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.