The best teenagers to ever play in the NBA

Making the NBA is hard. Making the NBA as a teenager is even harder. Making the NBA as a teenager and being successful is almost impossible. However, there have been a handful of teenage rookies who have taken to the court and shot the lights out. Seemingly unfazed by the big names, massive crowds and constant pressure that they’re under.

From Moses Malone in 1974/75 to Luka Doncic this season, there is often one young player who gets himself a regular spot on the roster and who goes on to make a name for themselves in the NBA.

We decided to rank the top five best NBA teenagers: 

5. Kevin Durant (2007/08)

Kevin Durant Golden State WarriorsImage source:

Kevin Durant had a lot of people to prove wrong when he first entered the NBA playing for the Seattle SuperSonics, most of his critics argued that he was too skinny and looked too weak to make it in the NBA, with many thinking that he would struggle against some of the bigger defenders.

KD, of course, had the last laugh. He had an outstanding rookie season where he proved all the naysayers wrong. Durant recorded averages of 20.3 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1 steal and 0.9 blocks per game in his first season.

He went on to enjoy eight seasons with Oklahoma City Thunder before moving to the Golden State Warriors in 2016. He was named Rookie of the Year in 2008, and was the NBA's Most Valuable Player in 2014.

4. Carmelo Anthony (2003/04)

Carmelo Anthony Houston RocketsImage source:

Selected as the third overall pick by the Denver Nuggets in the 2003/04 draft. In his rookie season, Carmelo Anthony was able to help the Denver Nuggets to a 43-39 record and an eighth seed in the playoffs.

Averaging 21 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.2 steals per game in his rookie year, Carmelo Anthony missed out on the Rookie of the Year award to the one and only LeBron James. However, he did manage to make the NBA All-Rookie Team in 2004.

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Anthony played for the Denver Nuggets from 2003 to 2011, he was then traded to the New York Knicks where he remained until 2017. Following his stint at the Knicks, Anthony bounced from team to team spending a single season at Oklahoma City Thunder and a season with the Houston Rockets.

3. Moses Malone (1974/75)

Moses Malone SixersImage source:

It didn’t take Moses Malone long to make a name for himself. After being selected in the third round of the 1974 draft by the Utah Stars, Malone was the first player in history to move from high school to the NBA. He soon became the first teenager to be named in the All-Star team.

Malone went on to become one of the most dominant centers in NBA history, winning three MVP awards and earning himself a place in the Hall of Fame.

2. Luka Doncic (2018/19)

Luka Doncic Dallas MavericksImage source:

Luka Doncic was drafted #3 overall by the Dallas Mavericks in this year’s draft. He might only be 19 years old, but Luka Doncic comes into the NBA with, arguably, more experience than some rookies who have been in the league for two or three years.

Affectionately known as “Wonder Boy”, Doncic has already won the Eurobasket tournament with Slovenia, has been named as the MVP of the EuroLeague (the second biggest basketball league in the world after the NBA), won the EuroLeague Championship with Real Madrid, and has won the Spanish Liga ACB Championship.

So far in the season, Wonder Boy is averaging 20.5 points per game, 5.4 assists, 1.1 steals, and 6.9 rebounds. He might not be the biggest, or the strongest player in the NBA, but there is no doubt that Luka Doncic will go on to achieve great things.

1. LeBron James (2003/04)

LeBron James LakersImage source:

Considered by most to be the greatest basketball player of all time, it comes as no shock that LeBron James is considered to have been the best teenager to play in the NBA too.

After deciding to skip college and go straight into the NBA, LeBron James was selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers as the #1 overall pick in 2003. He went on to play five seasons for the Cavs, before moving to Miami for four seasons. But LeBron couldn’t stay away from Cleveland, and returned to the Cavs in 2014/15 for another four seasons.

King James has won just about every award there is to win including two Olympic gold medals, three NBA Championships, and three NBA Finals MVP awards. But this isn’t about how good LeBron is now, or how good he has been, it is about how good he was in his first season as a teenager.

In his first season with the Cavs, James averaged 20.9 points per game, 5.9 assists, 1.6 steals, and 3.5 steals, earning himself the Rookie of the Year award as well as the Rookie of the Month award every single month.

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Published: 01/30/2019