dozen franchises. While never magnificent, he did fill a specific role for his teams.
He played extremely hard and was very difficult to outhustle. Though he was only 6’8”, he twice led the NBA in rebound percentage. In fact, his 21.87% career mark in that stat is second all-time behind Dennis Rodman. Evans was one-dimensional but very good at one thing.
If you google the definition of a ‘journeyman,’ then a picture of James should come up. He went undrafted but didn’t give up on his dream. The Duquesne alumni got his professional start in the Euro leagues where he was brilliant. When he finally got to the NBA, he was around for a long time. He played for an astonishing 11 teams.
He was a reserve in the Pistons’ 2004 Championship-winning team. James also averaged over 20 points a game for the Raptors, including a 39-point game against Detroit. A 26-year-old rookie, it’s no wonder that he was able to hang around the league so late.
‘Linsanity’ took over the NBA. He had a hard time proving he belonged in the NBA, but when he did, he became a star – if only briefly. During a 16-game stretch for the injury-ridden Knicks in 2012, Lin took over, averaging 21.1 points per game with 8.6 assists per game.
His greatest moment came in a duel with Kobe Bryant at Madison Square Garden when he outpointed “The Black Mamba” with 38 points. After leaving the Knicks, he became something of a journeyman. But the fairytale wasn’t over as helped the Toronto Raptors to a shocking 2019 NBA Championship.
Atkins definitely doesn’t have the most glaring resume on this list, but he was a solid NBA player for a good 11 years. He played for eight teams throughout that time period. After missing out in the draft, he went to the CBA before a spell in Croatia. But then he finally signed with the Orlando Magic.
He had value as a strong role player. This saw him traded in deals with the likes of Gary Payton, Grant Hill, and Rasheed Wallace. However, the result of the Wallace trade would have hurt him because the Pistons went on to win the NBA Championship. He was a dependable athlete.
Nocioni took an unorthodox route to the NBA. He first played in his native Argentina before heading to Spain, where he became one of the best players in Europe. To cap it all off, he won Olympic gold in Athens. This brought him to the attention of NBA scouts and a deal with the Chicago Bulls quickly followed.
The Argentinian star spent most of his US career in Chicago, where he became a fan favorite. However, opposing teams criticized him for his aggressive style of play. Several confrontations resulted from this. But overall, he’s one of the best Argentinians to play in the NBA.
The Golden State Warriors signed Morrow after he was undrafted. His start to life in the league was scintillating. In his first NBA start, he scored 37 points on 15-for-20 shooting against the Clippers—the most points ever scored in a game by an undrafted player in his rookie season.
Morrow finished the 2008–09 season as the first rookie and first Warrior ever to lead the league in three-point field goal shooting, going 86-for-184 for a .467 percentage. He produced in bursts for different teams after this, including a 42-point effort for the New Jersey Nets.
Now in his second spell with the Dallas Mavericks, Barea didn’t have an easy start to his NBA career. The Puerto Rico native’s size has always been against him. At 5″10, he’s one of the shortest players in the league. However, when he broke out in Dallas, he proved he could hang with the best.
That even earned him an NBA ring in 2011 when he played a career-high 81 regular-season games. Now 35, he’s still posting double-digits for the Mavs in a resurgent era for them. Barea also had three solid seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Not bad for a small man who went undrafted.
Bell is a well-known hothead who went undrafted. He’s famous for his grappling match with Kobe Bryant in the 2007 playoffs. The referee dismissed him from the game after he clotheslined the Black Mamba. But living life on the edge made him exciting to a certain group of fans.
Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns turned him into a consistent player. A two-time pick for the NBA All-Defensive Team, Bell came a long way from his days of free agency at the start of his career. Now he’s the Director of Player Administration for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
One of the Miami Heat’s most important players of the 2000s, Haslem almost missed out on his chance at the top. First of all, he wasn’t selected in the draft because he was pushing 300 lbs. After playing in France and losing weight, he came back and joined the Heat. His career then took off.
He was an unsung hero for a trio of the Heat’s championship-winning teams. First, he played a key role, scoring in double figures in the Wade-Shaq era. But then he had more of a cleanup role when Chris Bosh and LeBron James joined. Nonetheless, Haslem turned down big contracts elsewhere to become a Heat lifer.
Unlike many other players on this list, Matthews became a starter quickly in his NBA career. After missing out in the draft, the Utah Jazz signed him as a free agent. Now in his tenth season, he’s currently playing for the Milwaukee Bucks. He’s always been a consistent player.
He became a massive fan favorite with the Portland Timberwolves. Fans nicknamed him ‘Ironman’ for his willingness to play through pain. He played through 250 consecutive games before missing a game with an injury. In recent years he’s lost a step, but his early NBA days were excellent.
At 6″11″ with a solid college career at Purdue, it’s somewhat of a surprise that Miller didn’t get drafted. However, the NBA was in a period of evolution. He entered the league the hard way as a free agent. But Miller became elite when he joined the Sacramento Kings.
Miller played for six teams in 14 seasons. But it was with the Kings he truly impressed. A two-time All-Star in back-to-back seasons in Sacramento, he was their most important player for a period. To sum up, he was one of the best passing big men in the league.
Armstrong took the long, meandering route to the NBA. The Fayetteville State alum was undrafted in the 1991 draft. He played a couple of seasons in the minor leagues before playing in Cyprus and Spain. Then he finally got his chance with the Orlando Magic.
It took him a few seasons to become established in Orlando, but he was excellent. 1999 was his seminal year as he won the NBA Most Improved Player and NBA Sixth Man awards. It was a gritty battle to make it to the top of the game but through sweat and toil, he made it.
Wesley proved to be a special find for the Celtics. Signed as a free agent by the Nets, he moved to Boston after his rookie season. The Celtics were awful but Wesley did his best, averaging 16.8 points per game. They had a problem but it definitely wasn’t his fault.
Unsurprisingly he didn’t stay in Boston. However, he kept up his consistent scoring in Charlotte and New Orleans. Most NBA scouts believed that the 6″1″ Wesley was too short to be an effective point guard. He definitely proved them wrong.
Calderon began his professional basketball career in his native Spain. He didn’t come into the NBA by the traditional route. However, he impressed the Toronto Raptors enough that they convinced him to sign for them. It turned out to be a great move for both parties.
After emerging as the starter in his third season, he helped the Raptors to a pair of playoff berths in the mid-2000s. He also had an influential role during his time with the Dallas Mavericks. But from then on, he took on a bench role, including spells with the Knicks and Atlanta Hawks.
Nobody expected Bowen to be the player he was. He went undrafted in 1993 but after a long slog, the Boston Celtics signed him in 1997. From there it was onwards and upwards and finally, he found a home in San Antonio. That was when he became one of the best ‘lockdown’ defenders in NBA history.
A three-time NBA champion, he also made the All-Defensive Team five times. Gregg Popovich was able to get the maximum out of him as he became a Spurs legend. In total, he played for four NBA teams, overcoming the odds of going undrafted.
Another man who benefited from Popovich’s expert coaching was Johnson. He bounced around the league as a backup point guard for most of the first half of his career. But in the mid-1990s, he showed his true potential as a primary ballhandler. It was quite the turnaround for the New Orleans native.
Johnson averaged more than 12 points and 7 assists per game in the postseason of the first championship run of the Tim Duncan era. He showed a brilliant game IQ on the court as he became one of Popovich’s most trusted players. An NBA Championship was a just reward for his efforts.
The Yankees have been through some truly awful times in the past decade. However, the 90s were a different story. Starks was a big part of this success. First of all, he missed out on the 1990 draft. But the Golden State Warriors picked him up as a free agent. A brief stint in the minor leagues followed before his move to the Knicks.
Suddenly, Starks’ career exploded. He scored 17.5 points per game in a 60-win season in 1992-93. An All-Star season followed. A legend in New York, Starks is the franchise’s leader in on-field goals. He was also the first player in NBA history to make 200 three-pointers in one season.
The shining example to every player who wasn’t selected the draft, Wallace had a magnificent career. A four-time NBA All-Star, he was also the main man in the Detroit Pistons 2004 Championship win. In short, he totally belied initial expectations of his abilities, working hard to hone his technique.
To sum up, it totally paid off. Wallace was a four-time Defensive Player of the Year. All of this made him a force after going undrafted when he left Virginia Union. His early days included a spell in Italy and he showed dedication to the sport. Sometimes you have to climb to the top from the bottom rung.